MLR Draft Picks 2020
On June 13, 2020 history was made with the first ever professional rugby Draft. Over 400 prospects applied from across the U.S. with the hopes of being selected by a Major League Rugby team. Rewatch the full MLR Draft show below, and scroll down to meet the 24 Draft picks from the inaugural MLR Collegiate Draft.
Meet the 2020 Draft Class
R1P1 Conner Mooneyham | Wing/Center | Life University
Age: 24 | Height: 6′ | Weight: 200 lbs
Mooneyham started playing rugby at the age of 12 in Northern California. He played high school rugby in both California and Texas before heading to Life University. Mooneyham left Life University to serve his mission trip in 2016, returned into the starting lineup almost immediately as a more mature player. His awards include Collegiate All-American in 2019, D1A 1st Team, All Mid South Conference 2020, D1A National Champion in 2019 and 2016, and D1A National Champion Runner-Up in 2015.
R1P2 Brian Nault | Loosehead Prop/Tighthead Prop | Central Washington University
Age: 23 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 240 lbs
Nault began playing Rugby in the 8th grade for Shelton RFC after his sister (who played Rugby) told him it was harder than Football. He excelled in High School playing for the Washington Loggers Select Side and was named a High School All American. Nault is a talented Looshead Prop that plays across the front row. His awards include 2020 CWU Team Captain, 2019 All American Camp Invitee, USA U20 in 2015 and 2017, 2015 Attended Sharks International Academy, and High School All American in 2013 and 2014. Nault also has a pet kangaroo named Roo Roo.
R1P3 Derek Ellingson | Center/Wing | St Mary’s College
Age: 23 | Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 200 lbs
Ellingson was a hockey player growing up and didn’t play rugby until his freshman year at St Mary’s College. He began working his way through the SMC Rugby program playing C-Side as a freshman, B-side as Sophomore and continued to Develop. As Junior in 2019 he became the starting outside center for St Mary’s and now plays center, wing, and fullback. Not a natural kicker but evolved into their top kicker in 2020.
R1P4 Lui Sitama | Center/Utility Back | American International College
Age: 23 | Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 200 lbs
Sitama was born in Samoa but calls Lacey, Washington his hometown. He was invited to the US U20 Camp in 2015 and 2016 and has excelled in 7s as part of the Washington Athletic Club team where he was the 2019 National Championship.
R1P5 Aaron Matthews | Center | St Mary’s College
Age: 23 | Height: 5’10” | Weight: 190 lbs
Matthews began playing rugby for Back Bay in Newport Beach where he would excel being selected an HSAA and for the Junior Olympics 7s team before attending St Mary’s College. From there he was selected for the 2017 USA U20s, awarded an All American Honorable Mention in 2017, 2019 Scholz Award Finalist, 2019 All America, and Honorable Mention All America 7s in 2019.
R1P6 Justin Johnson | Openside Flanker | Life University
Age: 21 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 215 lbs
Johnson began playing Rugby as a sophomore in high school, and was a varsity multi-sport athlete. He graduated from Life University Summa Cum Laude with a dual Bachelors of Business Administration and Computer Information Management. With a length resume, Johnson has achieved plenty of award beginning in 2017 with the USA South U20 RAN Champion and MVP. From there he was a 2017 and 2018 U20 All American, 2018 7s Collegiate All America, in 2018 and 2019 Collegiate National Champion, and All Mid South Conference.
R1P7 John Powers | Wing/Fullback | Iona College
Age: 22 | Height: 6′ | Weight: 190 lbs
Mainly a powerful back three player, Powers played all four years of high school and went on to play fly-half for Iona as a Sophomore. In the summer of 2019, he played for NYAC and was also selected to play for Atlantis 7s. Powers awards include 2019 All American Camp East Invite, 2019 1st Team All Liberty Conference, 2019 Iona College Vice Captain, and 2019 RUNY U23 Development Academy Team Captain.
