By Patrick Lujan
Zachary Pangelinan continues to climb the world’s rugby ladder.
Earlier this year, he set his goal to make the USA Men’s 15’s Rugby Team – the Eagles. Mission accomplished.
Pangelinan is currently in Bucharest, Romania with the Eagles who are wrapping up their Fall European Tour with a match on Saturday against Romania, a country just two slots behind USA in the world standings at #18, according to the International Rugby Board. Team USA is ranked 16th in the world. Guam is ranked 87th out of 96 countries.
“This feeling is still overwhelming making the senior men’s team,” Pangelinan said in a phone interview from Romania. “Especially making it big time out here is a pretty good deal. The next step now is staying on the team, playing good rugby and hopefully getting an overseas contract.”
Pangelinan, the newest member on the team, got his first taste of action against Tonga (12th) in a 22-13 loss on Nov. 13. As the rookie, Pangelinan still started at the fullback (#15) position.
“I got my first game out of the way against Tonga,” Zach said.
Usually the shortest member of the team, Pangelinan went up against some massive competition from Tonga. “After playing them, it doesn’t really matter to me anymore. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Pangelinan made his move from the Eagles Select team in Canada two months ago before finally catching the eye of USA head coach Mike Tolkin.
“We heard about Zach a couple of years ago, and his injury put him on hold for a while,” Tolkin commented, referring to Pangelinan’s year-long angle injury that kept him out of play for most of 2011. “He was playing good club rugby and I spoke to the 7’s people and they were very pleased with him. He made it to the Eagles squad, much deserved.”
Tolkin said that Pangelinan is “a very good kicker, has good passing skills and a very good step.”
Tolkin added that he knew a little bit about Guam from former colleagues who did some work on island.
For the short time Pangelinan has been with the Eagles, his coach already has a good sense of what type of person he is. “He’s been a great teammate and he’s a young man with integrity and very committed to the Eagles.”
As for a possible rugby contract in professional leagues for Pangelinan, Tolkin said the progression to the Eagles certainly helps.
“It certainly helps his chances, but it’s still a tough process, especially in England and Europe. They allow only one foreigner and if at some point he can get his foot in the door and show what he can do, it certainly is possible. Hard work and good performance with the Eagles will definitely help.”
Pangelinan will come off the bench against Romania this weekend. He hopes to be back home for Christmas, if not, then his next visit home will be in March.