The next four leaders of the Saint Ignatius rugby program have been selected.
Fielding Carlson, Danny Krebs, Gavin Moore, and Chris Speelman are the next "chiefs" of Saint Ignatius Rugby.
While the spring is still a ways away, the work is definitely underway to prepare for the 2021 campaign. Carlson, Krebs, Moore, and Speelman will play an integral role in ensuring that the Wildcats will be ready for the still faraway season.
The Saint Ignatius rugby program is unique in its organization. The entire program is divided into four "tribes." Years ago, Head Coach Dan Arbeznik '00 instituted this practice after being inspired by New Zealand rugby culture, which often calls for teams to divide into groups. James Kerr's book, "Legacy, What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business Of Life," about New Zealand's national rugby team, inspired Arbeznik in many ways.
So, each chief is responsible for leading his tribe. In this way, seniors can develop leadership and life skills in the younger players, particularly freshmen. In rugby, you can't call a timeout, so you must have leaders on the field.
At the conclusion of each season, the outgoing chiefs handpick the next leaders. Chiefs play a huge part in offseason work, particularly in encouraging participation in the weight room and in practices.
This year's crop of chiefs are great young men.
"They are all excellent choices," Arbeznik says. "They are 100% committed to our program and to leading the way for us. They're great choices because they're super positive people. You have to bring people together. Your teammates need to want to work for you and for each other."
Already, the quartet has impressed the Wildcats' longtime coach in early practices and workouts.
"It brings such a smile to my face to watch them compete and have fun," Arbeznik says. "They have such a good time. I remarked to my fellow coaches that these guys are the hardest working guys on the field, but they're also pulling jabs and having fun with each other."
The energy and positivity sticks out with all four, but particularly with Danny Krebs.
A center for the Wildcats, Krebs has worked hard to get to where he is today. Krebs entered as a raw freshman but now stands as a refinded playmaker with good feet and passing skills. He's a super positive young man with a knack for leadership.
"Danny has come the longest way," Arbeznik says of the Gesu grad. "Looking at him as a freshman versus now, he's put in the hard yards. He's developed his passing skills and came out of nowhere to the starting 15. We weren't expecting so much out of him, but he had a lot of development between sophomore and junior years. He's a very positive young man."
Without a doubt, Gavin Moore is a similarly upbeat Wildcat.
However, many of teammates don't know him as Gavin. They simply know him by his affectionate nickname, Smelly. It's a nickname that arose during his freshman year in a way the best ones come about.
"It came from Ryan Beane ['20] during my freshman 2-a-days," Moore explains. "He would drive me to and from practice and one day I guess I worked a little too hard and sweat a little too much. He said he was gonna call me smelly and it kinda just stuck. I personally have grown to like it."
Since joining the varsity squad as a sophomore, Moore has established a reputation as a hard-working prop. And as Arbeznik avows, Moore has worked hard to become a leader. It's a role he embraces now.
"Being a chief and having this leadership position means a lot to me," Moore says. "When I think about the position I’m in I think about the great guys that led the tribes before me and how they carried themselves on and off the field. I have been given great examples of what a true leader is and how they act through Ricky Rose, Dan Molnar, and many other chiefs through my years in Ignatius rugby. My predecessor Dan Molar gave me a very good piece of advice which is that it isn’t about me anymore it’s about every other person in my tribe it’s about teaching them and showing them what it means to be an Ignatius rugby player and more importantly how to be a man for others."
Chris Speelman is another talented prop for the Rugby Cats. But he almost didn't play rugby for the Wildcats.
In 2019, the Wildcats journeyed to Ireland as a team. Chris accompanied his parents and older brother, Nathan '19, who was playing for the Rugby Cats. Chris thought it looked fun, so he started playing. And even the eldest Speelman, David '17, began to play, too. So now, all three Speelman boys play the sport.
From the start, the youngest Speelman made his presence known on the pitch, making his first varsity start with Moore vs. Brunswick in 2019.
"When he started playing as a sophomore, he was immediately impactful," Arbeznik says. "He just has innate personal qualities. People want to be around him. He worked a ton in the offseason to get in a lot better. He started as a junior this season, and it's been a while since we had two juniors start at prop."
Fielding Carlson rounds out the pack as the quietest of the bunch. But that doesn't mean he's undeserving.
Carlson is a terrific athlete for the Wildcats. A starting scrumhalf, Carlson broke onto the scene as a sophomore and has showcased his athletic talents since then.
"He is a terrific athlete. He's a naturally gifted athlete," Arbeznik says. "He's the quietest of the four, but he's started to come out of his shell. He has all of the confidence in the world. He's one heck of a player, as he's shifty and driven. He's a quiet competitor but great."
As a whole, the program is in great shape with these four.
"They have good energy, which previous groups have made a must-have," Arbeznik says. "They are great, positive people. They have a lot of responsibility, but I'm happy with them and I know they'll do well."