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South Valley Journal

Mustang rugby wins, serves its community

Nov 07, 2018 03:51PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Herriman rugby has enjoyed lats of sucess including second place at nationals in the spring and undefeated this fall. (Tony Barker/Herriman rugby)

By Greg James |  gregj@mycityjournals.com 

The Herriman High School rugby team has had a successful year. It finished second in nationals and is currently undefeated in fall season, but the winning takes a back seat to the impact they have had on the community.

“We have a lot of good kids and great coaches,” Mustang rugby director Jeff Wilson said. “I think learning character is an important part of sports. If this was just about sports, I am not sure how many coaches would do this.”

The Herriman community has embraced its rugby program. The Mustangs have found ways to give their time back to the community that has accepted them. Recently, they invited Nixon Whatcott to become a member of their team.

Nixon is 7 years old and suffers from childhood cancer. He has endured chemotherapy and has lost his leg from a tumor. 

“He has the best attitude in the entire world,” Wilson said. “He has an incredible outlook on things. He has become one of my heros.”

The Mustangs invited Nixon to attend practice. They donated Mustang rugby gear, and Miss Utah visited with him and his family. Through a connection they arranged for a local business, Tru Hearing, to donate $1 for every point they score this fall to help with the family’s medical expenses (to date more than $1,000).

“I think our team was inspired by him,” Wilson said. “We learned that the kids have it pretty good and are grateful for their health and opportunities. We loved him. It was like Nixon has 60 some older brothers. The kids have dedicated the season to him.” 

The team helped him be involved in their rugby drills. He was able to learn to pass the ball and tackle like the pros. 

“Seeing his outlook has been inspiring to me,” Wilson said.

The Mustangs also volunteer at a community fair held at East Lake Elementary. The team cancelled practice to participate.

“I told the kids that this was practice today, and they all showed up,” Wilson said. “We want to give back, and since we have the ability to make things better for someone else then why not.”

The players ran games, refreshments and helped in the community booths. Wilson said most of the fair-goers wanted to play rugby with his players and get autographs.

“It is as important to me to teach them the kind of men they ought to be off the field, not just what they are on the field,” Wilson said. “If we are not doing that then we fail no matter how many games we win.” 

The spring rugby team placed second at the national rugby tournament to Gonzaga, a three-time champion. They led the game heading into the final minutes.

“Last spring was fantastic,” Wilson said. “We only had three returning starters and placed second in the nation. I could not ask for any more from our kids. They were so impressive. I could not be more proud of them. They are great kids to be around too.”

Herriman has five teams and 64 players on its rosters this fall. It is the largest high school program in the state. The fall teams are optional. Most players play football or other sports in that time. 

“We have seen the benefit of our youth program,” Wilson said. “Some of these kids have been playing since they were little. We owe a lot to that program. These are amazing kids and they compete at a high level. We ask a lot of them.”