Seta and Pate Tuilevuka, Nese and Ata Malifa, Roland and Andrew Suniula. Matias and Ben Cima?
It’s possible the next set of brothers to pull on Eagle jerseys could be the Cimas from Bethesda, Md., and you can likely catch a glimpse of both of them at the Collegiate Rugby Championship June 2-3 at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
Matias, who is recovering from a nagging hamstring injury, says he’ll be healthy and on the field for Maryland in the CRC‘s main event. Ben, just a sophomore at Gonzaga, still has to make the final 7s cut, but as the 15s team’s starting flyhalf, he’s got a good chance to play in the CRC‘s High School Challenge.
“I’m sure he’ll play,” said Matias of his little brother, “if they’re smart enough to put him in.”
Gonzaga will also be without its seniors, as the CRC falls on graduation day, bolstering Ben’s chances to make the squad.
Is it a stretch to project a guy who could potentially not make his high school 7s team as a future Eagle? Sure, but he’s got as good a chance as any young flyhalf in the country. Ben started at No. 10 for Gonzaga as a freshman last year when starter Billy Cunningham was out with injury. As a 14-year-old, he commandeered the varsity backline of the team that finished third in country.
“If you ask a guy like (HS All American coach) Salty Thompson, he’s the best high school flyhalf in the country, as far as managing the game,” Gonzaga coach Peter Baggetta said of Ben, who’s still got two more years of growing and playing to do before he graduates high school. “I expect coaches are going to come knocking for him next year.”
Matias has already started collecting accolades. In his freshman year at Maryland, he led the Terrapins to the inaugural Atlantic Coast Rugby League title, picking up co-player of the year honors.
Hamstrung by injury this spring, he sat out most of the ACRL season. But that didn’t prevent him from being invited to the U20 camp this spring.
“I tried to play, but as soon as I even sprinted I felt a tweak again, so I just kind of sat out the rest of the weekend,” said Matias. “I didn’t get to do much, which it kind of hit me that my chances of making the team are completely out the window, but I was lucky to get called to Canada and get another shot.”
Matias is holding out hope that he’ll make the U20 team for the Junior World Trophy this June in Sandy, Utah. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll have more opportunities to play representative rugby, including, he hopes, some 7s.
“I actually wasn’t a fan of it before the summer when I got selected for MARFU all stars and went to the 7s tournament out in San Diego,” he said.
“I learned a lot playing for MARFU head coach Chris Harvey. After that I loved it. I played in the ACI 7s and I’ve been dying to get back on the 7s field, as opposed to the 15s field. I have a lot of fun with it, actually, it’s more relaxed for me.”
The Cimas, sons of an Argentine rugby-playing father, have been playing since childhood, including during their two years of living in Argentina starting when Matis was in third grade and Ben in first. So they have the rugby acumen, but what they lack is elite speed.
“They don’t have international top-end 7s speed, but what they have is a good understanding of the game,” said Baggetta, who coached both Cimas at Gonzaga, “and sometimes that understanding of the game allows them to overcome that lack of having that top-end speed for a playmaker.”
“I’m definitely not as fast as the crossover football athletes that they’ve got going on, but I’m pretty sure I have a bigger brain when it comes to rugby than those guys,” said Matias.
“It is a speed game, but it’s still rugby, and rugby’s more of a thinking man’s game. I hope to have a shot. I want to get on the USA Sevens radar, I want to get on coach Magleby’s radar, so I’m going to work, after this injury, to get my speed back up and my agility up. Hopefully I get a shot.”
The best way to prove he can play 7s at a high level? Kick butt at the CRC. It’s a formula that’s worked for guys like Rocco Mauer and Peter Tiberio. And the best way for little brother Ben to catch the eye of a scholarship toting coach? Kick butt in the High School Challenge.