For the second week in a row we will recognize a center playing for a college in Arizona; this time our college player of the week is Lucas Bartzis, who scored three tries as UofA beat Utah State, then three tries as the Wildcats beat Grand Canyon 34-14, and two tries in the rivalry win over Arizona State.
It’s not just about the three tries. Bartzis also opened up space for other players to score, including two poaches that led directly to Wildcat scores. This was following on another three-try day the week before – an excellent start for the New Trier (Ill.) HS product.
The thing is, we’re just happy to see Bartzis on the field. Last year, he was just emerging as a key member of the team when he had to back off. You see, Lucas’s older brother, Joseph, had run into a bad setback in his fight against AL Amyloidosis, which is a blood disease that is very rare and, crucially, incurable.
Joseph, who also attended New Trier HS and then went on to graduate from Arizona State University before working in the solar energy industry. Lucas went to be with his brother, and then called his coach, Sean Duffy. Things were getting worse. Lucas would not be coming back; he would stay with his brother. On February 27, 2018, Joseph died. He was 26.
This was clearly a blow to his younger brother, but Lucas needed to continue his education, and returned to Tucson for this school year. He also returned to the rugby team.
“We didn’t expect him necessarily to be a starter,” said Duffy. “But he has worked so hard and it’s great to have him on the team.”
Bartzis, of course, deflected the attention: “I am incredibly honored and I have to attribute this to all my teammates, coaches and family for their constant support in my life,”