Lozano named D1A Player of the Week

By Carley Kulenkamp

The Illinois men’s rugby team is coach-less, underfunded and unknown to many students, yet it has drawn national attention with one of their own, Mario Lozano, who was named the Division 1A Player of the Week.

D1A Rugby chooses its player of the week from one of the 40 Division I collegiate teams. This was the first time the senior has been recognized as Player of the Week, and it came as a surprise.

“It means a lot to me because I’ve been working hard the past four years, and it really means something to finally get some recognition for all the hard work,” Lozano said.

Rugby has not always been Lozano’s passion, he played soccer and wrestled throughout high school and was even offered an opportunity to wrestle in college at the Division III level. His senior year, he decided to begin playing rugby because his brother played. 

For Lozano, rugby’s physicality and aspects of his two favorite sports — soccer and wrestling — draw him to the sport. Little did he know that rugby would be a big part of his college years.

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Lozano serves as the team’s scrum half, a role that he filled after the loss of captain Matt Ramsey to an ACL injury. Junior Rich Daniels, the club’s president, said that he is impressed how Lozano has adapted to the new position.

“He has stepped up the last few weeks,” Daniels said. “He feels obligated to since he is a senior, and his (new) position is an automatic leadership role.”

The player at the scrum half position is responsible for controlling the pace of the game while identifying everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

In the team’s last game, on Oct. 3, Lozano scored three times from his new spot on the field to help lead the team to a 51-10 victory over Iowa.

Throughout all of his success, Lozano has remained humble, even after receiving this most recent honor.

“I was Player of the Week, but I feel like we were the Team of the Week,” Lozano said.

Illinois is the only team in D1A Rugby without a head coach, a sense of togetherness is vital for future success.

Lozano’s recognition has brought the student-run team into the national rugby spotlight, something he is proud of.

“To show that we have the talent to get Players of the Week and be competitive means a lot to our program,” Lozano said. “We can compete with all of these clubs that have more than us.”

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Sources: www.d1arugby.com