A trio of Wyoming prospects will take the pitch for the Northwest College men’s soccer team next season.
Brayan Castro of Worland, Morgan Dowling of Cody and Ramon Lopez of Casper have verbally committed in the last couple of weeks to play at NWC, recruited to fill vacancies at the midfield positions left by graduating sophomores.
“I’m excited to bring these guys in, I think they’re going to add a lot to the spirit of my team,” said Trappers soccer coach Stan Rodrigues, who’s wrapping up his recruiting season.
Rodrigues said he was selective with his Wyoming recruits to ensure each athlete coming in would be the right fit.
“I’m excited to continue to recruit the landscape, but I want to see players contribute,” Rodrigues said. “We had some success last season, and I think our social media presence and the things we try to do on and off campus has been very positive.”
“We’re a program players are taking a look at ...,” the coach said. “I think it comes down to, am I the right coach for these kids, and are they the right players for me.”
Replacing homegrown talent like Robert George — an all-region pick from Casper last season — can be a challenge, according to Rodrigues. With a smaller talent pool to recruit from, coupled with NWC’s rural location, convincing players to forgo other schools in the region can be tricky.
“Schools in the cities, like LCCC [in Cheyenne] and Sheridan, they get a lot of interest because of their location,” Rodrigues explained. “Sometimes kids don’t want to come all the way out to Powell, which is all fair. So I was very selective about who I went after. I’m only bringing kids in that are going to potentially play or start, as well as push my starters to want to keep their spot.”
Castro, currently starring on the pitch for the undefeated Worland Warriors, appeared on Rodrigues’ radar after participating in NWC’s indoor soccer season last November. Rodrigues also heard good things from Worland coach Ron Overcast, as well as current Trapper and former Worland standout Kyle Lamb.
“Brayan [Castro] definitely fit the mold of what I look for in my Wyoming kids,” Rodrigues said. “... I look for that ‘Wyoming Spirit,’ that hard work, blue-collar spirit, and Brayan fits that. I think we’re very lucky to get someone like him. He has a little flavor, a little flair and he loves the game. I think his senior season is going to be a very good season for him.”
As a player, Castro brings to the Trappers “good pace and a great motor,” according to Rodrigues. He’s a hard worker and very coachable — two qualities last season’s Region IX Coach of the Year looks for in a young player, especially in the midfield.
“Whatever he [Castro] may be missing, I’ll coach him up,” Rodrigues said. “That’s my job, to grow them as players, and I can do that. I just need that hard-working platform to do it from, and he has that.”
For his part, Castro, who began playing soccer in elementary school, it’s a strong work ethic and a love for the sport that he will bring to Trapper field.
“I’ve learned how to play hard and to work just as hard,” Castro said. “I’ve always heard how NWC is a great place for soccer players to improve their skills and mentality. I think this is the school I have been looking for because of how passionate the players and coaches are, and how hard everyone works.”
Cody’s Dowling also participated in last November’s futsol league, impressing Rodrigues with his strength and movement.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Rodrigues said. “He definitely has athleticism, but he also has a natural love for the game, which is great. I gotta have guys that love the game. And I think it’s strong to bring in another player from the area.”
Rodrigues said Dowling has the athleticism to play up front, as well as an attacking mid.
“I’m really focused on the midfield, because that’s where I run a lot of subs,” the coach said. “I also need kids who can put the ball away, and I know Morgan [Dowling] is a very good distributor, a very good passer of the ball. And he’s strong, so he holds the ball well.”
Dowling began playing soccer 13 years ago, and was a member of Cody’s 3A state championship team last season. Hearing good things about the program from friends who’ve played for NWC helped to solidify his decision to become a Trapper.
“I chose to come to Northwest because I have heard it is a really good program for soccer,” Dowling said. “I’m looking forward to playing at a new level of soccer and improving.”
Lopez, a product of Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, caught Rodrigues’ attention at a soccer camp at Montana State University-Billings last fall. He also came highly recommended by former Trapper and Kelly Walsh teammate Robert George, who described Lopez as a good kid and hard worker with a good GPA who’s excited to play for NWC.
“[Lopez has] got room for growth in areas of his skill, but the kid’s heart is going to be what fits in with us,” Rodrigues said. “The kid is fearless.”
Watching Lopez compete against a talented bunch of players at the MSUB camp and more than hold his own solidified the decision for the coach.
“I was impressed with his tact, and his communication to me has been spot-on,” Rodrigues said. “I gotta give kids like that opportunities. I’m trying to find guys who can replace Robert [George]’s position as a defensive mid at times, and Ramon [Lopez] has a good motor for that. He’s a tough kid, and I think his work ethic is going to fit right in.”
Though his recruiting process is almost finished, there are still a couple of Wyoming players Rodrigues has his eye on.
“My door is still open to all Wyoming kids, no doubt,” he said. “But ... I am running out of spots. If there are kids that want to come to me, I’m more than happy to look at them.”