BY GENE NARDI
Several players of the local Wizards Rugby Club had been selected to play on the Florida Juice all-star rugby team, which participated in the Regional Cup Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., held June 17-19. The tournament drew all-star teams from 12 other states as well.
The USA Rugby Selection Committee was on scene to observe and evaluate the players in hopes of selecting candidates for the High School All-American national team. College scouts were also on hand evaluating the young talent.
The players are affiliated with the Florida Youth Rugby Union, which works to promote the sport, in addition to providing a conduit to expand the rugby experience for these promising young athletes.
The USA Rugby Regional Cup Tournament paves the way for those who want to play rugby in college. The tournament offers three divisions for boys and girls: varsity, junior varsity and middle school. This is the nation’s best of the best for youth rugby. The organization also coordinates a national High School All-American competition, where players are selected to participate at the national level.
Eight Wizard players were selected for the Junior Juice squad: Gianpaolo DiPietro, John-Paul Habib, Nathan Laham, Heriberto Perez-Mendez, David Rimes, Isaac Rivera, Joshua Schwartz and Elijah Valle. The junior varsity division had seven Wizard players: Dioumy Cadet, Zachary Davis, Gabriel Dias, Lewis Gray, Caleb Moore, Douglas Price and Zeon Unnithan.
The Junior Juice all-star squad won third place overall and earned the Plate Champions Cup. The junior varsity team also took third place, winning the Shield Champions Cup. Davis’ consistent performance through the tournament grabbed the attention of many during the competition.
ABOVE: Joshua Schwartz runs the ball as Gianpaolo DiPietro watches for the Junior Juice all-stars.