New Orleans Gold Rugby Club has signed Zack Stryffeler as a center for the inaugural Major League Rugby season. Zack will also bring his expertise in promoting youth rugby with the team.
Zack attended Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio, graduating in 2007. He was a multi-sport athlete earning All-State honors in Ice Hockey, All-Conference in Football, and All-Conference in Baseball. He was also voted Mr. Bruin of his class due to the number of varsity letters and his overall athletic performance.
After graduation, he attended Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA. and graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science. While at the College he played D3 football for his freshman and sophomore years and then was a student coach for his Junior and Senior years. He also continued with his passion, playing Ice Hockey at W&J for all 4 years. A photo is available from his hockey days at W&J.
College is about exploration and he seized the opportunity to Study Abroad in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia for the second semester of junior year. At the time, he was 21 years old. While in Australia, he was exposed to rugby and was hooked. When he came home, he played with Pittsburgh RFC in the fall of 2010, his first rugby season at age 21.
His study abroad experience included surfing, training, and a lot of various extracurriculars, with some university work sprinkled in there.
After graduating College, he moved back home with parents and began his graduate degree at Cleveland State, graduating with a Master’s of Education in Exercise Science in 2013.
Zack has also been involved in rugby sevens. According to Nodonia Hills News, in 2011 he was part of the Atlantis Rugby squad that toured Cuba and in the following year, he traveled with the team to Trinidad and Tobago. Zack has also played rugby sevens with the Tiger Rugby 1823 sevens team (Paul Holmes coach) and played with Tiger Rugby in the Rugbytown 7s in 2017.
It was mentioned earlier that Zack played with Pittsburgh RFC. He also played with the Cleveland Rovers from 2011-13. The Nodonia Hills News then indicated that Zack moved to Cashel, Ireland for a year where he played for the Cashel Rugby Club in the All Ireland League in 2014-15.
Zack also played for PRO Rugby in the first domestic rugby league in the United States in 2016. The Ohio Aviators went right down to the wire battling the Denver Stampede for the title, Although they won the final match of their season, a bonus point decided the title. Zack had the chance to discuss playing professional rugby with one of his team-mates Riekert Hattingh with River City Podcast. Riekert will also be playing Major League Rugby with the Seattle Seawolves.
There have been many more tournaments, too numerous to mention, but Zack is an accomplished rugby player in both 15s and 7s.
Zack described his work with youth rugby saying that “In Cleveland, I am working with any and all youth players, coaches, and parents that would like to work with me. I have coordinated and ran two autumn clinics running four consecutive weeks. The first camp was run by Rugby Ohio and hosted at St. Ignatius and the second was hosted by the Cleveland Rovers and also ran in conjunction with Rugby Ohio.”
Zack also works as a rugby ‘consultant’ with several high schools in Cleveland, helping the coaches get accustomed to the new style of play, as well as give the players a fresher look at basic concepts.
“Coaching for me provides an opportunity for me to give back to the next generation of athletes. I had many coaches throughout my childhood, but several stand out as being extraordinary. I hope to be one of those extraordinary coaches in the memories of the athletes that I have worked with.”
Zack is professionally represented by Fifty One Sports out of Las Vegas with Simon Mantel as his agent.
“With my graduate degree, I have worked as an Athletic Conditioning Specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. I have also worked with Abercrombie & Fitch at their home office in New Albany, Ohio as a Corporate Wellness Trainer. Now I work at T3 Performance in Avon, Ohio as a Performance Coach and am working towards developing our own rugby program there.”
Not only will Zack be playing with the New Orleans Gold Rugby Club, but he will have responsibilities in promoting youth rugby in New Orleans.
Zack added, that “I am hoping to continue the work that Frank Palumbo has done down there in the youth rugby scene in New Orleans. He has developed an incredible energy towards youth rugby and I hope to keep pushing the schools to encourage our game.”
“While I am not playing rugby, I am at spin class, lost in a gym or fitness center somewhere, out bike riding or rollerblading with my girlfriend, Michaela Munday, or out to eat.”
Zack like many professional athletes will be juggling relationships. His girlfriend works as a researcher for Case Western Reserve University and is taking classes for another graduate degree. New Orleans Gold is sensitive to these concerns and opportunities exist in bye weeks and on occasional long weekends to reconnect.
Eammon Hogan, Former Ohio Aviators Assistant Coach: “Zack is a fine young man who was taking his first real steps on the coaching ladder, while I was with the Aviators and he was simply an outstanding role model for the team.”
“Also I would like to say that I am proud of all of the former Ohio Aviators players for retaining such high personal and professional standards to be able to participate in the new MLR.”
“Robert Hattingh, Peter Malcolm, Alan Hanson, Sebastian Kalm and many others did so much for American rugby’s image both at home and abroad, whilst in Ohio colours, and they will all be a major asset to the new league and to their respective club sides.”
Doug Coil: Much of the information about Zack’s rugby background, youth rugby and his professional involvement has been shared by Zack with some editing changes. Additional information is also reflected in this article.
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