Awards Banquet Recap
Schuylkill River Rugby had our awards banquet at the IATSE Ballroom on February 24 and well over 100 past and present Skill players showed up to swap stories, enjoy each other’s company, and hand out some awards. The MC for the evening was Club Vice President Carlo Sena who was assisted by the rest of the Executive Board of Paul Abrams, Dave Codell, Ryan McHugh, and Hunter Valentine in setting up the evening’s festivities. The awards themselves were presented by the Coaching Staff which includes Biddy Boyle, Mike Burch, Richard Casey, Mike Clark, Owen Jones, Chris Ryan, and Tom Weishaupt. Ever-present in his role between the Board and Staff was Director of Rugby Pat Boyle making sure things went smoothly.
Presented below are the notes from the award’s presenters as well as the Hall of Fame induction speeches given on behalf of Michael “Hasbro” Leland and Dave Wixted. With their inductions they join Chris Bailey, Bill Jalbert, Michael Matotek, Jason Siddel, Brian Boyle, Chet Radecki, John McMullen, Steve Green, George Connell, Jim Hegarty, Jamie Catrambone, Terry Wendelken, John Hughes, Gary Kribbs, Len Borcky, Joe Howard, and Alex Yankowsky in our Hall of Fame.
It was a wonderful evening for all involved and we hope to have you join us next year.
Jason “Face” Siddell Player’s Player Award – Ryan McHugh
A teammate wishing to maintain anonymity had the following to say about Ryan:
Ryan is a veteran player who has kept himself in the mix as an A-side player despite being one of the older player in the pool and beyond that continues to be a pencil in starter at second row. When he’s on the pitch he does all the grunt work that can often go unnoticed and his support is relentless. His leadership in game as well as at training are ever present, if there’s something that needs to get done, it gets done, and rarely will you hear him make a fuss about it. It’s not to say that he has no voice at all, nothing could be further from the truth – it’s that he knows difference between making it about himself and making it about the club. When we need to be called out as an individual or as a club and it’s coming from Ryan – we know it’s something that’s heartfelt and probably true. Outside of the work he puts in to remain a major contributing player on the A-side, he’s served as a club officer in one of the less enviable positions of treasurer as well as routinely volunteering at numerous youth development events across the region. Ryan is one of the people that I first think of when I think about who’s helping to create a positive successful culture at the club. There are few people in the game that I have more respect for.
Joseph “Holmes” Harbson 15s Coaches Award – Jeff Hall
The coaches award is given to a player who exemplifies the qualities that all players should strive to possess. They are a model player and model teammate. Their presence may not always but noticed, but their absence is always felt. That is because they carry themselves without fanfare and perform their responsibilities selflessly. This year’s recipient is a player who has been instrumental to our success over the past few seasons and without whom our fall season would not have been as successful as it was given the injuries we sustained. This player is at every practice, every game, every social event, every team meeting. We are very pleased to present this year’s Coaches Award to Jeff Hall.
15s Breakout Player- Matt Giannascoli
The breakout player award is given to that player who makes you go, “where the hell did that come from?”. It can be a returning player whose committed themselves and raises their game to the next level. It can be a transferring or new player to Schuylkill who comes in as a bit of an unknown and cements themselves. This year’s recipient doesn’t exactly fall into either of those categories. This year’s recipient is someone who hadn’t even played rugby in the several years post college prior to this fall. He stepped into Division 1 rugby at inside center and more than held is own, he took it to his opposite number game in and game out. This year’s breakout player, Matt Giannascoli.
D1 Back MVP- Brian Keown
There are a select few positions on the field that require stability. The team is an engine but without someone driving us forward we can find ourselves not quite hitting that top gear. You can switch out bits and pieces here and there and the engine is still going run, but it won’t function the way you want it to. You need that someone to propel things forward, that takes all those bits and pieces and gives them direction. You switch out this person and we don’t run at top speed. This year’s recipient has given us stability and direction at a position that requires both. The D1 back MVP is Brian Keown.
