The LA Giltinis are excited to add three outstanding draft picks to their Championship-winning squad to aid the club’s continuing success.
In Major League Rugby’s 2021 Collegiate Draft this week, new head coach Stephen Hoiles and Giltinis General Manager Adam Freier settled on three names to bolster the forwards.
With pick No.13 in the first round, the Giltinis opted for Sam Klimkowski, a prop from Notre Dame College with an imposing 6’1” (1.86m), 270lb (122kg) frame.
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He went to high school in Avon Lake, Ohio.
The broad-shouldered Klimkowski will gain the instant benefits of specialist training under Giltinis’ scrum coach Alex Corbisiero, the former British and Irish Lions prop.
Building up the squad’s depth at prop is a major off-season focus. Eight props were used during the 2021 MLR season such were the heavy physical demands and injury toll in the most confrontational position on the rugby field.
"For as long as I could remember I always knew I was going to become a professional athlete as long as I persisted through the hardships of life." Said Klimkowski
"I could not say I’d be even close to where I’m at now without the support from my parents, close family, and friends along the way.
"I’m extremely excited to continue my journey and a new start in Los Angeles to continue my Rugby career with a championship program who took a chance on me to help better LA in a pursuit to another MLR title."
The Giltinis are already into serious planning for the 2022 season after the high of August 1 when they were crowned MLR champions for their 31-17 victory over Rugby ATL at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
At pick No.26, the Giltinis landed Canadian openside flanker James O’Neill, 23, an aggressive breakdown specialist from the University of Victoria.
The former Canadian Under-20s captain is a 6’0” (1.83m), 227lb (103kg) nuisance when it comes to competing at the breakdown.
“I’m absolutely elated. I had no idea of the Giltinis’ interest and this great opportunity has come out of nowhere,” O’Neill said.
At pick No.39, the Giltinis secured flanker Gerald Lowe, a South African product who the club has had eyes on in 2021.
Lowe, 23, has already trained with the Giltinis’ development team after coming onto the radar via the local Belmont Shore Rugby Club.
Lowe was raised in Pretoria and made the move to the USA in 2017 to study business and play rugby at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to develop my craft at the Giltinis! I was fortunate enough to train with the guys for a few sessions this past season and was amazed by the level of professionalism and camaraderie displayed by everyone in the organization.
"It’s not extremely common for people to live out their childhood dreams, but I’m excited to be making the little 4-year old in me proud with making the most out of this opportunity. I am incredibly honored by the proverbial nod from the Giltinis, but that only means that the hard work starts now!”
General Manager, Adam Freier said the picks were all worthy of the opportunity to develop, and be part of the Giltinis fabric for years to come.
"Each player has a unique quality that caught our coaches' and recruiters' attention," Said Freier.
"Klimkowski is unique, in that he has wrestling pedigree, has experience in college football and has made the transition up front, so there is the up side. He will only get better being exposed to an MLR program."
"James O'Neill adds to our already rich Canadian flair here at the Giltinis and is a genuine leader and 'blue collar' 7. He is passionate about playing for his country, which are the players we want here in LA."
"I watched Gerald play live in our Giltinis Academy match, and he is a genuine footballer who reminds me of a young Joe van Niekerk. He is an incredibly smart guy and has a good attitude on life outside of rugby, which is important for any young athlete."