Seventeen freshmen make up the new class of student-athletes on the California rugby team, bringing to the Golden Bears an intriguing mix of local and long-distance talent that could make an impact down the road for the program.
“They are potentially a fine class, certainly fine young men, but they are in different stages of their physical maturity,” said head coach Jack Clark. “Although some are tracking, the majority of the freshmen will require intense physical development before they’re ready to compete at the collegiate level. My sense is they are collectively willing to commit to the process, which is a major aspect of the challenge.”
Many of the new players arrive having participated in one or more Cal Rugby Summer Camps and many also have family members who attended the University. The group of 17, only one of whom is not a U.S. passport holder, comes largely from in-state high schools ranging from San Diego to Sacramento and around the Bay Area, as well as New York City, Canada and, in the case of two, South America.
The bulk of the class are forwards, a positional makeup that came about “only because it worked out that way, not because of design,” coach Clark said. “The Fall 2014 recruiting class, which applies in November, looks to be weighted with a majority of backs, so the roster should balance by next season.”
With the addition of the 2013-14 incoming class, the roster totals 70 players, which Clark called “about our maximum. We feel it is important to provide the frosh-soph an opportunity to develop. Patience is the word that comes to mind. However, it is likewise important for the upperclassmen to compete for roster spots the same way athletes in other sports compete. Achieving a roster spot for nothing-down means it’s not worth much. On the other hand, earning a roster spot through hard work and demonstrated performance means the roster place is invaluable.”
FIFTH XAVIER PLAYER FROM NEW YORK
From Xavier High School in New York City comes Connor Sweet, a 6-4, 215-pound forward who captained his team. Xavier achieved top-three national single-school finishes during the last three years of Sweet’s high school career under head coaches Mike Tolkin, now with the U.S. National Team, and Greg Norris. On the gridiron, Sweet’s football team persevered to win the league championship in 2012 after many of his teammates suffered the loss of their homes to Hurricane Sandy earlier that season. For his efforts as a two-way starter at defensive tackle and tight end, Sweet was named to the all-league first team on offense and played in the Senior Bowl. He also played one year of varsity basketball. Sweet’s mother, Kyle, is an alumna of Marywood University (Pa.) and his father, Kerry, graduated from Fordham.
Connor received Honors every quarter at Xavier and was named to the National Honors Society his senior year. He was also the recipient of the Sean Lugano Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a Xavier rugby/football player who exhibits leadership on the field and in the classroom. Sweet’s arrival brings to five the number of Xavier graduates on the Cal rugby team, joining senior captain Seamus Kelly, senior Pat Coleman and sophomores Charles Guiraud and James Kondrat.
“The Xavier boys on our team have been exceptional teammates. I am impressed with how they have handled their business,” Clark said.
THIRTEEN FROM THE GOLDEN STATE
A 6-0, 215-pound flanker/No. 8 from San Diego, Drew Gaffney honed his youth rugby skills first at Cathedral Catholic High School under coach Glenn Irvine from 2009 and the San Diego Mustangs in 2012 and ’13, when he played for coach Ramon Samaniego, a former Cal All-American and U.S. international, and Matty Sandoval. Gaffney’s brother, Tyler, is a senior running back at Stanford who returned to college after playing a year in the farm system of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who selected him in the MLB draft in 2012.
Their mother, Tiffany, matriculated at San Diego State and their father, Gene, graduated from the University of San Diego, where he played baseball for the Toreros. Gaffney played three years of varsity football at Cathedral, participating in a CIF D-III Championship in 2010; in rugby, he was named the Mustangs’ captain and MVP in 2013 as they won their second straight Southern California championship and finished fifth at the national championships.
