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Former Life All-American Colton Cariaga has been selected to tour South America with the USA Falcons and participate in the next high performance camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. The Falcons will be coached by recently retired Nese Malifa and include several OTC-contracted players, as well as those on the Eagle radar. They’ll participate in CONSUR tournaments in Chile and Argentina.
Cariaga finished his undergraduate career at Life in the spring of 2013 before spending 10 months in Ireland coaching at Blackrock College and playing for Trinity College. He came back this summer and immediately picked up playing club ball. He played 7s for Charlotte, in the Serevi Rugbytown Sevens for Negro y Azul and at the World Club 7s in Limerick for New York.
Cariaga is back at Life now, working on campus and helping coach the undergraduate side. He’s also playing in the centers for the Running Eagles’ American Rugby Premiership team.
Like so many 7s Eagles, Cariaga cut his teeth as an All-American. He played at Serevi Rugbytown with the All-Americans in 2012, and he broke his arm on the AA’s 15s tour the next summer, preventing him from playing with the 7s AAs again. He led Life to the first-ever USA Rugby College 7s National Championship in 2011 and the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship final in 2013.
But unlike many of the guys Cariaga played with and against in college who have pulled on Eagle jerseys, Cariaga has been on the periphery since graduating. He was brought into OTC camps during the Alex Magleby era, but it’s been radio silence ever since.
“I wasn’t really sure where I stood as far as that goes, if I was on the radar or anything like that. It kind of came out of nowhere,” said Cariaga of the call to participate with the Falcons. “I’m still training hard and waiting to jump on opportunities like this.
“I went to Ireland, and I was kind of hoping that might sort of bolster my status. I’d undoubtedly go over there and improve, but I don’t know, I kind of felt like I fell out of contact and wasn’t hearing anything.”
Cariaga became known at Life for his cool demeanor and leadership skills, as well as his shifty running and decision making. Those are hallmarks of the current Eagles captain, Madison Hughes. Cariaga lacks the final gear of Hughes’, but he could be a nice piece for a team trying to develop more depth and competition.
Cariaga (did we mention his cool demeanor?) doesn’t seem to be pinning all his hopes and dreams on his newfound opportunity, but rather taking it in stride.
“After living in Europe for 10 months I got the traveling bug and that sort of thing, and I was actually talking to a few people saying it’d be nice to go to South America, and boom, just like that, this opportunity came up. I’m definitely looking forward to that aspect,” said Cariaga.
“In terms of the rugby, I like going different places and seeing what the rugby’s like elsewhere, and I’d say the South American brand of rugby is something I haven’t played against much of, if any at all, so that will be interesting for me. I’m looking forward to it, big time.”