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The United States Military Academy’s Samantha Sullivan and Lindenwood University’s Cristian Rodriguez Selected as Inaugural Prusmack Award Recipients
The United States Rugby Foundation is pleased to announce that the winners of the first-ever Prusmack Awards, awarded to the top female and male collegiate 7s player in the country, are The United States Military Academy junior, Samantha Sullivan, and Lindenwood University senior, Cristian Rodriguez.
Over 60 collegiate coaches from across the country were asked to submit nominations for The Prusmack, Samantha and Cristian were selected from an outstanding group of nominees.
This annual award is named in honor of the late A. Jon Prusmack, who has meant so much to the sport in America, especially Sevens Rugby.
Not only had Samantha never played rugby but she had never even heard of rugby prior to her being accepted to West Point. She was a three-sport star in high school, excelling at cross country, soccer and captained her school’s indoor track team. Her twin brother, Jackson, is also attending West Point and is on the school’s track team.
Samantha walked on with the Army Women’s team her freshmen year and it wasn’t long before her speed and athleticism earned her a starting role on the wing and she’s never looked back.
Army Women’s head coach, Bill LeClerc, said that “Samantha became our main strike weapon and is now the 7s program all-time try scoring leader. She was second on the team with 26 tries as a freshman, she led the team last year with 25 and again this past year with 33 tries. Off the field, Samantha is a member of the new Hawk Eye ID Program. She is also the first-ever West Point Military Academy Brigade Trust Captain, heading up a committee of cadets to highlight sexual assault and sexual harassment and creating a culture in which every cadet is empowered to protect their teammates.”
Cristian was introduced to the sport in the streets of Hawaiian Gardens, CA through a program called, Alternatives to Gang Membership. The name speaks for itself as founder Ernie Vargas used rugby as a way of keeping kids off the streets and on the pitch.
Cristian immediately took to the aggressiveness of rugby when he first picked up a rugby ball as a 14 year old. He climbed the ranks through his Hawaiian Gardens team utilizing his speed, playmaking ability and defensive prowess. He caught the eye of then Lindenwood University coach, JD Stephenson, at a match in San Diego, and it was the start of something big.
He earned a scholarship at Lindenwood and for the past four years, has been a leading figure for the Lions, guiding them to three consecutive USA Rugby Collegiate Sevens titles and back-to-back Collegiate Rugby Championship titles.
“Cristian has been the bedrock of our sevens team for three years now,” said current Lindenwood Head Coach, Josh Macy. “He is diminutive in size but is the best play maker in the country. Add on his ability to finish tries and defensive prowess at sweeper and you have a recipe for the country's best player.”
Cristian closed out his Lindenwood career a winner and now he looks to continue in the game exploring more opportunities in sevens and Major League Rugby. But before that he is looking to give back to his community and the sport by going back to Hawaiian Gardens.
“Ernie Vargas wants me to take over his job. I’ve been working for him for the past five years as his assistant, so that’s the goal. Two years ago, I started putting in a proposal for a teen center. We’re looking to get that this summer, where kids will be able to come to the facility and do homework, play games. We’ll run all our programs out of there.”
Congratulations to Samantha and Cristian on being selected as the first-ever winners of The Prusmack. Both will be on hand to receive their awards at the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at Infinity Park in Glendale, CO on Friday, July 26, 2019.