Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Mohr’s first pitch is for a national title; later to go worldwide

Cal rugby standout Tanner Mohr, middle, is a DHS graduate who was recently selected to play for Maccabi USA at the World Maccabiah Games this summer in Israel. First, the Golden Bears play at BYU on Saturday for the Varsity Cup National Championship. Courtesy photo

It’s not surprising that Davis’ Tanner Mohr is busy on the rugby pitch these days.

The Cal standout comes from a storied athletic family …

Dad Rick is a former Aggie defensive lineman. His sisters made their names in water polo — Brittany at Berkeley and Dakotah at UC Davis.

Mom Sally, according to Tanner, kept it all together: “Her favorite job was raising my sisters and myself.”

Now Mohr joins his Golden Bear teammates in Saturday’s Varsity Cup national championship, pitting undefeated Cal against BYU in Provo, Utah.

The opportunity comes just about a month after Mohr was named to Maccabi USA — the Jewish national rugby squad that will compete this summer in Tel Aviv, Israel. World Maccabiah Games feature Olympic-like events (individual and team) and are attended by contingents from more than 50 countries. They take place every four years and this year’s games run from July 16-30.

Between classes, daily workouts and travel to the rugby 15s finale, Mohr took time to talk about what it all means to him.

“I am very excited about traveling to Israel,” the 6-foot, 235-pound prop/hooker (frontline player) told The Enterprise. “The opportunity to travel to a place like Israel and get to represent your country at the same time is … something I am very honored to do.”

Sister Dakotah will be heading to the Middle East with her brother. The ex-Davis High all-CIF (’07 grad) and Aggie force has been named to the Maccabi women’s water polo team.

“Brittany … will be traveling with my mom to cheer us on in Israel,” little brother adds.

But first there’s the matter of the defending national champion Brigham Young …

Undefeated at Old South Field on their campus, the Cougars (11-2) historically are 1-9 against the Bears.

So, shouldn’t Cal (21-0) waltz over the home team?

“Nope, it means nine previous Cal teams beat them,” longtime Bears coach Jack Clark told Bay Area media this week. “Our 2013 team hasn’t. BYU is the defending national champions and nothing beyond that matters in this contest.”

While Mohr will be right in the middle of most of the action, there’s a real Yolo/Solano feel to this Blue-and-Gold edition.

Davis brothers Chris and Jason Fry (Jesuit High graduates), Patrick Barrientes (DHS Class of 2012) and Sam Weston Welch, Nick and Anthony Salaber of Dixon and Woodland’s Matthew Chipman all prowl the pitch for Cal.

Mohr thinks Saturday’s showdown will be “an epic clash.”

“This is the first time for many of the players playing against BYU,” says the 2009 DHS grad. “It will be important for us to not let the magnitude of the moment get to us. We will be walking into a hostile environment.

“I feel confident that if we are able to play fast and stick to our style … we will be able to pull out the victory.”

Away from rugby, Mohr has had an interesting time in Berkeley and, in a way, has completed his father’s circle back to the Aggie gridiron.

Last fall, Mohr was a reserve fullback on the Cal football team, where he was coached by then running-backs coach Ron Gould, the new UCD head honcho. Mohr says it was a “great honor” playing for Gould:

“As a member of a family that is full of Aggie pride, I have to say the city of Davis and the university received a gem of a man in coach Gould.

“He is a great football coach and an even better man. I cannot help but attribute part of my success this year in rugby to the teachings and mentality that I gained during my time under coach Gould.”

For Mohr, living in Berkeley took some getting used to. He says he felt completely out of place during his first semester on campus, but once he got the hang of college life “it becomes easy to see that Berkeley has much to offer and I have had a great time here.”

Mohr and three friends live on Piedmont Avenue near the heart of town. One of those friends, rugby teammate Jared Braun, will travel to the Maccabi Games with Mohr.

“I have not been to Israel,” the loosehead prop continues. “As a history major, you could not ask for a more interesting place to go.

“I am looking forward to playing in top-notch competition … (and) having the opportunity to meet and become friends with some of the top Jewish athletes not only from the United States, but from around the world.”

Notes: So what is a loosehead prop, you ask? Usually one of the stronger men on a rugby team, the loosehead is involved in scrums (like face-offs in other sports) and lineouts (in which the ball is thrown in bounds and a receiving player is lifted to field it). Looseheads often get loose teeth. … Mohr credits Cal assistant Tom Billups as being his “greatest role model” in rugby: “Not only is he one of the most successful American rugby players … he also is a great coach and mentor.” … Saturday’s 1 p.m. game will be broadcast on YouTube.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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