R1P8 Michael Matarazzo | Number 8/Lock | University of Notre Dame
Age: 22 | Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 230 lbs
Growing up as a Baseball Player, Matarazzo was an All-NY City Selection as a high school senior. In college Matarazzo became a big time player as a No 8 for the University of Notre Dame. In comparison, he can also serve as a Prop in 7s that’s known for getting after it physically. In his senior season at Notre Dame, he scored nine tries in 11 Matches. Matarazzo led as the University of Notre Dame Team Captain from 2018 to 2020, 2018 All American, and 2019 All American Camp Invitee.
R1P9 Tommy Clark | Flanker/Lock | American International College
Age: 23 | Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 230 lbs
In high school, Clark crossed over from Football after suffering a serious injury that he thought would stop him from playing competitive sport ever again. Clark trained hard to come back and became devoted to rugby. He went on join the USA U20s in 2017, and USA All American in 2018 and 2019.
R1P10 Andrew Guerra | Flanker | Notre Dame College
Age: 22 | Height: 5’10” | Weight: 215 lbs
Guerra began playing rugby as a Freshman at Mt Carmel High School in Chicago. He went on to become the team captain for NDC by his last two seasons. Guerra was also the Captain in 2019 for the Chicago Lions Summer 7s team and played with NOLA Gold Invitational Team at RugbyTown 7s. He was also past of the 2017 D1AA National Champions, All Rugby East in 2018 and 2019, and 2019 Summer Club 7s National Championship Dream Team.
R1P11 Casey Renaud | Lock | Kutztown University
Age: 23 | Height: 6’8″ | Weight: 245 lbs
Renaud began playing rugby for four years in high school and then wanted to further his career playing at Kutztown University, which has a competitive program in D1A. He was awarded with the 2018 Rugby East 2nd Team All Conference, 2019 Rugby East Conference Champion, 2019 USA Men’s Collegiate All-American Invite, and USA Men’s Collegiate All-American Honorable Mention.
R1P12 Patrick Madden | Fly-Half/Center | Cal Poly
Age: 21 | Height: 5’11” | Weight: 190 lbs
Madden has played rugby since High School and was the founder and president of his High School rugby club at University City High school in San Diego. In the summer of 2018 he played for the University of Queensland Rugby Club and participated in the Queensland International High Performance Academy. In 2016 he was awarded with the 2016 High School All Americans, in 2017 was selected for the US U19s, in 2018 he was the US U20 Co-Captain, and in 2020 was the Cal Poly Team Captain and a Rudy Scholz Award Finalist.
R2P13 Levi Van Lanen | Center | University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Age: 23 | Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 230 lbs
Van Lanen didn’t play rugby until college as he wrestled and played football in high school. He was a 2x Wisconsin State Wrestling Tournament qualifier and 3x all state selection as a punter. He also played running back and linebacker. He took to rugby naturally and began to excel in college as 2x USA Rugby DII 15s National Champion, 1x USA Rugby DII 7s National Champion, 2019 All American Camp Invitee, 4x USA Rugby Division 7s All America, and was the 2017-2020 Team Captain in University.
R2P14 Watson Filikitonga | Center | Iona College
Age: 22 | Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 215 lbs
Born in Tonga, but raised in Hayward, California, Filikitonga describes himself as the “Blacksheep of the Family” because he didn’t like Rugby growing up. His older brother, USA Eagle #470 Lemoto Filikitonga finally got him into Rugby at the end of high school. He would have attended the University of Hawaii, but Bruce McLane was able to recruit him to play rugby for Iona where he’s been a physical presence in the Gaels Midfield as a ball carrier and defender.
R2P15 Danny Giannascoli | Fly-Half/Fullback | Loyola University Maryland
Age: 23 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 200 lbs
Giannascoli played soccer his whole life until his brother went to Loyola Maryland before him and introduced him to rugby in his senior year of high school. He was on track to play football in college as a kicker until being dissuaded to play rugby at Loyola Maryland. He excelled there as the 2018 and 2019 Team Captain, 2019 Collegiate 7s All American, 2x NSCRO All American and Mid Atlantic South MVP, 2x 1st Team All Potomac Conference, 2019 Club 7s Nationals Dream Team, and 2019 Rugby Barbados World 7s Champion.
