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Competition Ramps Up as Nation Youth 7s Kicks Off

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Competition Ramps Up as Nation Youth 7s Kicks Off

This is the third year of the National Youth 7s.

The National Youth 7s Championships are set to kick off Friday with the first set of pool games.

There are 10 teams in the Boys U16 bracket in two pools of five.

"The goal for the tournament is the same as every other one with the U16s, which is to get better each game and leave the tournament a better player," sais Atlantis Coach Jack Foley. "Bit of a cliché, but every time I take a team to one of these events, I really don't know how we'll do compared to the other programs, so I don't really bother trying to. We have a mix of players with experience from Tropical 7's, and new players making their first Atlantis team, who are athletic and need to be exposed to the skill standards needed to improve."

For the Atlantis boys U16s, keep an eye on three young Pennsylvania players: Kyran Rautenbach out of North Allegheny, who has been a standout for the Atlantis U16s for a couple of years now, Joey Craig out of Doylestown, and Dominic Pepe out of Lampeter-Strasburg High School.

Canadian program Upright Rugby is bringing a team (initially they were hoping to bring four teams but thanks to some provincial rugby conflicts that is now down to one team). 

Well, we HAD four teams going but slowly this number diminished all the way down to ONE.... our U16 Boys; there are a few reasons for this.  On the girls' side, our provincial program added an extra trial this coming weekend, which will directly conflict with our U16s and a large number of our U14 girls who are also trying out for these teams.  Province-wide, all club rugby started two weeks ago, which means that the majority of kids already have local club commitments, in particular, the U14 age group which competes on Sundays.   

"It's a real shame as I'm a huge advocate for the younger age groups and really want them to get an international experience," said Program Director Tyler Leggett. "Moving forward, we'll just have to make sure that the families area well aware and better prepared to make the commitment in advance. From a performance standpoint, our U16 boys will be skilled and have some size but we also know we're facing very tough competition in this age grade, with the likes of Belmont, Charlotte (who have really come on the past couple years), and of course EIRA."

EIRA brings a team of players from eight different states plus one who plays his rugby in Ireland. The Menon brothers from Woodlands in Texas are a feature, but so are the two local kids, Hank McGowan and Levi Hoffman, who will be playing on their home field at St. Ignatius in Cleveland. Hoffman is a powerful runner and defender who can kick, and McGowan got some varsity time at flyhalf for his school team despite being just a freshman.

Head Coach Salty Thompson, who is assisted by Benny Mateialona, said his boys team is young but very competitive and should show well.

The Boys U16s is rounded out by some hugely competitive teams. Belmont Shore's coaching staff went right into training for this event after winning the HS Club national championships and they bring speed and plenty of passing skill. USA South Panthers has a talented, competitive side, and Charlotte Tigers, as Leggett said, should be a handful.

Boys U16 Pools:

Pool A
Belmont Shore 
Charlotte Tigers

Upright Rugby Rogues 

Badger Rugby Club
USA West Rugby Club
Pool B
Atlantis Rugby 
Panther Rugby Academy
San Diego Mustangs
Celina Rugby Club

USA West has been slowly building its program in youth Boys and Girls at Tropical 7s, National Youth 7s, and NAI 7s. 

The USA West boys team won the Open bracket at Tropical and about a third of that team will be in Cleveland, which means eight chances for other players to show what they can do.

"Tropical 7s was our first ever U16 squad, boys and girls, and we did not really know what to expect for either," said Program Director Trey Walker.  "Being new to this level our goal was to make it out to the semifinals at Trop. We eclipsed that goal by winning the open bracket in several down to the wire games.  We realize there is a single bracket and no separation of Elite and Open so we are expecting the competition level to be just that much higher at this tournament. That said, we accomplished our goal at Trop and a third of that roster is returning. We have several players new to West that we are really excited about and bring skill, physicality and IQ to what was already a strong player group." 

Celina won the Tier II bracket in 2022 and now bumps up to the top tier.

The Girls bracket brings high-profile teams such as EIRA, Atlantis, Pasefika, and two-time winners Belmont Shore. Shoe actually will field two teams in this group and their unity and intensity are tough to match.

They also have plenty of skill.

Challenging them will be the task of everyone else.

"We have a variety of size, speed, and different experiences," said EIRA Head Coach Kelsie McDowell. "For some it is their first EIRA tour experience. Others it is their 3rd or 4th experience between camps and other tours. The girls that I have had the pleasure of coaching before have a high IQ of the game, and great chemistry. We hope to keep developing that in a short amount of time, and keep expanding the EIRA girls program."

Keep an eye on on Sparta Rock standouts Drew Dauser and Alyssa Post, who bring power to the lineup.

With 13 players from nine different states, the task for EIRA is to create unity quickly, because, along with everything else, Belmont Shore's superpower is unity.

Girls Tier
Belmont Shore A
Pasefika Rugby 
Valkyries Rugby
Hawkeyes Rugby Academy
Belmont Shore B

Boys U14

This bracket has several more local teams that performed well in the Rookie Rugby competitions.

RMA Podcast: The Rookie Rugby Cleveland Phenomenon

These include perennial local powers Westpark Shamrocks, Highland Buzzards, and a CATs team that brings some significant talent. From outside the region, LA Tribe was explosive last year and won the tournament last year. But they bring a younger group this time around which is why there's in U14 (the tournament moved from a Tier 1/Tier 2 system to a U16/U14 setup).

LoCo out of Virginia did well in 2022 and should compete once more, Roosters out of Maryland, Panther Rugby Academy, and the SoCal powers Back Bay and Belmont Shore should all make an impact.

Boys U14
Pool A
LA Tribe 
North Pitt United 
Highland Buzzards 
Pool B
Back Bay
Panther Rugby Academy
Westpark Shamrocks
Roosters Youth Rugby 
Pool C
Belmont Shore
Hawkeye Rugby Academy
LoCo Rugby 

The Girls kick off Friday at 2:20PM at the field of St. Ignatius HS in Cleveland. The U14 Boys kick off at the same time. The U16 Boys kick off at 4:20. All three brackets culminate on Sunday and all three will be shown LIVE on The Rugby Network>>