Billy Maggs arrives at Cal from Torrey Pines High School in Del Mar at 6-1 and 195 pounds. He was his team’s MVP as a halfback on the gridiron and a center/wing in rugby for the San Diego Mustangs, who won the Southern California U-19 title in 2013. Maggs comes from a Welsh rugby background that includes his uncle Mark Thomas (Wales 7s and Swansea), grandfather Ian Jones (Swansea), great uncle Clem Thomas (Swansea, Wales and British Lions) and great grandfather Bruce Barter (Swansea and Wales). His mother, Sarah, is a graduate of the University of Wales. Born in Connecticut, Maggs was the recipient of All-Academic Achievement Awards at Torrey Pines as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Coming from farther north in the state of California and checking in at 6-1 and 205 pounds is John Warnock, who played flanker and No. 8 during his youth career with the Stanford Seahawks (2006-2007), Peninsula Seahawks (2007-2009) and Peninsula Green (2009-2013). A team captain last year at Peninsula Green under head coach Rob Benson, Warnock was also a 2012 attendee of the Cal Rugby Summer Camp. Both his mother, Barbara, and father, Christopher, are Utah alumni. Mrs. Warnock also competed in cross-country running and downhill skiing at UC Davis before transferring to Utah. Warnock, a graduate of the School for Independent Learners who completed a six-month sailing trip last year with his family down the California coast to the Sea of Cortez, has worked as a sailing instructor at South Beach Yacht Club and raced for the Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation. With a younger brother who also plays rugby still in high school, Warnock arrives at the University interested in Industrial Design, Anthropology and Computer Science.
Kevin Sullivan makes the leap across San Francisco Bay to Berkeley from St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, where he was an All-City defensive lineman in 2011 and ’12, and San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club, where he played prop on its youth teams since 2007 and most recently was named MVP for his team in 2013. Standing at 6-1 and 280 pounds, Sullivan was a 2012 attendee of the Cal Rugby Summer Camp. His father, Barry, is a building contractor who played on the Castaways Rugby Club in the 1970s and ’80s. His mother, Mary Kate, is an attorney who attended Hastings College after earning her undergraduate degree from the University of San Francisco. His three siblings include sister Bridget, a member of the crew team as a junior at Cal. Their aunt Laura Sullivan Van Zandt is a member of the Class of 1993 at the University. The sporting connections in Sullivan’s extended family include cousin Bart Sullivan, who played rugby for SFGG from 2007-09 and at Arizona from 2010-13. On the gridiron for St. Ignatius, Sullivan will be remembered for his goalline tackle at the end of regulation against Bellarmine in the 2012 CCS Open Division Championship game, which SI went on to win in overtime.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Alamo, Calif., a short distance from De La Salle High School, is Wade Ogburn, a 6-3, 225-pounder who played both front and back rows as a rugby player for the Spartans under head coach and former U.S. international Rob Duncanson. Ogburn was his team’s captain in 2012 and an Iron Man Award winner for his squad in 2013. As a gridiron footballer at DLS under legendary head coach Bob Ladouceur, Ogburn was named 2012 Lineman of the Year as a starter for the team that won the California Open Division state championship, after which he was named 1st Team All-East Bay Athletic League by the Contra Costa Times, 1st Team All-Metro by the San Francisco Chronicle, and 1st Team All-NorCal and 2nd Team All-State by Maxpreps. His academic career at De La Salle included eight semesters with honors, earning Ogburn the distinction of High Honors at his graduation. His mother, Sheila, is an alumna of San Diego State, while his father, Dave, received his MBA from the Wharton School of Business following his undergraduate degree at Georgetown. Wade carries on a Golden Bear tradition started by his uncle Brad Thomson, who lettered in football at Cal from 1989-92.
Jamie Howells, at 5-10 and 170 pounds, featured at flyhalf for the Lamorinda Youth Rugby Team, coached by Cal Athletic Hall of Famer and former Bears head coach Ned Anderson as well as Cal rugby alumni Matt Taylor, Scott Anderson and former U.S. international Bo Meyersick. Howells was born in the United Kingdom and raised outside of London, moving to California before his freshman year at Miramonte High School. He arrived in the East Bay with experience in both soccer and rugby, having played for Ealing Rugby club in England between 2005-2009, and attended the Cal Rugby Camp three times during high school. His father, David, is an alumnus of Cardiff University in Wales. His brother Tom will be a junior at UCLA, where he plays rugby, while his younger brother continues to play for Lamorinda.
Howells was Lamorinda’s JV captain during that squad’s undefeated 2011 season, a member of the California multi-school club state champions in 2012 and varsity backs captain in 2013, when he achieved an .860 goal-kicking percentage on the season. On the gridiron for Miramonte, Howells was named a 2012 1st-team All-DFAL as a kicker and honorable mention as a punter.
