San Diego, CA (May 1, 2014) – On the back of his outstanding play for the United States Men’s U20s at the recently completed IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong, Ben Pinkelman(pictured left, in action against Uruguay at the JWRT) is the first recipient of the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship. (Photo courtesy of Power Sport.)
Being named the 2014 Graham Downes Scholarship recipient is just the latest in a long line of individual accomplishments that the Colorado State University sophomore has achieved since he first picked up a rugby ball as a freshman at Cherry Creek High School in Denver. When he was 15 years old, Ben was named the Colorado TRY League’s Most Valuable Player. The following year he was named the MVP at the Colorado State Championship Tournament. In 2011 and 2012, the second row/backrow player made the All Tournament team at the Rocky Mountain Challenge, a national all-star competition watched closely by U.S. National Team Selectors.
Also in 2012, Ben was voted the MVP at the Rocky Mountain Sevens Tournament as well as being named the MVP of the Colorado State University Rams RFC. He was on the Denver Barbarians Sevens team which took runner-up honors at the 2013 USA Rugby National Championships and was also a member of the USA Falcons 7s side that competed in the Serevi Sevens Tournament last summer. Ben was a USA U20 trialist in 2012/2013 before leading the U.S. to a third place finish at this summer’s JWRT.
As the recipient of the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship, Ben will be provided a once in a lifetime opportunity: round trip airfare to Durban, South Africa; four weeks of professional instruction under some of the world’s top coaches at the Sharks Academy in Durban; and accommodations.
“I am honored and humbled to be the first recipient of the Graham Downes Scholarship,” said the 19 year old Pinkelman. “Graham seemed like an incredible person and I cannot wait to start training in South Africa working towards being the best player I can.”
Ben will arrive in Durban on Sunday, July 6 and will report to the Sharks Academy on Monday, July 7.
Billy Millard, the USA U20s head coach, had this to say about his young player. “Ben was a standout player in the USA U20s in the recent JWRT and this opportunity with the Sharks Academy, through the Graham Downes Scholarship, will provide further high end development. The recognition is well deserved and I am confident he will represent the Foundation and USA Rugby very well both on field and off field.”
USA Men’s National Team head coach, Mike Tolkin, has also taken notice of Pinkelman’s abilities and the opportunity that lies ahead of him. “This is a fantastic opportunity for a deserving young man who has consistently played well for the Denver Barbarians this season and who stepped up to be the outstanding player for the U20s in Hong Kong. It is my hope that this opportunity allows him to continue to grow as a person and player, and helps to prepare him for future possibilities with the Eagles!”
The Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund was created to honor the late Natal, OMBAC and U.S. Eagle prop. The Fund is designed to provide an annual scholarship to a promising young rugby player with the opportunity to expand their rugby knowledge by participating in the courses at the Sharks Academy.
You can help keep Graham’s legacy alive and continue to provide this great opportunity to promising U.S. players by contributing to the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund.