The Grand Canyon University men’s rugby program quickly has ascended on the collegiate rugby scene by attracting talent that increases the team’s potential.
The Lopes’ latest and largest recruiting class figures to only set their sights higher as the program enters its fourth year.
GCU head coach Cam Wyper and coach Ryan Kelly secured 21 commitments from incoming freshmen and transfers, including three members of the USA Rugby Men’s Junior All-American under-20 program.
“There is a lot of talent coming in,” Wyper said. “I’m super-excited to see where they can take us. There is plenty of talent. It’s just a matter of how hard they work and how they fit in.”
The class features a trio of Men’s Junior All-American participants with the return of 2014 GCU captain Kris Sheckels, whose younger brother, Kasey, also will join the team, and the additions of Phoenix product Malachi Knox and Colorado Springs, Colo., product Bo Epperson.
“Malachi has wheels for days,” Wyper said. “We look forward to what he can do with space.”
Kyle Vermeulen, Washington State’s Most Valuable Player last season, will join the Lopes as well as 6-foot-6 Englishman Christian Bucklin, NorCal All-Star Christian Bucklin and Chandler product DeAndre Ector, the brother of Lopes standout Maceo Brown.
“Christian Bucklin is a kid I’m really excited to see,” Wyper said. “I really wanted this kid. He reminded me of myself when he was playing. He’s a shorter kid, explosive and a dynamic player.”
Seventeen of the recruits thus far were all-state players in a class hailing from nine states and England. That adds to a roster already heavy on returnees from a school year in which the 15s reached the Division I-AA semifinals and the 7s placed sixth in Division I at the USA Rugby National Collegiate 7s Championships.
Here is GCU’s 21-man recruiting class that will join the Lopes for 2017-18:
- Chris Berry, 6 feet 3, 185 pounds, center/wing (Vancouver, Wash.)
- Christian Bucklin, 5-7, 175, center/wing/halfback (Castro Valley, Calif.)
- Austin Campbell, 6-2, 230, lock (Canton, Ohio)
- Kyle Carreno, 6-4, 260, lock (Tempe, Ariz.)
- Cameron Dodson, 6-6, 225, No. 8/lock (Stoke-on-Trent, England)
- DeAndre Ector, 5-10, 175, wing (Chandler, Ariz.)
- Bo Epperson, 6-0, 210, center (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
- Nick Flaherty, 6-0, 225, hooker (San Clemente, Calif.)
- Chance Glover, 5-10, 165, wing (Phoenix, Ariz.)
- Dominick Iacovino, 5-11, 175, center/wing (Oceanside, Calif.)
- Cameron Johnston, 5-9, 175, center (Grover Beach, Calif.)
- Malachi Knox, 5-11, 175, fullback/wing (Phoenix, Ariz.)
- Sam Muter, 6-4, 235, lock (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
- Drew Rubano, 6-0, 245, prop (McMinnville, Ore.)
- Shaundie Sanchez, 6-1, 275, lock (Albuquerque, N.M.)
- Damarius Sharp, 5-10, 230, hooker/center (Phoenix, Ariz.)
- Kasey Sheckels, 5-10, 170, wing (Alexandria, Va.)
- Kris Sheckels, 6-1, 220, hooker/No. 8/flanker (Alexandria, Va.)
- Zander Tkel, 5-10, 185, flyhalf/wing (Vancouver, Wash.)
- David Tupua, 6-3, 220, wing (Auburn, Wash.)
- Kyle Vermeulen, 6-3, 215, flaker/No. 8 (Vancouver, Wash.)