D1 Forward MVP- Ben Janssen
When asked to name some of the best players we have played with, everyone in this room has someone they immediately recall. Someone who at times as a player you find yourself a spectator during the game just watching them do their thing. I don’t know if this guy remembers, but I refereed him for high school games when he played for Coatesville. I would get excited calling scrums to Coatesville because he played 8-man and I knew he was going to do something special. He has continued to do special things and he’s a special player here at Schuylkill. The D1 forward MVP is Ben Janssen.
D2 Back MVP- Jon Hines
This year’s D2 back MVP is a player who has played consistently and improved consistently over a number of seasons with Schuylkill. His performance on the field has become highly reliable and he has taken an additional step by becoming a vocal leader on and off the field. His teammates look to him to be a catalyst through his positive play to raise the performance of the entire team. He has delivered time and time again and we look forward to his continued growth. The D2 back MVP is Jon Hines.
D2 Forward MVP- Ian Glatts
One of the most important qualities any player can possess is reliability. Our d2 forward MVP is so reliable that we all know exactly the type of game we’ll get from him. Double digit tackles, double digit carries, 1 or 2 diving penalties, 1 or 2 side entry penalties, and bottomless encouragement of his teammates. We’ll continue to work on those penalties. But you can live with a players minimal errs here and there when they give so much of themselves on the field. Our D2 forward MVP has been a welcomed addition to Schuylkill, Ian Glatts.
7s Premier MVP – Josh Mastomatto
Josh came back to Philly this year and really brought our team to another level. He was the most feared player in the MAC this year for good reason, and he got better every week which was even more impressive. His footwork and speed out wide made him a threat to score a try every time he got the ball and he ended up being our leading scorer this season.
7s Coaches Award – Ben Janssen
Ben does all of the little things on the field that go unnoticed but without them you would lose. He was our best defensive player, always played a full 14 minutes per match, and held everyone on the team accountable both on game day and during training. Ben was always one of the first to arrive and last the leave and constantly provided a positive example for his teammates to follow.
7s U-23 MVP – John McCurdy
For two years in a row John has been the heart and soul of the U-23 Academy team. He has exceptional talent which is why he is the MVP, but his ability to lead is even greater. It’s one thing to be able to get the job done yourself, but to show others how to handle their business as well is what helps build a special team. John’s future in this sport is incredibly bright and we are very excited to see where his development takes him.
7s Breakout Player of the Year – Pete Mulville
Peter was a player that we knew had potential but we weren’t sure how he would adapt to bigger and faster competition. We were pleasantly surprised as he exceeded every expectation that we had for him. He didn’t just belong, he began to dominate, towards the end of the season.
Brad Smith’s speech on behalf of Michael Leland
Hazbro embodied what it means to be part of a rugby club. While he wasn’t the best athlete to ever step on the pitch, Haz gave his all when he was out there and his most important contributions were made off the pitch.
Back when we started playing, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, rugby clubs were formed not just to be competitive and win games, but they were also social clubs for those who were not always accepted elsewhere. A common unspoken theme was, “My drinking team has a rugby problem”. The best thing about rugby in those days was that no matter what your talent level or ability, if you were part of the club, you got a game on Saturdays. Hazbro made sure that people coming into the club knew that, and he showed that no matter who you were in our club, you were a valued and important part of it.
For me personally, Haz quickly became my best friend in rugby after we met during a Second City game in 1987. Despite being opposites in several ways, like he was a big black kid from the city and I was a little white kid from the suburbs, we found that we had a lot of things in common. Neither of us was exactly a perennial A-side selection, but we both loved to play the game, hang out with our teammates, and sing rugby songs in the bar. I’ll never forget rooming with him on the ‘92 tour to England and Wales when he came out of the bedroom of our host’s teenage daughter the morning after an almost all-night post-game drink-up.
