BOULDER, Colo. – The West Conference showcased plenty of talent this season – especially from top dogs Air Force and Colorado State. The two D1A Playoff teams were head-and-shoulder above the rest of the competition, and their superiority during the 2014-15 season is reflected in the All-West Conference Team.
Jose Campos, Wyoming – What Campos lacks in size, he more than made up for with determination and work rate. The flanker was all over the field this season for Wyoming, recording more tackles than any other Cowboy.
James Fink, New Mexico – The Lobos struggled in their return to D1A, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from lock James Fink. The second rower put in the necessary work in New Mexico’s boiler room to make opposing ball carriers think twice before running towards No. 5 in red.
Evan Giest, Colorado State – The lesser-known half of Colorado State’s Bash Brothers, Giest benefitted from playing next to Ben Pinkelman, but the number eight’s play was also overshadowed a bit. A natural athlete, Giest was just as prone to make a big run as he was to lay a big hit.
James Hanley, Air Force – The Zoomies’ tight five received praise from West coaches throughout the season, and Hanley was a big part of that success. The tight head prop anchored Air Force’s scrum that won more than its share of the put-ins.
Garrett Jameson, Air Force – Jameson had big boots to fill this season in replacing AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Jack Bristol as Air Force’s number eight, and he did so admirably. With multi-try performances against New Mexico and Wyoming, Jameson was very dangerous in loose play for the 10th-ranked cadets of Colorado Springs.
Grigor Kerdikoshvili, Air Force – A hard-nosed flanker who scored four tries in seven matches while also kicking for points – there is nothing to dislike about what Kerdikoshvili brings to the pitch.
Tim Mendoza, Wyoming – Just a novice in the sport rugby, Mendoza played like a veteran for the Cowboys. Whether in attack, defense, or set pieces, the number eight was hands down one of Wyoming’s standouts.
Blake Rogers, Colorado – Rogers unfortunately had to miss time for the Buffaloes this season due to injury, but the prop made his presence felt when he was on the pitch for Colorado. Looking every bit the front rower, and with a mullet to boot, Rogers has a high rugby IQ and a surprisingly skilled set of hands that he used to put teammates into space.
Ben Bermester, Air Force – No team in the West scored more points than the Zoomies. A big reason Air Force put up such monster numbers in attack was its center pairing, which included Bermester. The thunder to Calvin Johnson’s lightning, the No. 12 kept the Zoomies driving beyond the gain line all season long.
Jay Brown, Colorado – Like All-West Forward Blake Rogers, Brown was another one of many Buffaloes who missed valuable time due to injury. Colorado’s offense got a boost when Brown returned to fly half following a hand injury. A natural leader, Brown always seemed to make the right decision when the ball was in his hands.
Dasante Browne, New Mexico – The Lobos’ shortcomings were not because of a lack of athleticism, but a lack of experience. Browne is just one player for New Mexico who matches up with the best of the conference athletically.
Lance Eberhard, Colorado State – With a few dangerous options to choose from in his backfield, Eberhard did a good job of spreading the pill around this season. The fly half also showed well from the tee, where he nailed 27 conversions and two penalties during conference play.
Luke Engelhaupt, Colorado State – Playing both outside center and wing, Engelhaupt improved on an excellent 2013-14 season. With a knack for finding the try zone, Engelhaupt had a strike rate of over one try per match.
Carmine Hernandez, Colorado State – Tough, elusive, and intelligent. These are qualities a coach wants out of a scrum half and are all qualities that Hernandez possesses.
Calvin Johnson, Air Force – The Zoomies’ danger-man in sevens, Johnson kept opposing defenses on their heels all season long in 15s, as well.
Jake Shomer, Colorado – The graduation of All-American backs Sean Kilfoyle and Brian Wanless meant more responsibilities for Shomer. The senior did well to sit in for Jay Brown while the fly half was on the shelf, but Shomer’s combination of speed and toughness showed when he was allowed to move back to his more natural fit at outside center.
Bobby Watkins, Wyoming – Watkins wrapped up his Cowboy career in fine form playing both wing and center. A threat every time he touched the ball, Watkins was also a gritty tackler for Wyoming.
Forward of the Year:Ben Pinkelman, Colorado State
Maybe the best forward in college rugby, it only takes 80 minutes to see why Pinkelman is on the fast track to earning an international cap with the Men’s Eagles. The flanker is terrific at the contact area and dynamic with ball in hand. With three hat-trick performances during the season, Pinkelman’s most impressive attribute might just be his ability to always be in the right place at the right time.
Back of the Year:Victor Woo, Air Force
It takes a special player to captain a side filled with natural leaders. Woo, who took over the ‘C’ from All-American Jack Bristol, filled the role as captain with flying colors. The fittest player on an extremely well conditioned side, Woo relentlessly kept his foot on the gas, and wore teams out in the second half.