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New players continue Wreckers' growth

Kate McNee, Westport News  Updated 05:02 p.m., Thursday, March 22, 2012

Staples' Jackson Yang, right, tackles a Fairfield Prep player March 15. Yang is a junior captain and
a returning starting flanker. Photo: April Book / Contributed Photo / CT

The Staples rugby team continues to grow in size, strength and enthusiasm every year since its inception as a varsity sport in 2004.

This year's team has attracted a lot of new recruits, including many freshmen and two international students. Sophomores Tim Schroeder and Tyler Crowder joined the team after moving from Hong Kong and Australia, respectively.

The Wreckers know that matching last year's success will be no easy feat. Staples did exceptionally well last spring, losing only one game in the regular season and placing fourth in the state tournament.

"The team last year was incredible, going through preseason and up to our last game of the regular season undefeated, losing in our last game by one try in a very close match," junior captain Jackson Yang said.

According to Wreckers coach Oscar Barahona, 12 starters graduated, including Adam Washington, Andrew Washington, Yuri Lenskiy, Evan Burke, Bret Epright, Ed Hickson, Will Gottschalk, Zach Bomes, Josh Kogstad, Dan Navarro, Tyler Book and Jesse Sussmane.

Also, because of the team's high placement in the state tournament last year, Staples has been bumped up from Division 2 to Division 1.

This means that the team has not only lost many key players, but will also face stiffer competition this season.

Nevertheless, Barahona sees a great deal of potential in this new, fresh team.

"We have about 30 freshman or sophomores this year which is crazy," Barahona said. "A couple of freshmen impress me now, and are picking up the game pretty quickly."

Barahona specifically praised Chris Gladitsch, He noted Gladitsch's work in the off-season and improved cardio.

Yang expressed his excitement for senior newcomer, Danny Horelick, whom he says "shows a lot of potential."

Key returnees include Yang, who plays flanker, senior captains Jackson Moss (outside center), Chris Chu (hooker) and Mikell Washington (8-man). Other key returnees include senior Stephan Patterson and juniors Matt Cozzi, Brian Book and Umberto Pucci.

Staples lost its season-opener, 45-5 to Fairfield Prep March 15, but looks at it as a learning experience.

"Our first game came a little too early for us against a hardened and experienced Fairfield prep team," Yang said.

All in all, the team's goals do not solely revolve around numeric success.

With a difficult, complex sport like rugby, the Wreckers hope to grow as players and as a team.

This includes mastering the intricacies of the game, working together as a unit, and bringing honor to the program.

"We're just trying to get better every year," Washington said.

Barahona, as always, hopes the team will reflect well on the name of rugby, which prides itself on tradition and good conduct.

"I hope the boys will just continue to the model: animals on the field and gentleman off. I hope they will hold the door open for someone," he said