Haz was a guy who could talk to anybody about anything without judging, and he made it his business to get to know everyone who came into the club and try to make them feel appreciated. He played a big part in creating and maintaining the sense of family that helped Second City be so successful in the ’90’s. I think his popularity in the club post-merger with Schuylkill is a testament to that, because as I’ve hung around with Schuylkill guys, the word about Haz is always positive.
To me, Haz was a guy who showed that the social side of rugby is just as important to a club as the athletic side. Here’s to fallen brother!
Alex Yankowsky’s speech on behalf of Michael Leland
I met Haz at Temple University in 1986. We both stuck out. A hippie kid and the dude who sang show tunes. Haz was the kind of guy that was inviting to all. If you were a good or bad player, it didn’t matter. It mattered if you liked this new game. He was there to invite you to this great sport for the camaraderie. The friendship, craziness, and fun times were how he was from the day I met him. He always made it a point to show up and join in and I know his teammates saw that quality. Especially if you ever saw him walking out of the distant tree line coming to a game even in another state. He then brought me to Second City Troop which ultimately led me to Schuylkill River and I will always be thankful that he introduced me to the people that I’m friends with today. In turn I was able to introduce him to friends he had for life. I know that Michael would be beyond honored to receive this award, so on behalf of him. Thanks! Love you HAZ
Chris Bailey on behalf of Dave Wixted
Dave Wixted is a man of many nicknames – Dr. Death, Wixy, Wix, Wasted. Most of these nicknames are the result of Dave’s after game propensity for enjoying the nightlife. Dave’s motto was taken from a South African coach we once had who would often say, “Play like you party, pretty freaking hard.” But Dave is more than that. I first came upon Wixted a few decades ago in the early 90”s at LaSalle University. At the time, believe it or not, we had a pretty talented team and Dave and four other guys came out for the team and seemed more interested in perfecting their best Eddie Vetter grunge look instead of playing rugby. They quickly became known as the “Pearl Jam backs”. They were not a large sized imposing group but they played well together and more importantly, they were tough and played hard.
After college, I recruited Dave for Schuylkill. It was not much of a sell as Wixted is as loyal as a puppy dog. Dave would go on to have another 15+ years playing men’s rugby at Schuylkill, and in Chicago and Florida ultimately coming back to Schuylkill, his home base. Every time Dave came back, he would excitedly say, “Bailey, these guys who I played with are soft, they are not bred the same way we are”. Dave always had passion and I reserve this statement for only one other person that I have known, Jay Face Sidell, but I think it applies to Dave as well. Whatever Dave did and whenever I encountered him, he had such life and enthusiasm. On or off the field, there was energy and passion. Whether Dave was chosen to play A or B side, the guy played hard. In my day, Wixted and Mike Metotek were two of the best tacklers that I have come across. Dave, as you can see, is not a big guy. But his tackling was so technical that he often took down men double his size. His low center of gravity allowed him to poach balls in so many key situations. Whenever you started a season, Wixted may not have been your starting Flanker but by the end of the year he was and you did not want to take him out. He never complained, would play both A and B games, if needed, and would never shy away from a Sunday meaningless tournament game after a hard Saturday night out. Dave’s rugby IQ was extremely high. He was always in the right place at the right time. Whether it was scoring a try in a key point in the game, poaching the ball on our defensive goal line or making a tackle on a flyhalf to stop their offensive flow, he was a true asset on the field and a tremendous club guy who never complained about his role.
As we get older, we start losing friends, family, work colleagues and we are left with the memories of those who we have lost. Luckily, after 20 years of playing ball, I still have my brain intact and the games that you all compete in every week become more like films in my mind. I have so many great memories with Dave from college into the men’s club. We won and lost games together and I am lucky enough to still vividly remember his contributions on the field. He is a tremendous friend and tough player, often underrated and underappreciated which is why I am so happy for Dave and am proud to introduce him into our Hall of Fame.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dave Wixted!