RUGBY Magazine may have already named its breakout player of 2012, and Mike Te’o is indeed a good choice, but perhaps if Te’o had not burst from high school rugby into winning two club titles and making the Eagles 7s team, we might be talking about Dean Gericke.
The South African-born Gericke was a central figure in Arkansas State’s run to the D1-A final, was called up to the USA Selects at the ARC, where he played quite well, and then helped lead ASU to a national 7s title, all in the last seven months.
For the USA Selects, Gericke was a shining light in a losing cause. He was one of the few to really test the gain line against Canada, and his crunching tackles soon prompted opponents to drop the ball simply because they thought we was coming.
“Going to the ARC was about me trying to take my rugby to the next level,” Gericke told RUGBYMag.com. “I wanted to become more physical and more mature in my rugby life. Coming back to college I felt like it really helped me.”
Gericke said he has committed to playing for the USA and staying in this country, and playing international rugby has been a dream of his for years.
“Playing for the USA, putting that jersey on, was something really special for me,” he said. “I am so thankful to be able to do it here in this country.”
In fact, having suited up for the USA's official "A" team against another nation's "A" team locks him in with the USA; as the rules stand now, he cannot play for any other country.
Gericke returned to Arkansas State and renewed his partnership with Zac Mizell, who was also called up to the ARC but did not play.
“Zac and I just gel well together,” said Gericke. “Anywhere I play I want to play next to Zac, 25s or 7s. Winning the 7s championship was great. After we played in the earlier tournaments, we just went back to Jonesboro and just trained. It was a tsunami waiting to happen.”
He’s got a way with words, and the rugby ball, too. Gericke has already thrown his hat in with the USA, and his run of form means that’s a very good thing.
Dean Gericke is this week's Rhino Rugby Player of the Week.