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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rugby moves forward after death of head coach Sitton

Cole Malham
Cole Malham / The Daily Wildcat Coach Swetnam coaching the new rookie additions to the UA rugby team at Rincon Field on Thursday.

When Arizona men’s rugby president, senior lock Trevor Laue, went to work the morning of Aug. 12, there was no way for him to know that within a few hours, Wildcat rugby would suffer a devastating loss. The sudden death of head coach Dave Sitton impacted not only the UA rugby team, but also the Tucson community and rugby communities around the world.

“I was just shocked,” vice president and senior fullback Jake Haebesaid. “It was a big surprise. No one saw [Sitton’s death] coming.”

Sitton was more than just the rugby team’s head coach. Sitton built the program up from practically nothing, coached, organized travel and finances and much more — for all intents and purposes, he was the face of Wildcat rugby.

His death leaves a hole in the program that the Wildcats must address and fill.

“Coach did everything for the team,” Laue said. “Now, we have a whole committee. It’s basically taken nine guys to replace one.”

For now, former associate head coach Tyson Swetnam has stepped up to assume the role of interim head coach until a permanent rugby coach can be hired. Up until this point, coaching for the Wildcat rugby team has been done on a volunteer basis; however, now the team is looking to hire a paid coaching staff in order to move forward in a positive direction.

“The players will have a much heavier burden than they were anticipating right away,” Swetnam said.

However, this extra burden only appears to make the players and coaching staff work harder this year to honor the late Sitton.

“A sign of a good coach is having players that want to play well for you, and I think that was what a lot of the guys felt last year,” Swetnam said. “This year, with [Sitton] being gone, they’re going to dedicate the season to him and do well.”

This includes tackling one of the toughest schedules that the Wildcats have ever faced, a parting gift from Sitton that he was excited about. Of the 12 or so games scheduled, 10 will be against teams ranked above or with the Wildcats.

Practice for the newest class of rugby players is currently underway as the team looks to fill openings on the roster left by graduated players.

“I’m excited that we have a large core of players that came from the Bay Area from the state championship team,” Swetnam said. “They all decided they wanted to come play for Dave Sitton. So having that influx of young talented guys that know how to play, I’m excited to see how we can take those guys and integrate them into our program.”

Laue said that this rookie class could be one of the strongest the team has had — a new era of Wildcat rugby.

According to Swetnam, Sitton followed the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, repeating the mantra that you need to “do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” As the rugby team moves forward, this sentiment is eerily appropriate.

“He gave a lot to us,” Laue said. “The only thing we can do for his legacy is work hard and just make sure that we give it our best. If we do that this year, in my opinion, we honored him the way we should honor him. So, it doesn’t matter if we win the national championship or not — as long as we work our hardest and play our hardest.”

—Follow Brittney Klewer @BrittneyKlewer

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