SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Mustangs youth rugby is the oldest club in San Diego, as it was founded in 2004. Putting it in rugby terms, over the last 18 years, the club has continued to grow one pass, one scrum, and one try at a time.
"When we initially started, there was no youth rugby. So coaching at the older age grades meant teaching a lot of rugby. You might say it was Rugby 101," says Mustangs 18U head coach Ramon Samaniego.
If you want to talk about growth, the club now includes over 250 players at the high school level. Many kids from other sports are now hopping on board the rugby train. Coach Samaniego says he's seen kids who played soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, and football gravitate to rugby.
"It's been a great spring sport for a lot of kids. Initially, a lot of transfers who play football in the fall are now playing rugby in the spring."
Football and rugby are completely different sports, but the contact is an obvious similarity.
"Being able to play football, you get super comfortable tackling in pads. Once you jump on the rugby field you are accustomed to tackling, and you realize it doesn't hurt you," says Torrey Pines High School player Caden Crist.
Chase Wetsel plays rugby and football at Santa Fe Christian High School.
"To compare them they are sports that are all about big hits. Rugby though is just a lot faster and it doesn't stop after each play like football does."
San Diego Mustangs Rugby has become a national powerhouse as they are currently ranked 5th in the country in the 18U division. They are now getting set to play in the High School National Rugby Nationals in Elkhart, Indiana.
"Our mission is to win the national championship. It's been our goal since the very beginning. This is our plan," says Wetsel.
The goal is to win a national championship, but for Mustangs Rugby, they are always looking ahead and trying to raise the bar.
"Our goal is to always compete nationally," says Samaniego. "That said, a lot of our players have aspirations of playing in college, and hopefully one day playing for the U.S. National Team.