2023 club honors announced.

Today we gathered as a club to celebrate a great year of Milwaukee Barbarians rugby. A record-setting 94 people attended, including players, alumni, sponsors and their partners.

One of the highlights of the evening was, of course, the annual awards ceremony where we recognize the best of the best from the past year. The nominations and final votes for these peer awards are collected exclusively by club members.

Top honors for the evening went to Collin DeOcampo who ws voted Barbarian of the Year for the second straight year. Not to be outdone, Jordan Thompson took home his 3rd consecutive Most Valuable Back award.

We were also thrilled to have the Wisconsin RFU President Ed Borowitz on hand to present club alumni Joe Cunningham with the union’s Dedicated Administrator award.

Congrats to all the of the nominees and awardees (details below).

2023 Highlights

In addition to the awards, rookie sketch, and other fun presentations, Lukas Matzke debuted the clubs 2023 match highlights which he prepared from 16+ hours of footage.

Awards

Here is the full list of the 2023 nominees and awardees.

WRFU Wayne Binversie Award

  • Joe Cunningham – Awardee, 2023 Dedicated Administrator

Joe Cunningham was awarded the Wisconsin Rugby Union Wayne Vinversie Award. From the nomination committee: “Joe has been a tireless supporter of rugby in Wisconsin for 3+ decades. After playing with the Milwaukee Harlequins, he moved on to administration of the club and the Lakefront 7s. He helped guide the clubs transition to the Milwaukee Barbarians, and continues to volunteer at the Lakefront 7s, organizing the youth divisions and scheduling the matches for the contact divisions. Joe has organized the Waukesha Tag rugby program for the last 12 years, helped at numerous High School matches while his daughter attended Catholic Memorial, helped coach and organize tag rugby referees, and currently organizes bimonthly touch rugby for local Old Boys in the Milwaukee region. “ We love what Joe does for the greater rugby community and we are happy to see him honored for his commitment.

Barbarian of the Year

The club member who best exemplifies the core culture, values, and competitive nature of the club, on and/or off the field.

  • Collin DeOcampo – Awardee
  • Kevyn Drago
  • Thomas Fossell

Collin DeOcampo was awarded the Barbarian of the Year Award. Since joining the Barbarians in the summer of 2019, Collin has quickly become a ubiquitous presence and respected leader both on and off the pitch. His weekly availability surveys — while often bemoaned — highlight his frequent and vocal player engagement efforts. Collin has also spearheaded player recruitment efforts and became the primary administrator for the club’s social media accounts. Not to be outdone on the pitch, Collin was an integral piece of the D2 side’s undefeated regular season. This is Collin’s second consecutive Barbarian of the Year Award, and he will be a club cornerstone for years to come.

Old Boy of the Year

The club alumnus that best exemplifies the core culture, values, and competitive nature of the club, on and/or off the field.

  • Vic Drover
  • Dick Lango
  • Pat “Sharpo” Sharpe – Awardee

Pat Sharpe was awarded the Old Boy of the Year. Our club General Manager and a coach Pat does a ton on and off the field to help keep our ducks in a row. Whether its a rugby-ism he has said for the millionth time or a reminder that some procedure only he is aware of needs to be done before a game, we love hearing it. This is a well deserved honor to show how thankful we are that he puts up with us.

Division 2 Most Valuable Player

The most impactful player for the 2023 fall season of the Barbos’ Division 2 side.

  • Luke Ellis
  • Tim Grams – Awardee
  • Jordan Thompson

Tim was named the most valuable player. Leading the team at 9 this season, Tim controlled the pace of our offense and consistently made decisions to put us in the right places. Tim took back the kicking duties this season and it put him at the top of the team’s list for points with 70. He was clutch with his kicks this season, slotting many in the closing minutes of our matches to lock in the results and without him our season would not have looked the same way.

Division 3 Most Valuable Player

The most impactful player for the 2023 fall season of the Barbos’ Division 3 side.

