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Leechburg's Baylor gets satisfaction from wheelchair rugby

| Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Jerry Baylor poses with the 10 medals he received at the 2014 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Philadelphia at his home in Allegheny Township.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Jerry Baylor poses with the 10 medals he received at the 2014 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Philadelphia at his home in Allegheny Township.

Leechburg native Jerry Baylor has won many gold medals competing in wheelchair sports on a national level. Of all the sports in which he competes, however, wheelchair rugby might be the most interesting.

Baylor assures that the game of scrums and tries is just as competitive.

“It's pretty physical, and it's a grueling sport,” Baylor said. “You have to stay in shape, and it plays fast paced and intense.”

Baylor plays for the Pittsburgh Steel Wheelers team in the United States Quad Rugby Association. He's been on the team for six years.

The format is this: Each team has four players on the indoor court at one time with each player given a point value that has to be kept under eight.

A player is given a point value based on their specific injury and after going through several muscle tests. A player will earn a permanent point value after testing into the same classification three tests in a row.

Baylor, 67, has a 1.5 point value but competes at a one because the league deducts a half point after players reach age 45.

He describes it as possibly the most scrutinized wheelchair sport.

Each team in the league is supposed to host a tournament throughout the season. Pittsburgh will host its event in Slippery Rock and will play in at least five tournaments throughout the season against teams from Columbus, Akron, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Michigan and New York.

The ultimate goal is winning the National Veterans Wheel Chair Games national championship, which takes place in a different location every year. This year, it's being held in Salt Lake City.

Despite organized team activities not starting until September, Baylor is hard at work practicing two days a week at the local YMCA in Leechburg. The Steel Wheelers practice at the Thelma Lovette YMCA in Pittsburgh.

“Basically all the other sports I do are mostly individual, like weight lifting and field events,” he said. “In rugby, you have a team and have to play together. You're playing against other teams unlike individual sports.”

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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