Four players from Marin comprise the largest contingent of freshman coming to the Bears from the same high school and multi-school club team this year. All four played rugby for the Marin Highlanders youth club under head coach and former Cal rugby player Dave Cingolani and also competed in other sports, including football under coach Mazi Moayed, at Marin Catholic High School, where they were teammates with the current Cal starting quarterback, freshman Jared Goff.
Among those blocking for Goff at Marin Catholic in 2012 was Henry Harmon, a 6-0, 235-pound guard on the gridiron, a prop on the rugby pitch and a starter on both teams. Harmon, who manned the loosehead side of the front row in the No. 1 jersey, was named MVP among forwards for the Highlanders after the 2013 season and was a captain for the football team the previous fall, when the Wildcats won the Division III North Coast Section championship and went to the state’s D-III final in Harmon’s second year on the varsity. Harmon attended the Cal Rugby Summer Camp in 2012 and may pursue History for a degree at the University. His uncles, Tim and Grant Harmon, are both Cal alumni; Harmon’s father, Mark, attended Hastings Law School following his undergraduate degree at Princeton; while his mother, Kimberley, is a Dartmouth College graduate.
One of Harmon’s linemates also blocking for Goff at Marin Catholic was Henry Baylor, who comes to Cal with the same first name, high school, height/weight and position as Harmon, although Baylor honed his prop skills on the tighthead side of the scrum in the No. 3 jersey. Baylor attended the 2012 Cal Rugby Summer Camp and played three years of rugby for the Highlanders, going undefeated in league play as a sophomore and junior, and making trips to Salt Lake City in 2012 and Elkhart, Ind.,in 2013 for the national multi-school club championships. In addition to offensive line, Baylor also started at defensive tackle and guard, and playing in the CIS D-III state championship in 2012. Baylor, who joined classmates at Marin Catholic on community-service trips to Africa and El Salvador, was a member of the school’s groups for Habitats for Humanity and the California Scholarship Foundation. Both parents are Cal alumni via graduate school at Berkeley Law; his father, David, was an undergraduate at Arizona State while his mother, Theresa, received her undergrad degree from UC Santa Cruz.
Louis Le Merle is another former football and rugby standout from Marin Catholic and the Highlanders who is now a Rugby Bear. A flanker and No. 8 entering the University at 6-2 and 215 pounds, Le Merle returns to Witter Rugby Field having attended the 2012 Cal Rugby Summer Camp. His mother, Alison, attended Cambridge prior to Harvard Business School, while his father, Matthew, was an Oxford undergraduate who played rugby for the London Welsh prior to his MBA at Stanford Business School. With the Highlanders, Le Merle was named Most Valuable Forward in 2012 as his team went undefeated in league play and finished fifth at the national multi-school club championships, followed by a trip to the 2013 championships, where it finished seventh. On the gridiron for Marin Catholic, he finished his high school career as a 1st-Team All-League pick on defense as his team advanced to the CIF D-III state final. In the classroom he was an Honor Roll student all four years of high school.
Anthony Kosinski, a 6-5, 230-pound lock, arrives at Cal having played rugby for the Highlanders and football for Marin Catholic through his junior year before capping off his high school career as an outstanding wrestler. An attendee of the 2012 Cal Summer Rugby Camp, Kosinski wrestled as a heavyweight for the Wildcats as they won two league championships and one section championship. Kosinski’s, whose personal wrestling achievements included one state qualifier and team MVP honors in 2013, drew interest from the wrestling programs from Brown and Penn. Both his parents attended Northwestern University, where his father, Tony, also played rugby. At Marin Catholic, Kosinski earned the Academic General Achievement Award for having a GPA over 4.0 in every semester of high school.
From Jesuit High School, the 2013 National High School Invitational single-school champion located outside of Sacramento, comes Connor Frey (“FRY”), a 5-9, 195-pound flanker who attended the 2012 Cal Rugby Summer Camp.
