Angelo Mongiovi - 3.5 - 2000
Jersey Number: 4
Home: Fanwood, New Jersey
Hall Of Fame Induction: 2000 (1st class 3.5 inducted)
Team: EPVA Strykers 1991-2000
Angelo Mongiovi, a successful athlete in track and basketball, found Rugby in 1991. Actually the sport found him when Angelo "Fudge" Nicosia (EPVA Coach) and player Peter Zarba recruited him to play for the fledgling New York Strykers. With superior court skills developed through 22 years of wheelchair basketball, Angelo transformed the EPVA Strykers into instant contenders. He is the only player to represent his country in Wheelchair Basketball (1989), Track (1986), and Rugby (1994) at the Stoke Mandeville games. Despite coming into the sport at age 39 the former track National Champion still possessed speed and quickness that left many quality defenders in his wake.
As testimony to his instant impact, Angelo was awarded the MVP award at his first USQRA National tournament in 1992 in San Jose.
"He could match up with the best players on the court, and at times he seemed to win games single-handedly with intensity and guile. "It often took two or three players to guard him and he would still hop, finesse and power his way back into position." explained Stoke teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Chris Cook. He may have been smaller in stature when compared to other players in his class, but his game was HUGE! His precision short and long passing were a great asset, often bailing his team out of trouble. Very rarely was there a player more valuable to his team than Angelo in the USQRA.
His ten year career provided many thrills to Rugby audiences across the U.S.. Those who were fortunate enough to see games between Boston and New York will long remember intense battles where Angelo seemed to shine even brighter. Known as an individual force, many wondered what he could do with strong players around him. That would be answered in International competitions.
After leading the Strykers to many national tournaments, Angelo was selected to Team USA in 1994 for The Stoke Mandeville Games in Aylesbury, England. He was again selected to Team USA and elected Co-Captain by his teammates (which was a great honor according to Angelo) for the first World Championships in Notwil, Switzerland in 1995. Angelo played an integral role in both US teams winning Gold medals. He also won the hearts of many European fans who admired his tenacity on the court, and one Dutch referee who admired his charm off the court. Angelo would convert her into a U.S. referee, would eventually make Fiona his wife.
Along with meeting his future wife one of his greatest memories was hearing the National Anthem played in England and Switzerland after receiving Gold medals and knowing he was part of the reason.
The elusive Mongiovi made a play at the 1995 World Championships "that only he could make" sited National team coach at the time Terry Vinyard. "We brought him in to help kill a penalty we committed just before half time. With only one .5 (Eddie Crouch) on the court as a blocker, he managed to get position on the Canadian defense to receive an inbound from USA's other .5 Chris Cook. Not only did he kill off the penalty for almost a minute, but also he drew a foul on a Canadian player just after his teammate was released from the box. Twenty minutes later he was accepting the IWRF World Championship trophy.
One can only imagine what he would have been like if the Sport was around when he 19 instead of being a 39 year old rookie who would still reach the pinnacle of his Sport.