Rugby: Neuqua grad Andrew Fraczek living large as rising rugger

Andrew Fraczek was one good football player for Neuqua Valley.

As a Naperville Sun all-area selection last fall, Fraczek had 53 tackles, seven pass breakups, a fumble recovery. He also blocked a field goal against Simeon in the playoffs.

He’s even a better rugby player, though, and could be an Olympian some day.

Last week, Fraczek was named most valuable player in the Stars & Stripes game in Northern Colorado. The game involved the top 48 players from regional all-star tournaments as selected by USA Rugby. They trained for four consecutive days before splitting into two teams.

“It feels good to get that recognition,” Fraczek said. “The moment I walked into the camp I saw a lot of coaches from previous All-American events and some asked me, ‘Are you ready for this?’ That’s because the last time they saw me I had to be carried off on a stretcher. Last week I was running all over the field and getting MVP.”

Fraczek sustained a broken fibula during a scrimmage in Arizona last winter that prevented him from participating as a member of the U-19 All-American team. He’s proven that he’s fully healthy now and his efforts earned him a spot on the U-20 All-American/Junior All-American team.

“I worked my butt off for this,” he said. “Now I’m getting ready for my college season but also looking forward to the U-20 next winter. I’m not sure where we’ll be touring, but it’s usually Hong Kong or South Africa or somewhere like that.”

What’s perhaps most amazing is how quickly Fraczek has excelled at rugby. A lot of college athletes have played a sport for 10 to 14 years by the time they get to college. Fraczek made his rugby debut just five years ago. For the past four years, he’s starred for the Illinois Tornadoes U-19 team and was captain of the 2013 and 2014 squads.

“I was living in Oswego in eighth grade and one of my close friends introduced me to it,” he said. He had been swimming and playing soccer, “but with rugby we won the junior high state championship right away and I was hooked.”

Not even playing football could deter him from his passion for rugby.

“I love football and I love rugby, but football is such a short season,” he said. “You play for only three months. With rugby, I’m playing eight to nine months a year.”

Fraczek is now getting ready to play at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., where the Antelopes will begin their inaugural season in August.

“We are very glad to have Andrew become a part of our program this year,” Grand Canyon University head coach Ryan Kelly said. “He joins a tremendous incoming class of high school rugby athletes.”

While rugby is a club sport at GCU, it receives extensive university backing.

“It’s going to be great place to be,” Fraczek said. “We’ve got nine All-American kids going there as freshmen and all the coaches are pushing for it to become a varsity sport. The support is enormous and the opportunities for us are endless.”

Perhaps they’ll help Fraczek land in Rio in 2016 for the Summer Olympics.

“I talked to the assistant coach of the Olympic sevens team in Denver after the match and I’m on the watch list,” he said. “It’s all about hard work and preparation to get the invite to fight for contracts down in Chula Vista (USOC Training Center) in two or three years. All part of the dream.”

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