At Jesuit he received the 2013 Athletic Director’s Award and the Varsity Coaches Award for rugby under head coach John Shorey and manager Fred Khasigian, a former U.S. international rugby player and father of former Bear All-Americans Kirk and Kyle Khasigian, with Kirk also a former U.S. international. On the gridiron, Frey was a two-year member of the varsity, starting at linebacker and running back as a senior following a junior campaign as a starting LB. His father, Jeff, is an alumnus of UC Santa Barbara, while his mother, Karen, is an alumna of Kansas State University, where Connor’s uncle Kevin Muff played basketball. His grandfather Randy Kidd played football at Iowa State. His cousin Leona Frey graduated from Cal in 2009. Following his undergraduate studies, Frey is considering a postgraduate doctorate in sports medicine.
Checking in at 5-8 and 185 pounds is center Matthew Ternan from Carmichael. Also a graduate of Jesuit High School, Ternan attended the Cal Rugby Summer Camp for two years, earning the Best and Fairest award at the 2012 camp. He was named a captain and the Marauders’ MVP in 2013,when Jesuit won its second single-school national championship in the past three years. Ternan was also a two-year varsity starter in football for Jesuit at linebacker. Both his parents are alumni of Saint Mary’s College while his brother, Dan, is a new Cal graduate who also played rugby as a high school student-athlete at Jesuit.
Justin Ramirez is a front-row player who was coached by former Cal All-American and U.S. international Chris Miller on the Granite Bay team which won the multi-school club state championship in 2013. At 5-10 and 225 pounds, Ramirez was named Granite Bay’s Forward of the Year in 2013 and returns to campus having attended the Cal Rugby Summer Camp in 2011 and ’12. An Honor Roll student all four years at Granite Bay High School, Ramirez was also part of a state championship team on the gridiron, earning Offensive Lineman of the Year for the 2013 CIF D-I champion Grizzlies. As a guard, Ramirez was a first-team All-League and second-team All-Section honoree. Off the field his extracurricular pursuits included the presidency of his local chapter of St. Baldricks, which raises money and awareness in the fight against cancer.
THREE FROM HIGH SCHOOLS ABROAD
Evan Coleman comes to Cal from Rockridge Secondary School in West Vancouver, Canada, where the 6-1, 180-pound fullback/wing received Honors with Distinction for his academic acumen. Coleman played rugby beginning in 2008 for the Rockridge Ravens and Capilano RFC youth teams, earning honors as Most Improved (2010, ’11), Best Back (2012, ’13) and Most Valuable Player (2013). On the hardwood, he also averaged 18 points per game on the varsity basketball team as a senior at Rockridge. Evan’s grandfather Sidney Coleman played basketball for the Thunderbirds at the University of British Columbia. His father, Mark, uncle Victor Coleman and aunt Sharlyn Hoon are all Cal alumni and the younger Coleman may pursue an area of study involving the environment at the University.
John Spradling is a 6-1, 195-pound back-rower who was born in Florida and attended The British Schools in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. His family’s rugby pedigree includes uncles Alan and Hugo Caorsi, who played for El Prado/ La Cachila in Uruguay; and his three brothers, Paul, Peter and Thomas, who also competed for The British Schools. Spradling, whose travels as a rugby player have included tours to Japan, Australia and New Zealand, was named a House Captain for both athletics and academics at The British Schools, where he was also a Leader Tutor, recipient of the Friendship Award and an active community volunteer. Over the course of his prep school career he served as captain in four different seasons as his team won the national school-level championship four times.
Also a graduate of The British Schools is Tomas Zerbino, a lock who stands at 6-4 and 250 pounds, and carries a U.S. passport. His mother, Sarah-Jane Vokey, earned a degree from Wheaton College in Illinois, where she played lacrosse and field hockey, followed by one from the Paris Institute of Political Science. His father, Victor, is an alumnus of William College (Mass.), where he played rugby before earning an MBA from Boston University. One of four siblings, Zerbino has an older brother, Nicolas, at the Universidad de Montevideo. A starter for The British Schools at the U-17 through U-19 levels, Zerbino was also a member of the Uruguay U-20 team that competed for the 2011 Junior World Rugby Trophy. Tomas, who has sailed competitively in the Optimist and Laser classes, has an interest in pursuing an MBA at the conclusion of his undergraduate studies.