Union High School is well known for its athletic prowess, but its rugby team in particular may take the cake.
“I think this is one of the best rugby teams we've had so far,” said rugby player Lorenzo Thomas. “We went to Kansas, beat the number three team in the nation, [then] Colorado came down to play us; we beat them. We're just 13th in the nation, and we want to just keep climbing up the ranks this year."
The Redskins have been on the rise nationally, and a couple of the team's players have gained national recognition. Thomas played on a national U-17 team, while Malon Al-Jiboori was 1 of 12 to play on a travel team in London.
With a little discipline, Union has made strides. "We've been trying to move up in the rankings this year. Last year we were 20, but it's been fun this year [because] we're more mature," stated Al-Jiboori.
A lot of the rugby program's success is due to members of the football team. Nine of the 11 defensive players for Union play on the rugby team as well, and they say rugby has helped them a lot with football. "It's a lot more calculated as far as tackling goes and stuff,” stated defensive player Chance Wenglewski. “I know, as far as football goes, you can just blow them up, [while] in rugby you've got to wrap up and make a play."
Thomas explained that if you're going to hit somebody without pads, then you're definitely going to hit them with pads. “Without pads, you learn the technique better. Without pads, I'm going in with my shoulder and lead with my head up."
In fact, Super Bowl winning coach Pete Carroll made an instructional video with New Zealand rugby coaches to talk about how rugby tackling can help football players.
But, could Union players get their head football coach on board? Wenglewski says, "He's not that much of a fan of this, but he has to respect the game."
Well, I'm sure Coach Fredrich can respect the fact that Union is No. 1 in the state.