Photo by Cal Athletics

Rugby Captain Nic Mirhashem Leads Bears Into National Quarterfinals

April 19, 2019
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The Cal rugby team hosts Arizona Saturday in a national semifinal as it resumes its quest for a national championship. And its team captain, senior flanker Nic Mirhashem (above), is one of the more interesting athletes the Bears have produced in any sport.

Not many have spoken five languages and held passports from two countries that are not the U.S. But Mirhashem, a native of Barcelona,  is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Farsi and Cantalan. And the passports he holds are Spanish and Iranian.

“Sometimes at a family gathering there are five languages going at once,” he said.

Of course, he also communicates in another language: “rugger”, the unspoken universal tongue that brought him to Berkeley.

“I went to an English (high) school,” he said. “Everyone in my year was headed for England and I concluded that was not my favorite option at that point. I decided to look into American schools, and Cal seemed to be at the top of every ranking I looked at.”

“Not only does this school have one of the most dominant (rugby)  programs in the United States in terms of rugby, but also it is the number one public university in the world.”

He connected with the Cal coaches, and when he showed his rugby skills at an All-American High School rugby camp, the Bears were interested and gave him the opportunity to enroll in Berkeley.

Four years later he says it was “the best decision I ever made.”

The feeling is mutual.

“He’s been a pretty good player,” head coach Jack Clark said. “He started early in his career. He is kind of prototype open-side flanker. He’s got a really high work rate, he gets around the field well. He is strong on contact.

“And he’s grown into a really fine leader He’s had a good year as captain, He’s a highly-respected guy on the team. The boys listen to them, he is bright enough to incorporate all of them in the leadership of the team. It’s not Nic’s show. He’s a bit of an operator in the fact that he has a lot of buy-in with the other influential players. He’s been a real good captain.”

The Bears are 17-1 going into Saturday’s match against Arizona (7-2), a team they walloped 55-13 in March. Clark said the Bears have to be careful to avoid looking past the Wildcats to a possible semifinal matchup with either St. Mary’s or BYU.

“Always,” Clark said if there is a chance the Bears could not take Arizona seriously enough. “That’s not how we typically think, but that’s always a risk in sports, you look ahead. I think our guys know we have to play well. Obviously, we have to get the results to advance, but we also have to like how we play. We have to keep building on our game, and if we have a setback that wouldn’t be good. It is important that we play well.

“They are not a bad team. They are a hard team to break down defensively. They keep their width really well. They can win their share of the ball, I don’t think they’re going to dominate in that regard, but you are going to have to play some defense when you play them because they are going to have some possessions. They are a good kicking team, they can change ends of the field by getting a guy in the pocket and ripping the ball down to the end of the field. He’s a good kicker. And so if you give them some possession they can take some territory. They are a pretty good outfit.”

So are the Bears. Many consider the Bears’ strength to be the back row, which includes Mirhashem fellow flanker  Thomas Spradling with either Ben Casey or Cormac Heaney at No. 8.

“A very threatening trio,” Mirhashem said. Adding that we have a lot of talented guys including a dominant front row.”

Following the Cal-UofA match, which starts at 1 p.m. at Witter, BYU will take on St. Mary’s. One ticket is good for both matches.

The winners meet in a semifinal match April 27. That will be held at St. Mary’s whether the Gaels are involved or not. The national championship game is May 4 at Santa Clara.

This, of course, is familiar territory for the Bears, This is Clark’s 36th season as head coach and has 24 national championships in 15-a-side. They have won two of the last three, and last year were routed in the final by Life Univesity, which again is in the opposite bracket.

“I thought last year’s team did well to get to the finals,” Clark said. “We had a young team and I thought they did pretty well. All in all, I was pretty pleased with them. We were comprehensively beaten in the finals,  and that doesn’t feel good, We tip our hat to the victors and move on. We’re not living in last year this year.”





 

 

 

 

 

Jack Clark:

 

 

 

 

 

Nic Mirhashem:

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Rugby Captain Nic Mirhashem Leads Bears Into National Quarterfinals

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