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Small-College Semifinalists All Used to Success

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Small-College Semifinalists All Used to Success

Babson just got by Endicott. Alex Goff photo.

Going into the NCR Small-College season, many felt that Cal Poly Humboldt and Babson had a serious shot to make it to the final.

Even the (mostly) trained monkeys working in the offices of GRR World Headquarters thought so. CPH had, of course, won it all last year, while Babson had emerged as Small-College 7s champs, so it seemed logical.

And it has come to pass, while perennial contenders Wayne State and 2022 #4 Catholic University join them, making the semifinalists almost the same as last year.


After rolling through much of their competition, Babson was leading Endicott in their quarterfinal 40-14, only to see the Gulls storm back to tie the game at 45-45. This was a good lesson for the Beavers as their discipline and their patience deserted them to a certain extent. They did recover it long enough to score the winning try to go through 50-45, but it was a close-run thing. (Endicott was the one semifinalist from last year that didn’t make it back, and they were a whisker away.)

At their best, Babson are athletic and quick up front, with Brice Muller, Kehinde Adenle at lock, No. 8 Charles Price, and flankers Gavin Mestler and Dash Scura giving them height, mobility, and understanding. Few teams can boast the height they have. And youth … most of the forward pack is made up for first- and second-year players.

In the backs they have more experience, with senior Reed Santos pulling the stings smartly at flyhalf and fullback Stevie Garofolo sparking attacks from all channels. This is a team that can score, and score in bunches. 

Catholic University

Without much trouble Catholic defeated Gettysburg, George Washington, and Widener, while they were pushed a little by stronger opponents Susquehanna and Loyola. They did lose to American University, but by that time they had their conference #1 seed sewn up and did need to win that game.

On to the Round of 16 where they blew past a very good Christendom side 52-17. That was a wakeup call for everyone else that Catholic was back, paced by the hard work of Agustin Oreggo, Matt Maurath setting the tone in the second row, and Sebastian Musalem kicking goals they got by a very good Southeastern Louisiana side 28-24 and are looking to leverage their 2022 playoff experience.

Babson is young. Catholic has been there before. Is that the difference?

Babson vs Catholic Noon Friday (Central Time). Live on The Rugby Network>>

Cal Poly Humboldt

Earlier this fall GRR went out to Arcata, Calif. to celebrate Humboldt’s 50th year and their alumni reunion. It was a wonderful experience celebrating a rugby program out in the redwoods that takes pride in what it has accomplished.

And they are nicely positioned to celebrate that 50th with a repeat championship. They do it with perhaps the most athletic front row in the competition, led by Isaac Khelo and Adam Zampa. With Latu Kolopeaua leading the team as a hammer and an inspiration, plenty of speed, and Head Coach Greg Pargee adjusting nicely to personnel changes, they could very well bring that trophy back once again. 

Wayne State

Like Humboldt, Wayne State had to mix in non-small teams to augment their season. In fact, Wayne State played mostly higher-division teams this fall, such as Iowa Central CC, Iowa, and Iowa State. They were competitive in all, and after beating Small-College opponent Colorado School of Mines 32-14 were set up for the playoffs. A play-in win over UW-Eau-Claire and victories over Franciscan and St. John’s see them in Houston once more.

Defensively Wayne State has been been very good and Head Coach Bryn Chivers also used all of his players over that two-game weekend, meaning everyone will be engaged to make it work Friday and Sunday in Houston.

They have a ton of pace and punish turnovers. But at GRR we’d like to note that they have given up just 29 points in three elimination games. That’s where Wayne State will have to be excellent against Humboldt.

Cal Poly Humboldt vs Wayne State 2PM Friday (Central Time). Live on The Rugby Network>>