Brothers in arms clash today
Washington Township's Randy and Joanne Retter ordered T-shirts that sing the praises of Army on one side and Navy on the other. They're prepared to support both military academies and two of their sons today.
Navy senior Jason Retter and Army sophomore Aaron Retter and their teammates will square off in a rugby match at 5 p.m. in West Point, N.Y. Both club squads are 6-0 in the Rugby East Conference, and the winner will claim the league championship.
"Being able to play against my brother, that's never happened in organized sports," said Jason, 23, a Kiski Area graduate. "We always messed around playing sports in the backyard, of course. That makes this game that much more special for us. I'm having trouble sleeping just thinking about it."
Aaron, 20, who attended Kiski Area for two years and graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic, shares his brother's enthusiasm for the contest.
"The Army-Navy rivalry is always a huge ordeal in any sport," he said. "Now, playing against my own brother, it's unreal. It's always been in the back of my head since I started playing rugby. I've always been excited for this game. I never thought it would come."
Jason originally planned to play catcher for the Navy baseball team. When that didn't work out, he switched to rugby and found his niche. He plays the tighthead and loosehead prop positions.
Aaron spent a season as an offensive lineman with the Army football team before deciding his future was in another sport. He followed his older brother and some friends to rugby, where he lines up as a lock.
Since they've earned plenty of playing time, the Retters are almost guaranteed at least a few collisions with each other.
"Once the whistle blows, the game is on until the final whistle," Jason said. "Then, I go on to being the bigger brother again."
Added Aaron: "If he's across from me, I'll put my shoulder down and lay into him. I'm sure he's thinking the same thing."
Army is ranked No. 4 and Navy is No. 6 in the country by Rugby Magazine. The national playoffs start May 7, and the final is May 21. The winner of today's matchup gets a home game in the first round; the loser goes on the road.
Jason is looking forward to ending his collegiate rugby career on a high note. He will graduate as a second lieutenant at the end of May and in July will enroll in the Marine Corps officer training program at Quantico, Va.
The Retters' parents and other relatives plan to attend today's game.
"I think my wife summed it up best," Randy said. "We're going to root for whoever has the ball. We just want them to do well."