R2P16 Mason Koch | Hooker | Dartmouth
Age: 22 | Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 220 lbs
Koch was a multi-sport athlete growing up as he played football in the fall, wrestled in the winter, and baseball in the spring. At the beginning of High School he found rugby and was a founder of his High School Rugby Club, which he played on for three years. High achievement in the classroom earned him admission to Dartmouth and from there he was a 4x Ivy League Champion, 2019 All American Honorable Mention, 2019 and 2020 Team Captain.
R2P17 Nicholas Taylor | Center/Fly-Half | Lindenwood University
Age: 22 | Height: 6′ | Weight: 200 lbs
Born in Houston, but growing up in Calgary, Canada, Taylor began playing rugby where he was an All-City selection in High School. He took a gap year and played rugby for Currie RFC in Balerno, Scotland. Then Taylor chose to attend Lindenwood and became 3x CRC 7s Champion, 2x USA Rugby 7s Collegiate National Champion, in 2017 and 2018 was a US U20s Non-Traveling Reserve, and in 2019 was part of the All Canada University 7s.
R2P18 Spencer Krueger | Prop | Ohio State University
Age: 22 | Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 260 lbs
Krueger began playing rugby in Kindergarten but was a multi-sport athlete before focusing solely on rugby in college. In 2016 Krueger was selected as All Ohio Collegiate 15s team, 2018 3rd team All American, Team Captain in 2018 and 2019, and in 2018 he attended the Crusaders International High Performance Program and played for Marist Albion.
R2P19 Elijah Hayes | Prop | Iowa Central Community College
Age: 21 | Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 280 lbs
Hayes started playing rugby his senior year of high school before heading to Southeastern Louisiana University where he appeared in nine games for the Lions at guard as a Freshman. He transferred to ICC in the fall of 2018 and this was his second year of college rugby and third year of Rugby overall.
R2P20 John Scotti | Wing/Center | Arkansas State University
Age: 22 | Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 190 lbs
Scotti was a multi-sport athlete in high school playing Football and Wrestling. But, Scotti also began playing rugby his junior year of High School before heading to college at Arkansas State he played one year of Senior Club Rugby.
R2P21 Bronson Teles | Number 8/Flanker | University of Arizona
Age: 22 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 240 lbs
Teles began playing rugby at 9-years-old with the Katy Barbarians Youth Rugby Club. Since then he has been a 3x USA U18 from 2014 to 206, and 3x USA U20 from 2016 to 2018, First Team Pac-12 Conference from 2018 to 2020, 2nd Team Collegiate All American in 2019, was a Rudy Scholz Award Nominee in 2020, and was the 2020 University of Arizona Rugby Captain.
R2P22 Stephan McLeish | Hooker/Flanker | Lindenwood University
Age: 20 | Height: 5’11” | Weight: 240 lbs
Born in Michigan to Australian Parents, McLeish’s first sport was chess and then soccer. When he was cut from the High School soccer team he began kicking for his football team. He played Aussie Rules Football while in High School before picking up a rugby ball. His nickname is “The Milk Man” from when he sold milk in High School. Played Summer 7s for the Chicago Lions in 2019 and his awards include 2018 USA U20 selection, 2019 Academic All American, and 2020 Rudy Scholz Award Nominee.
R2P23 Matthew Gordon | Lock/Number 8 | University of Mary Washington
Age: 24 | Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 245 lbs
Gordon came through the Glasgow Warriors Academy representing the club at U16s thru U20s. He was also the D1AA National Champion in 2018 where he led as Captain and MVP, and in 2019 was the USA D1 Collegiate Starter at Lock and an All American.
R2P24 Cole Zarcone | Wing | Central Washington University
Age: 23 | Height: 5’11” | Weight: 200 lbs
Zarcone originally attended Central Washington to play football, but as Central Washington is one of the few “varsity” rugby teams in the country, he transitioned after his Freshman year. Zarcone already graduated with his Bachelors degree and will complete his Master’s in Information Technology Administration Management. His extensive awards include 2016 USA U20s Camp Invitee, 2018 7s All American Honorable Mention, 2019 Rudy Scholz Award Nominee, 2019 7s Collegiate All American, and 2020 CWU Male Athlete of the Year.
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Written by Joe Harvey | Photos Provided by Rick Rose Ricky Rose
Written by Joe Harvey Picked second overall in the 2023 Major League
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