The Wildcats were well represented at this week's Junior All Americans camp as they aim to earn selection to this year's team.
December 18- While the majority of the Arizona program has concluded their year and are looking ahead to training camp, a group of Wildcats has earned recognition by USA Rugby, receiving nominations for the Men's Junior All Americans (MJAA) and attending camp this past week. Nine Wildcats received invitations this year, surpassing last year's total and showcasing the talent in the Arizona program.
In the Forwards, 2016 MJAA Steven Branham is one of four front rowers invited, joinint Prop Jon Jacobs, Hooker Zach Biggs, and Hooker/Flanker Jake Hedge. Fellow 2016 MJAA Lock Bronson Teles looks to continue his strong Freshman year and earns an invitation at Lock, while Flankers Ryan Fitzpatrick and Zach Heisterkamp round out the seven Forwards invited. In the backline, the halfback combination of Matt Rogers and Anton Grigoriou represent the Wildcats, with both backs looking to break in to the MJAA team for the first time.
Last year, Branham was one of four Wildcats to make the team, joining Lock Sean Coleman, Prop Mason Pedersen, and Fullback Tyler Sousley. Teles, then a high school senior and Arizona commit, was selected for the side as well that traveled to Zimbabwe in April for the Junior World Rugby Trophy. This week's camp is one of three, with East and West camps already concluded to scout those parts of the country.
For Head Coach Sean Duffy, the nine invites is a sign of the players' talent and potential being recognized by more than just the Arizona staff. While Hedge was unable to attend the camp, seeing six Freshmen and three Sophomores recognized means the future is bright. "We put players' names forward that we think will represent us well on the field but more importantly off of it. When they put on that USA jersey even if it's just for a camp they know how many people would love to have that privilege and they're going to do all they can in camp to represent us well" said Duffy.
The MJAA team will assemble in Casa Grande, Arizona, and will be led by Head Coach JD Stephenson. Those selected for the team will assemble for two camps in Spring and compete against Canada in the North American qualifier for the 2017 Junior World Rugby Trophy in August.