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Lorenzo Thomas and Deion Mikesell were called up to the Americas Rugby Championship literally minutes after debuting for the Men’s Junior All-Americans Saturday in Austin, Texas.
Both the senior men’s national team and the MJAAs beat Canada at Dell Diamond, with the U20s playing right after the ARC tilt, the Eagle coaching staff stuck around to watch the later game and apparently saw enough of the Lindenwood freshmen to pull them directly into camp.
Thomas started at outside center for the MJAAs, scoring a try in the second half. Mikesell started on the wing, making a couple of hard-charging runs and a smashing tackle.
“It adds validity to the program that is actually seen as a selection vehicle for the men’s senior side. It’s great to see the support that we did have from the senior side,” said U20s coach JD Stephenson, who also coaches Mikesell and Thomas at Lindenwood.
“Coach [John] Mitchell was actually present on the Friday night to do the jersey presentation, gave some good words and has really kind of bought into our program as well and obviously sees the merits in it, which is great to see.”
Thomas is one of three Lion freshmen from Union High School in Tulsa, Okla. The other two, Chance Wenglewski and Malon Al-Jiboori, were also on the victorious U20s side.
“With Lorenzo, you have to credit the high school program that he’s come from,” said Stephenson. “It’s a testament to the program and it’s a testament to those guys producing pretty well rounded players.
“Lorenzo is a naturally gifted footballer, so he picks a lot of things up naturally. I think he showed a lot of attributes the coaches were looking for with his squat tackling in defense, some good running lines, good support play.”
Mikesell was a standout multi-sport athlete at Southeast Polk in Iowa, where high school rugby is exclusively of the 7s variety. Saturday’s match in Austin was just his fifth 15s game ever.
“You have a guy that understands the skills and is eager to learn, and he has the right mindset, then the sky’s the limit, especially when you have his level of athleticism,” Stephenson said of the wing.
It’s unknown how many of the remaining ARC matches Thomas or Mikesell might be available for, as getting visa paperwork in order can take some time. But they are currently with the squad in Ft. Lauderdale.