2016 RECRUITING CLASS: ARIZONA REACHES ACROSS COUNTRY AND GLOBE TO BRING IN 27 NEW WILDCATS
Scoular, Thayer, and Hedge are three of the 27 talented student-athletes joining the Wildcats this Fall.
Sept 7- Arizona has announced their 2016 recruting class today, with 27 players joining the Wildcats this Fall. This year's class includes players from nine states and four foreign countries, with a deep group of talented student-athletes. Head Coach Sean Duffy and his staff have scouted the globe for talent and welcomed these players in to camp this past month.
Arizona has once again stretched it's recruitment effort to the East Coast and Midwest. Jon Jacobs (The Taft School), a 6'4 300-pound Prop from Virginia joins the front row fresh off of a trip to China with the USA U19 Football team for World Championships. A 2013 High School All American Rugby player as well, Jacobs is a unique talent who will also be joining Arizona Football for the coming season. "We have recently formed a nice relationship with Rich Rodriguez and the staff, and we are both excited to have Jon help our respective teams while he pursues his degree here" said Duffy. Joining Jacobs from the DC Metro area are two All-Met Centers in Jack Mortensen (Georgetown Prep) and Mikey Joseph (Our Lady of Good Counsel HS), younger brother of current Junior Ben Joseph. Two New Yorkers join this year's group in the Centers, as JT Perez (Pelham HS) and Luke Vakasisikakala (Fordham Prep) come to Tucson. Rounding out the East Coast recruitment is Korbin Miller (Charlotte Tigers), a talented outside back from Georgia, the Wildcats' first from that state in recent memory. Zach Heisterkamp (Saint Edward's HS) and Zach Biggs (Penn HS) join the program after leading their clubs to top-six finishes nationally from the Midwest, while both players earned High School All American honors at Flanker and Hooker respectively. "Both Zachs are talented players who earned high honors individually but both were significant players on two of the top teams in the nation, with Biggs serving as captain. That speaks volumes to us." said Duffy.
Two states that have become more and more prominent in the sport recenty are Arizona and Texas, with two talented players coming from from the Longhorn state in Bronson Teles (Katy Barbarians) and Noah Thompson. Teles comes off a stellar season where he earned his second straight High School All Americans selection while also being selected to the USA Under-20 team, helping the USA to a fifth place finish at the Junior World Trophy in Zimbabwe. Thompson joins the backline after a strong career at Lake Travis, and will be returning from injury late in Fall. From Arizona, four-time state champion Flyhalf Kristian Sanchez (Red Mountain) joins Number Eight Charlie Harden (Old Pueblo) in this year's recruiting class.
This year's international crop of players is a strong one, with Hooker Jacob Hedge (Australia), Flanker Ben Scoular (UK), Center Brandon Strong (Canada), and Wing Hadleigh Tucker (Bermuda) making the long trek to Arizona. "All three of these guys are top-notch people, that's our first priority. They're strong players of course, but to adjust to both a country and a university is a tough ask and Jake, Ben, Brandon, and Hadleigh are ready to do that" said Duffy. Hedge, who is a US citizen, earned High School All American honors in 2016, while Scoular was a Scotland U16 and this past year was in the U18s pool. Tucker, a product of the Millfield School (UK), has continued his career in Bermuda, playing both Sevens and Fifteens and receiving a national camp invite for the island nation.
While Arizona has stretched far and wide for it's recruiting class, they have continued to build on strong pipelines, signing 12 players from the state of California. In Northern California, some of the strongest teams in the area are represented, as Wing/Center Luke Thayer (Jesuit), Flanker Gabe Coray-Dozier (Danville), Hooker Jake Van Order (Granite Bay), and Fullback Jake Rowley (De La Salle) join the team. Thayer most recently assisted Jesuit to a national runner up finish this May, while Coray-Dozier assisted Danville to a high national ranking and Pacific Cup victory. Van Order helped Granite Bay to a National Championship this past year, while Rowley, Captain of De La Salle and Team MVP for 2016, helped steer them to a strong year and will return from injury at the end of the Fall to make his presence felt.
In Southern California, Arizona has signed some of the top players in the area, with three-time All American Flyhalf Anton Grigoriou one of four Back Bay Sharks players to join the program. The 2016 Southern California Champions send Grigoriou, Scrumhalf Calvin Brannon, Flanker Christofaro Napoli, and Number Eight Eddie Wood to the Wildcats. In San Diego, Arizona adds three exciting players from Torrey Pines HS/San Diego Mustangs, with Lock Zachary Knobbe-Hewitt, Wing Max Lyle, and Fullback Alec Packer coming to Tucson. Rounding out the Southern California crew is Matt Sanders (Santa Monica RFC), a hard-running Center who will return from injury in April.
This year's group is a product of a year's work, and one that joins a strong stable of returners ready for another great year. "We are thrilled to welcome these players to the family, and we're looking forward to helping them reach their goals athletically and academically" said Duffy "Some have represented the USA in the past at the age grade level, and they'll bring great experience from that to us. Our hope is that they continue to do so. I can't think of a program that wouldn't want that experience and honor for it's players." Last year's team produced four USA Under-20 players, with Hooker Steven Branham earning the Mark Loane Medal and Prop Mason Pedersen earning a professional contract. Arizona is currently holding walk on sessions as well, and expects to add another 25-30 players to the program as they have in the past.
The Wildcats start their slate of preseason matches this Saturday against UTEP, with their full Fall schedule released last week. For more updates check out Arizona Rugby on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
2016 Recruiting Class (click for player bio)