Olsen Family Photo
East High graduate Kory Olsen, who helped the Highland Rugby Club win a national championship, was named to the national U-19 team.

Kory Olsen was told early in his young rugby career that to be a winner, you have to prepare like one. He has taken it to heart.

Olsen, who prepped at East High, is seeing immediate dividends from his hard work.

In his two years on the Highland High School Rugby Club, his team won a high school national championship last year and finished second this year.

His career isn't ending at the high school level, as he was named to the USA Rugby U-19 National Team.

"It's an honor to go down and represent the USA and play rugby," said Olsen, a 6-foot, 200-pound player.

He recently left for a World Cup qualifier tournament in Trinidad & Tobago.

"We (Highland) played for the national championship this year and the coach liked how I played and gave me a call," Olsen said. "I told them I was really interested in playing."

Olsen was one of three Highland players invited to join the team, but he was the only one who accepted the invitation.

"Highland is a high-profile team that's been there (to high school nationals) for a number of years," United States coach Salty Thompson said. "I was going there with the expectation to see good players."

It was there that Olsen caught his attention.

"Kory's a good player. He's playing well. I think he's one of the best lock (position players) in the country," Thompson said. "Technically, he knows his game. He's as far along in the start of his career as anyone else in his position."

Olsen is just one of three locks on the team, and two of the three are on the field the entire time.

"We've got a lot of faith in him," Thompson said.

Team USA opens qualifying pool play Wednesday against St. Vincent and plays Guyana the following day.

The winner of the pool plays the winner of the second pool (Canada, Jamaica, Trinidad) for the championship game on Saturday with the winner advancing to the World Cup later in the year.

On the request of a friend, Olsen began playing rugby four years ago, and he has enjoyed playing the sport ever since. He likes the contact and the camaraderie the sport has to offer.

He also plays for the Pioneer Rugby team in the Men's Club Division in Salt Lake City. He has aspirations of playing collegiate rugby.

"Not a lot of guys play after high school and that's what I really want to do," he said.

He is enrolled at Salt Lake Community College but hopes to attend BYU in the near future and play for its nationally ranked rugby team.

His time with Highland and the national team can only help him achieve that goal.

"It (playing at Highland) helped me figure out that it's not all about winning. It's the preparation for winning," he said.

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com