By: The Messenger Sports Reporter Dana Becker
Brent Nelson and the Iowa Central rugby program got their feet wet a season ago.
Now, fresh off experiencing national success, Nelson and the Tritons are ready for more this year.
Iowa Central opened with a commanding 43-5 victory over Iowa State earlier this year despite having just a week of practice time to get ready for the match.
"There's a rugby saying that goes like this, 'The forwards decide if you win or lose and the backs decide by how much,'" Nelson said. "This is our team in a nutshell. We have some dynamic backfield players and a collegiate All-American. We recruited tough kids and got some speed, as well.
"Our forwards have a lot of experience, good size and are skilled. Even our big boys up front have what we need to be a great team."
"Matt has really blossomed into a strong leader. I have pushed him harder and I feel as though he has met the challenge," Nelson said. "Ani is one of those players that can change a game in all phases. He is a ferocious tackler, runs hard, crisp lines and is unselfish. He is extremely competitive and doesn't care if he scores 100 tries this year or zero.
"Jabaree was our most improved player last year and had an opportunity to go to a high-level men's club but returned to Iowa Central. He passes very well, rucks hard and has very good speed."
Willie Veal, Ali Muhammad, Quentin Jones, Nathan Heath, Clayton Goddard, Victor Wong, Brock Reeves, Khamani McQueen, Ben Hale, Daniel Petefish, Braden Eger and Webster City native Colter Johnson are all others who gained valuable experience last year.
As for the newcomers, Nelson and his staff were out working "endlessly to bring in an exciting group" that includes Richard Felton, Elliott Finn, Isaiah Faleuka, Jordan Sanderson, Mitch Coleman-Hardy, Leopold Hennebert, Kaleb Marois, Cole eaton, Prince Gailiah, Trenton Tietjens and a handful of others.
"From where we started in the fall of 2015 to where we are now is light years away from each other," Nelson said. "I am so thankful for my assistant coaches (Chef Michael Hirst, Skip Reed and Miguel Secor). We are the only varsity program at the community college level in the country and we are becoming one of the top rugby programs."
Former Pocahontas Area standout Zach Schott is has earned his "playing time through hard work in practice. He has a great work ethic and will be an asset at Lock."
Iowa Central hosted the Iowa Falls RFC on Saturday and returns to action next Saturday vs. Winona.
2017 IOWA CENTRAL RUGBY
Logan Atkinson, Fullback; Matt Barker, Fly Half; Sofiane Ben Meftah, Center; Mitch Coleman-Hardy, Prop; Jerrick Crosby-Fisher, Flanker; Noah Dahl, Prop; Isiah Faleuka, Flanker; Cole Eaton, Center; Braden Eger, Lock; Nathan Epplett, Wing; Richard Felton, Scrum Half; Elliott Finn, 8-Man; Prince Gailah, Wing; Clayton Goddard, Lock.
Daniel Gomez, Center; Ben Hale, Lock; Andrew Harada, Prop; Daniel Hare, Scrum Half; Dylan Hare, Wing; Brandon Hartman, Lock; Nathan Heath, Prop; Leopold Hennebert, Fullback; Ben Holman, Wing; Colter Johnson, Lock; Quentin Jones, Center; Sawyer Kabance, Hook; Jerviny Kamaya, Fullback.
Jabarre Leopold, Wing; Connor Luttrell, Hook; Dylan Mannion, Prop; Kaleb Marios, Fly Half; Khamani McQueen, Flanker; Tristan Mewes, Prop/Lock; Ani Mteto, Center; Ali Muhammad, Utility; Jack Peers, Prop/Lock; Daniel Petefish, Prop; Bobby Piagentini, Hook; Jaylen Price, Lock; Brock Reeves, Flanker.
Jordan Sanderson, Center; Zach Schott, Lock; Vanya Sturm, Utility; Trenton Tietjens, Center; Willie Veal, Wing; Damion Wallace, Wing; Mike Wildin, Wing; Deionta Williams, Wing; Landon Wolfe, Center; Victor Wong, Prop/Hook; Brandon Young, Utility.
Sept. 16 — Winona, 1 p.m.; 23 — at St. John's, 1 p.m.; 30 — St. Thomas, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Bemidji State, 1 p.m.; 11 — Lindenwood-Belleville, 4:30 p.m.; 14 — at Minensota State-Moorhead, 1 p.m.; 21 — at Lindenwood-St. Charles