Brent Nelson started with just a few building blocks when it came to the first season of rugby at Iowa Central.
Now, entering year No. 5, Nelson and the Tritons have created a program that continually challenges the best of the best on a national level.
Iowa Central returns six starters from a year ago when they finished third in the nation in Div. II. That includes Rhys Smith, Gareth Sanders-Crook, Ezra Ulberg, Viance Vano, Alec Johnson and Malik Thomas.
"We are very excited for the upcoming season," Nelson said. "Coach (Jake) Mizell and I were relentless in our recruiting efforts. We will bring in some very talented freshmen to go along with some stellar returners. It should be a great balance of guys who have some time in a Triton jersey and those who will be doing it for the first time."
Last year, the Tritons finished third at the USA Rugby College 7s national championships and won the Upper Midwest 7s title and . They lost six key sophomores from that unit.
"It's hard to predict who will raise their hand for starting jobs as the team will be highly competitive at every position," Nelson said. "I expect our freshmen to compete immediately, but we have some very good leaders coming back."
Other sophomores returning include Elijah Hayes, Hunter Staab, Alonzo Williams, Armani Williams, Damion Wallace, Andrew Harada, Pierre Wansbury, Philip Woodhouse and Damian Moala. Some key incoming freshmen are Tre Thompson, Hugo Minaar, Dakota Southworth, Michael Karns, Gus Sokol, Gregor Gourlay, Tony Robinsin, Tuia Tupuola, Tevita Falefa and Lane Pruisner.
Nelson also noted the important roles played by his assistant coaches including Mizell, Miguel Secor, Skip Reed and Chef Michael Hirst.
"Jake is back for his second season and is my right-hand out there," he said. "Miguel works so hard with our team to improve their strength and conditioning. Skip and Michael have been with me from the beginning, and we have Dan Petefish coming on as our videographer, for media and to help coach."
The Tritons open the season on Saturday, August 31 against the University of Wisconsin in Fort Dodge. Action begins at 1 p.m. They also host Iowa State University on Saturday, September 7.