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FDSH’s Surles-Davis makes history with Iowa Central rugby

Matt Surles-Davis found an instant love for rugby from the minute he stepped on the pitch.

Now, Surles-Davis will get the chance to continue his career at the next level after committing to the Iowa Central rugby program.

Surles-Davis, a junior at Fort Dodge Senior High, is the first Triton recruit from the Fort Dodge Rugby Club. He will be part of the 2021 recruiting class for Iowa Central.

“It’s great to have them in Fort Dodge,” Surles-Davis said. “It’s really cool to have the best rugby team in the nation just a few miles from my house and definitely a blessing to have them interested in me.”

An accomplished motocross rider, Surles-Davis also plays football and wrestles for the Dodgers. All three have played a role in his growth as a rugby player.

“Football helps me a lot with tackling and the defensive side,” he said. “This year was my first deciding to wrestle, but that also definitely helps with tackling and conditioning.”

The Tritons claimed the USA Rugby Fall College Playoff DIAA national title this past December under the guidance of head coach Brent Nelson. Surles-Davis was a “go-getter,” according to Nelson.

“He wasn’t afraid to ask questions and I find it very brave when young people are willing to be vulnerable in order to try something new. It’s quite rare these days,” Nelson said. “Iowa Central has had some great success from Iowa kids who are newer to the sport but have drive and dedication. Iowa kids, and especially Fort Dodge kids, just have something extra about them. They get knocked down, but they keep getting up.

“It’s going to be exciting to watch him develop. I think it’s fitting he is our first commitment from the Fort Dodge Rugby Club.”

Surles-Davis credits Tom McClimon, head coach of the Fort Dodge rugby team and a teacher in the school district, for helping him develop quickly in the sport.

“My biggest influence has been Coach McClimon,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about the sport and he has taught me everything. Also, my teammates have been great. They have made learning the game and playing it so much fun. I started to love rugby on my first practice and since then, it’s been fun to play.

“Also, I can’t forget about my biggest supporter – my mom, who spends the money for me to play and get to every game.”

The Fort Dodge Stags debuted last season with 15 players comprising the roster. The sport continues to grow within the state with the Iowa Youth Rugby Association crowning state champions in both boys and girls. The spring boys season begins in April.

“Rugby is an amazing sport for anyone who wants to play,” Surles-Davis said. “A lot of people are recognizing how cool and odd it is. It’s something new for people to try and it’s a challenge to learn because we haven’t been doing it our whole life, so people see something new and want to try it.”