By Tanner Russ • Tanner Russ • 

New West Valley Rams coach excited for upcoming season

The West Valley Rams rugby team has a new head coach who is eagerly awaiting the start of the season.

John Mead will take over the head coaching role from longtime head coach Trevor Da Silva. Mead, who was an assistant coach with Da Silva from 2017 until 2023, wants to continue embodying the same characteristics that have made the Rams one of the stronger rugby clubs in Oregon over the past 11 years.

“We're going to build young men of character,” Mead said. “We're going to have a high intensity, low pressure approach. In other words, we're going to go hard, we're going to play hard. But, if kids make a mistake, hey, no problem, dust yourself off. That's what we're here to do. If you're not making some mistakes, you're not pushing yourself. So, let's get out there. This is a sport, let's have some fun and we're going to win some games, we're going to be competitive.”

The Rams finished third in the standings in 2023’s spring season with a record of 4-1-2, and were the rugby sevens champions in the summer of 2021. Last season the Rams combined forces with rugby players from Salem as well as the Linn Benton Lions out of Albany to fully field a pair of teams.

According to Mead, having enough players to roster both varsity and junior varsity will make this spring’s team all the better.

“Merging with Albany and Salem gave us a chance to have two teams, a varsity squad and a JV squad,” Mead said. “So, our young guys got some really good experience under their belts and got a lot more field time than they would have if we just been the one team. So, it was a good year to merge and had a great time with those other kids and this year we want to get back to the traditional West Valley Rams club.”

That “traditional West Valley Rams club” includes players from McMinnville and Yamhill Carlton, but Mead is hoping to pull athletes from Dayton, Amity and Sheridan. Mead estimated that the team had about 20 student athletes, 12 of whom are returning to the fold, but would like to shoot for 25.

The athletic background of the boys rugby squad varies. In addition to football players and the occasional soccer player, the Rams are also made up of wrestlers. According to Mead, the transition from the mat to the rugby field is less of a hassle than other sports.

“You need really good technique, you need strength and power and the things that make people good wrestlers often apply to the rugby field as well,” Mead said. “They're typically really good at tackling. We need to build up some cardio and those kids show up in shape. A lot of wrestlers come out and have done really well in the program over the years. And we're fans of the wrestling clubs at McMinnville and Yamhill Carlton.”

Joining Mead in the coaching staff will be assistant coaches Odin Thorson and Spencer Jones. Thorson is a former West Valley Rams player and Mac football player, and Jones is a former head coach in Columbia County.

“Spencer was a coach for us last year, kind of a volunteer/coach,” Mead said. “A part time coach for us, he has head coaching experience … He brings a kind of hardnosed approach to conditioning. He's going to be our strength and conditioning coach for the year and then Odin, he's one of the best backs that the West Valley Rams have ever had, and he'll be in charge of the backs this year. I will continue to coach the forwards and have head coaching responsibilities.”

While there’s still more than a month before the rugby season kicks off, Mead is eagerly awaiting the competitive schedule. With returning Rams leadership like three-year players Quentin McAvoy and Johnathan Palomar, as well as seniors Tristan de Lavenee, Emilio Vargas and Demetrio Elias Lunas.

The season is set to start up in late March.


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