The Wellington Wizards Youth Rugby Club is not looking for just one back-to-back state championship this coming rugby season. Instead, the club will be looking for a quartet of back-to-back state titles — in four different age groups.
Last April, at the Hobe Sound Polo Club, the Wizards won Florida Youth Rugby age division state titles in the Under 9s, Under 13s, Under 15s and Girls Under 19s. And in every state championship game, Wellington defeated a team from the Okapi Wanderers Rugby Club from Weston, its new arch rival.
It’s worth noting that since the Wellington Wizards Youth Rugby Club was founded in December 2014, the club has actually won a total of seven Florida age division state titles — one each in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and then four more state crowns earlier this year.
Looking back to last spring, the Under 9s, coached by Wellington’s Mack Andrew, actually won two state titles last season, going undefeated during the regular season and then winning the state championship game against the Okapi Wanderers. In the championship finale, the Wizards and Okapi were tied at halftime. The Wizards eventually emerged victorious, three trys to two trys. In rugby, a try, which is worth five points, is this sport’s equivalent of a touchdown in football. Jadyn Mack was named MVP of the match — the first girl to ever win it.
The Under 13s, coached by Wellington’s Jaime Rivera, won a state title for the second straight year. In the 2018 final, the Wizards scored first when Angelina Sanchez was a catalyst for her squad with a 40-yard scamper down the right sideline for a try in the first two minutes of the match. That early score energized her teammates, who scored again two minutes later. By the final whistle, Wellington defeated Okapi, seven trys to three trys.
“It was truly amazing to watch. In my 25 years in youth sports, I have never seen such an unselfish team,” said Wellington resident Alan Lawson, Wizards club president, on the season-long performance of the Under 13s. “This team had 23 players, and not one player ever complained about playing time. Only 15 players were on the field at any given time, and they all cheered for one another all season long. We all learned something about their character.”
“It was amazing to watch the unselfish play by the whole team,” Rivera added.
When the Wizards’ Under 15 squad walked on the field for its state title game, there was strong motivation to reverse its regular season opening-game one-point loss to Okapi. The young Wizards did just that, as they dominated the game from the outset, winning 31-14. The team’s trys were scored by Kam’Ron Young, Rayshawn Calloway and Snyder Elveus-Cantave, while Luke Davis had three two-point conversion kicks in the game. The Wizards’ top tacklers were Domenico Fusca, Mason Green, Will Rimes, Presley Sayavong, Pasqual Sanchez and Kam’Ron Young. The Under 15s were coached by Rivera and Mark Patterson of Boynton Beach.
“It was a season-long process learning a brand-new sport at a high level,” Patterson explained. “Half of our team were rookies who had never seen a rugby ball, much less played the sport. The veterans on the team understood they would need to help the coaching staff to get the new guys up-to-speed to have a winning squad.”
Patterson said that the team demonstrated maturity and character, buying into the coaching philosophy and executing it at every practice and match. “They built their trust within each other and played for their ‘brother’ next to him, and that made all the difference in the world,” he said.
Lawson also heaped praise on the Under 15 team.
“These boys were true gentlemen to the sport and played with grace and dignity,” he said. “We cannot wait to see them grow over the next few years.”
The final state championship game that day was in Girls Under 19. The Lady Wizards, a squad which had been undefeated in the regular season, had been besting opponents by an average margin of 30 points a game.
In the state championship finale, they dominated the game from beginning to end, winning 37-12. The MVP and top scorer of the game was Nicole Wantlin, who had three trys in the game. Wantlin is currently enrolled at West Point, where she is now playing rugby after graduating from Wellington High School.
“We were undefeated in regular season play and we came in second place in the open division in the Tropical Sevens Tournament [in Orlando], and had a learning experience in a loss against a Midwest Under 19s select side [all-star team] earlier this year,” girls head coach Sean Keasler of Wellington said. “We’ve had a long and trying season this year. The state championship was the cherry on top. We still have a lot of work to do for next year. Our next biggest hurdle for the 2019 season is recruiting new players, getting new girls teams in the mix for the upcoming season, and growing the sport of rugby for girls in Florida.”
The Lady Wizards finished with an overall record of 12-1.
For the upcoming season, Lawson expects at least 130 players to register to play for the many teams that the Wizards currently sponsor — U9s, U11s, U13s, U15s, U17s and U19s. That’s a big jump from the first year, when just 23 players decided to sign up for this new sport.
Just like last year, there will be a boys and a girls team at the U19 level. All the squads will practice on the football field at Emerald Cove Middle School in Wellington.
To learn more about the Wellington Wizards Youth Rugby Club, visit the www.wizards rugby.com or contact Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (214) 282-9788. You can also find the Wizards on Facebook at Wizards Rugby Club. For more information about the state association, visit www.floridarugby.org.