  • Justin Appel
  • Jack Carter
  • Ben Vanhandel – Awardee

Ben Van Handel was named the most valuable player. Playing in his first season with the Barbarians, he took on the challenge of leading the offense by pushing the pace and making plays wise beyond his couple years of experience. Keep an eye on this guy over the next couple of years.

Division 2 Most Valuable Forward

The most impactful member of the division 2 side’s forward pack for the 2023 fall season.

  • Jeff Cebe – Awardee
  • Tom Fossell
  • Jon Thomas

Jeff was named the most valuable forward. Scoring the most tries of any forward this year, 6, Jeff was rock steady for our pack all season. Beyond the scores, many times this season Jeff would open up our offense with big line breaks and offloads for us to build on. On the defensive side his speed as a forward would help take away space from an attacking offense and his sure tackling set up many opportunities to win a turnover.

Division 3 Most Valuable Forward

The most impactful of the division 3 side’s forward pack for the 2023 fall season.

  • Justin Appel – Awardee
  • Joe Kastel
  • Sam Kluck

Justin Appel was named most valuable forward. A physical specimen, Justin set the tone with big hits and explosive runs. The pack was always able to look to Justin when they needed a play or some motivation.

Division 2 Most Valuable Back

The most impactful member of the division 2 side’s back line for the 2023 fall season.

  • Luke Ellis
  • Eric Pachowitz
  • Jordan Thompson – Awardee

Jordan was named the most valuable back. Winning the award for a third season in row Jordan, has consistently been a difference maker for our team. Explosive runs are a guarantee when he is out there and this season was no different, dotting 8 tries and too many line breaks to count. His defense also made strides this season, applying pressure to shut down teams swinging it wide, or putting a big hit on a wing looking to make a move. Jordan accepted the award by joking “Pretty soon you’ll have to name it after me.”.

Division 3 Most Valuable Back

The most impactful member of the division 3 side’s back line for the 2023 fall season.

  • Jack Carter – Awardee
  • Mike Egan
  • Ben Vanhandel

Jack Carter was named the most valuable back. Jack has taken home many awards over the years and he keeps getting better. Consistency has always been there, but this year a new attitude helped Jack be a guy the team could look to for solid line running, and defensive pressure.

Rookie of the Year

The player who was new to the club as of the fall season of 2023 that best exemplified the club’s core culture, values, and competitive nature on and off the field.

  • Myles Devine – Awardee
  • Eric Pachowitz
  • Jon Thomas

Myles Devine was named the club Rookie of the Year. Myles came back to the sport after a long time away, with an excitement and his athleticism he got back into the swing of things in no time. This season he took reps on the D2 and D3 sides and his effort and intensity was always present. A defensive menace, Myles brought the pressure and matched it with explosive hits. On offense, his sneaky speed would show after his solid line running would get him past the first defender. As Myles continues to show up, he will continue to improve and be a difference maker for years to come.

Most Improved Player of the Year

The player who put the most work into improving themselves physically or mentally between the end of the 2022 fall season and the 2023 fall season.

  • Jared Abt – Awardee
  • Collin DeOcampo
  • James Stein

Jared Abt was named club Most Improved Player. Its not to often that a 12+ year player takes home this honor, but it is extremely well deserved. Some chalk it up to his newly obtained dad strength, but anyone who has come to training since the founding of the Barbarians know its so much more than that. Every practice Jared has been one of the first ones there, working on lineouts before training, coaching up newer players looking for tips, and setting the tone with his intensity throughout the sessions. His extra effort showed up this season with a new confidence, consistency in the set piece, and doing all the little things right.

Vic Drover
Vic Drover

Vic has a long history in and around the sport of rugby both in Canada and the US. He has played for and started numerous clubs (Vandal's RFC, Strathcona Druids, Suffolk Bull Moose, West Side Harlequins, Milwaukee Barbarians, Hamilton Girls Rugby), and served many roles over the years at all administrative levels. Vic joined the Harlequins in 2007 and remained an active club member through the transition to the Barbarians. These days, he spends his rugby time playing tag rugby and touring with the Old Boys, keeping the club website updated, helping organize the Lakefront 7s, and fundraising.

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