BOULDER, Colo. – While the Midwest is typically known for a slower, grind-it-out style of rugby, the 2014 Big Ten Universities Rugby Conference season saw a lot of high scores and dynamic backline play. Of course, no one can dismiss the hard work put in by the forwards, whose contributions are even more valued as the months turn cold and pitch conditions are less than ideal.
D1A Rugby, with the helpful input of coaches from around the conference, has put together a 1st and 2nd All-BTU side. Indiana, who finished the season undefeated but ineligible for the BTU Championship, and Wisconsin, who beat Ohio State in the Conference Final, top the selection list with six and five players, respectively.
All-BTU 1st Team Forwards:
Robert Castellon-Lazo, Prop, Indiana: No team in the BTU had as lethal a combination of size in its pack and athleticism in its backline as Indiana. Castellon-Lazo represents the Hoosiers’ frontline size. The loose head prop moves well over the pitch given his size, and possesses excellent scrum technique.
Jordan Ulmar, Prop, Michigan: Hardly missing a single minute of action this fall, Ulmar was Michigan’s Mr. Reliable. While a dominant scrummager, the senior tight head isn’t all too flashy in the open field, but described by Wolverines Head Coach Brandon Sparks as an “old school, hard-nosed, no mistake player.” He and Nick Fehrman, who could have easily made this list, made for a solid prop combination this season.
Ross Heginbottom, Hooker, Wisconsin: Hooking for the Conference Champion put Heginbottom in the running for All-BTU, but it was his kicking abilities that secured his 1st Team selection. Front rowers with a boot worthy of kicking duties are rare, and the junior from Walnut Creek, California, compiled 13 points off his.
Chris Marais, Lock, Minnesota: The Gophers had a tough and talented forward pack this season and Marais may have been the most impressive player in that unit. The junior was good in the loose, but excelled as a lineout jumper.
Ben Dall, Lock, Indiana: At 6-foot-5, Dall is a big unit that has the ability to outrun some of his backline teammates. While Dall was able to dot down two tries during the season, he was most valuable securing possession in set pieces.
Santino Cua, Flanker, Ohio State: Switching between flanker and number eight, Cua is everything you want in a loose forward. The senior seeks opportunities to make open-field tackles and is as dangerous a ball carrier as any forward in the conference. Cua’s attacking skills were on display in the BTU Championship when he scored two tries.
Chening Duker, Flanker, Michigan: There are athletic flankers, and then there is Chening Duker. No BTU forward scored more tries this season than Duker’s six, and his multi-try performance against Illinois earned him D1A Rugby Player of the Week.
Hunter Crass, Number Eight, Wisconsin: The BTU Championship MVP was special for the Badgers all season. Not quite as fast as his brother Tyler who plays on the wing, Crass earns recognition for his relentless work rate.
All-BTU 1st Team Backs:
Jack Butterfield, Scrum half, Minnesota: Playing on a rather inexperienced side, Butterfield’s combination of experience, leadership, and ball skills were vital to the Gophers three-win season. The team captain proved to be an unselfish player, often setting up his teammates for line breaks, while also handling kicking duties for Minnesota.
Teddy Terezis, Fly half, Indiana: With the ability to play both center and fly half, Terezis is most valued wearing the number 10 jersey considering his all-around playmaking potential. Terezis led the BTU in total points, accumulating 102 points by season’s end with a combination of kicking and try-scoring.
Bryce Campbell, Center, Indiana: Coming off a freshman season in which Campbell was named Indiana’s Rookie of the Year, the physically imposing inside center made additional strides as a rugby player this fall. While capable of bursting through defenses on his own, Campbell has great field awareness and a knack for making offloads in traffic.
David Ryberg, Center, Iowa: If Ryberg looks like he could hold his own on a college football field that is because he once did. After playing on the Hawkeyes’ football team, Ryberg converted to rugby where he has excelled. Terrific on defense and in the rucks, the outside center bulldozed his way to 12 tries on the season.
JoJo Eramo, Wing, Ohio State: No player single-handedly took over matches this season the way Eramo did. The former high school running back seeks to do damage when he touches the ball, and often succeeds in doing so. The dynamic threat on the edge posted three hat tricks on the season.
Jack Hidalgo, Wing, Indiana: No player in the BTU was able to match Hidalgo’s jaw-dropping 14 tries on the season. In just his second season of rugby, the danger man has shown immense dedication to go with his natural speed and athleticism. He was virtually unstoppable against Ohio State and Michigan State when he combined for nine tries.
