By Tim Pickwell
He plays only a few minutes a game, but Tristan Kasa may be the toughest player on the Torrey Pines Varsity Rugby Team.
The 17-year old flanker was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 7 and now, despite heavy medication, averages “two-three seizures a week,” according to his father, Steve Kasa.
Kasa attended Torrey Pines High School for two years, and even tried his hand at freshman football. He is now a junior at The Winston School in Del Mar. The young man’s love for the New Zealand All-Blacks led him to the Mustang’s Rugby Club, and he is now enjoying his second season of full-contact high school rugby.
“The courage of this young man is an inspiration to the whole team,” says Torrey Pines Head Coach, Matty Sandoval. “These tough young ruggers have taken him under their wing and made him one of their own. It’s heartwarming.”
A seizure minutes before a match two weekends ago kept Kasa out of that contest, but he has played in each of the team’s other victories, including the final minutes of last Saturday’s 38-5 win over San Pasqual.
Kasa has an iron grip of a handshake, and speaks clearly and directly, not a trace of a problem. He says that he gets three types of seizures. “The first type is where I lose control of my left arm, but I can still see. The second is where I can’t see and lose track of time. The third is a Grand Mal seizure, where I lose consciousness and have to go to the hospital.”
When the Kasas advised Tristan’s doctor that he would be playing rugby, the doctor looked thoughtful and said, “It’s a tough sport.” Indeed. For a very tough young man.