Capital High School Athletes Create Winning Tradition for Prairie Mustangs Rugby

prairie mustang rugby
In 2013, Capital High School student Dan Garland (pictured in center) was roaming the sidelsines of Prairie Mustang games in oder to become acclimated to the sport. A year later, Garland has flourished for the U19 squad and was selected to the state U16 team.


By Tom Rohrer

little caesars logoAlong with toughness, a high threshold for pain and a strong work ethic, rugby requires manners and respect for others.

When talking to members of the Yelm Prairie Mustangs U19 rugby team, all characteristics are quite easy to spot.

Most obvious are the manners and respect, not always commonplace amongst high school atheltes.

“I’ve learned that you need to be a nice person, respect others and treat each individual like you would like to be treated,” said David Ainuu.  “Everyone I talk to sees a smile from my face.  It’s a game of gentlemen behavior on and off the field, so that carries over to your day to day life.”

prairie mustang rugby
Few freshmen have the size, strength and speed of Capital High School student David Ainuu (pictured with ball). Ainuu joins teammate and friend Dan Garland on the all-state u-16 team and is the younger brother of Dylan Ainuu, who was selected to the state’s all U19 select team.

Among the 20 members of the Yelm based club, coached by Dan Dillashaw and assistant Jed Berman, is a strong contingent of Capital High School students.

During the rugby season, seven CHS student athletes, including Ainuu, trek across the county, from West Olympia to Yelm, following their off-season football weightlifting sessions.  This journey is made many times through Intercity Transit routes, providing the group time to further a bond that has developed throughout the season.

“It’s become a brotherhood,” said Dan Garland, who recently finished his freshmen year at Capital.  “I was just a freshmen and really only knew David.  Now, I’m strengthening a bond with upperclassman and can call these guys my friends.”

“You bond just through playing the sport,” said Huy Vu, who recently graduated from Capital. “When you add on the travel, you find even more in common.  It’s been a fun process.”

Both Garland and Ainuu were chosen to the 2014 Washington State Loggers U17 team.  David’s older brother, Dylan Ainuu, (who recently graduated from CHS) earned a spot on the U19 team, as did Tenino High School wrestling standout, Dominyc Nakano.

prairie mustang rugby
Recently graduated Capital High student Huy Vu used his experiences playing football for the Cougars to his advantage when he began playing rugby for the Prairie Mustangs this spring.

This collection of talent has turned the Mustangs into a powerful rugby program within Washington State.  Two seasons ago, the club was in the midst of a five year stretch where they posted four wins total.  A transformation has since taken place.  The Mustangs went undefeated in regular season play the last two seasons.  In May, the club finished third at the state U19 state championships by defeating the Shelton Savages 32-10, a day after losing their first match of the season 29-26 to Wenatchee Schoolhouse in the state semifinals.

Being a part of a program-wide transformation has been special for the experienced Mustangs players.

“I’ve worked hard in the sport to make a difference with this team,” said Dylan Ainuu.  “To see all that work, all those lessons from the coaches pay off and turn into victories, it’s been special.”

All members of the Mustangs from Capital are current or past members of the consistently successful football program at CHS.

The lesson and tactics from football and rugby have benefitted the athletes in both sports.

prairie mustang rugby
An all-state caliber player, Dylan Ainuu (center of shot, second from left) has served as a role model for all younger players within the Prairie Mustangs rugby program.

“Conditioning wise, you’re always moving in rugby,” said Garland, who participated in a full rugby season for the first time this year.  “In football, you have these breaks, and now, it’s like I’m used to always going.”

“Coach Johnson (the head football coach at Capital), has always told us to be mentally tough,” said recently graduated Paul Cha, who is in first year playing rugby. “Rugby is a challenge, so you use your experience battling through adversity to adjust.”

It was a challenge for opponents to adjust to the Mustangs up-tempo and modern style of play.  Traditional game plans focus on brute force and maintaining possession.  Dillashaw and Berman have implemented a modern, up-tempo style of play that often leaves opponents flummoxed.

“We play a faster game of rugby then everybody,” said Berman, who played with Dillashaw on the Budd Bay Rugby Club over a decade ago. “We want to teach them a more modern, faster game of rugby. Most coaches teach smash mouth and that’s a waste of energy.  It’s a thinking person’s game and we want our players thinking quickly.”

prairie mustang rugby
In 2013, Capital High School student Dan Garland (pictured in center) was roaming the sidelsines of Prairie Mustang games in oder to become acclimated to the sport. A year later, Garland has flourished for the U19 squad and was selected to the state U16 team.

Garland, Vu, Cha and the recently graduated Riley Haub have had to think quickly and acclimate to their first season of competitive play.

In 2013, Garland roamed the sidelines at Mustang’s practices and games in order to learn the intricacies of the sport.  After being drawn to the sport through his friendship with the Ainuu brothers, Garland wanted to understand the sport before he stepped onto the field.  A year later, he’s an all-state player who has added skills in other areas of his life as well.

“I wanted to make sure I was prepared,” Garland said. “Having guys like Dylan and David, that was huge.  Now, I think I’m just more polite, more organized, those sorts of things.”

For the Ainuu brothers, mentoring individuals like Garland is part of their responsibility, both personally and for the program.  There’s a large collection of younger Mustang players, such as Garland’s younger brother Chad, waiting to make their own impact.

“I’m looking forward to keep recruiting guys and eventually showing them the ropes,” said David Ainuu.  “I want to help this program succeed.”

“The coaches have helped me in so many ways, so I want to do the same for them,” said Dylan Ainuu.  “I want to help leave this program in a better situation than when I started, and I think it is.”

For more information on the Prairie Mustangs, click here.  All photos courtesy Prairie Mustangs.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email