Neil Warren, Full back, Wisconsin: At a position that was not as deep as center or wing, Warren stood out. He may have only found the try zone three times during the regular season, but Warren played his best on the biggest stage, scoring a try in Wisconsin’s BTU Championship win over Ohio State.
All-BTU 2nd Team Forwards:
Zach Henslee, Prop, Minnesota: While fellow front row mate Peyton Lauber would have made a fine addition to this list, it’s the Gophers’ Henslee that earns the nod. Not often does a prop lead a team in tries, but that is exactly what this loose head accomplished this season.
Grayson Schmidt, Prop, Iowa: Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 270 lbs., Schmidt was well-described by Iowa Head Coach Jim Estes as “our rock and anchor of our pack.” Refusing to get by on sure size and strength alone, Schmidt has become a dedicated and skilled technician in the scrum, as well.
Brian Zinser, Hooker, Purdue: For a team that struggled mightily this season, the Boilermakers could count on Zinser. The hooker started every match for Purdue this fall.
Eric Mallory, Lock, Michigan State: While excellent in the set pieces, Mallory’s play in the loose saw much improvement from his junior season.
Drew Vecchio, Lock, Michigan: Vecchio enjoys the hard work performed in the boiler room, but showed he can carry the rock on his way to a three-try season.
John Adair, Flanker, Iowa: As tough as they come, Adair is a military veteran with two tours in Afghanistan under his belt. His strength and tenacity were constantly on display for the Hawkeyes as the senior led his team in tackles time and time again.
Jeff Chatfield, Flanker, Ohio State: Chatfield exemplified the work rate of an open side flanker this season. Whether on defense or attack, Chatfield was always around the ball.
Tyler Graham, Number eight, Indiana: Not many backs run with the pace and agility of Graham. Another All-BTU Hoosier who will be back in red and white next fall, Graham had multi-try matches against Iowa and Purdue.
All-BTU 2nd Team Backs:
Luke Hickey, Scrum half, Ohio State: With the ability to distribute accurately from the base of rucks, Hickey is also a crafty and dangerous attacker, scoring six tries during the season.
Joel Conzelmann, Fly half, Michigan: Conzelmann possesses everything you could want in a fly half: a good distributor, a quality leader, and an accurate boot. Number 10 has been a staple in the Wolverines backline for a number of years, and will surely be missed next season.
Matoko Noudehou, Center, Wisconsin: With the size and strength of an inside center, Noudehou is a lot to handle in a number 13 jersey. The sophomore from Milwaukee was more effective as the season went on, and handled the majority of the Badgers’ kicking duties.
Dan Pettay, Center, Wisconsin: Equally as difficult to bring down as his fellow Badger center, Pettay had a strong season for the BTU Champions.
Dan Carroll, Wing, Iowa: A bigger wing, Carroll still has speed to burn and the ability to score highlight-reel tries. He’s also a valued vocal leader for the Hawkeyes – something not typically found in a winger.
Martin Giannetti Latuf, Full back, Illinois: A sure tackler, Giannetti Latuf shredded Iowa’s defense with four tries in October.
Forward of the Year – Santino Cua: Ohio State’s best loose forward was as valuable to his team as any other player in the BTU. Nursing an injured shoulder, Cua came off the bench to spark the Buckeyes come from behind win over Michigan. The upset of the Wolverines put Ohio State in the BTU Championship against Wisconsin. Although the Buckeyes couldn’t get past the Badgers, Cua was the best player on the pitch that day and scored two tries.
Back of the Year – Teddy Terezis: Indiana’s number 10 led the BTU in points, and helped navigate the Hoosiers’ undefeated season. Only graduating one starter, Indiana will be one of the best teams in the country next season, and Terezis will be one of the finest backline players in the country.
Coach of the Year – Jim Estes, Iowa: Sarasopa Enari of Indiana and Nic Tyson of Wisconsin are worthy of this honor for the jobs they did this season, but Estes takes the BTU coaching cake. Following two consecutive 0-7 seasons, the Hawkeyes finished the BTU regular season 4-2. The team’s biggest win of the season came at the BTU Championship, where Iowa beat Michigan to finish third in the conference and currently rank No. 17 in Canterbury’s D1A Top 20.