Rugby: Kealakehe grad Wooching signs pro deal in Italy

  • Kealakehe Psalm Wooching, center, has signed on to play professional rugby in Italy. (File photo)

KAILUA-KONA — Welcome to the pros, Psalm Wooching.

Wooching — a Kealakehe grad and former standout linebacker with the Washington Huskies — has signed on to play for Rugby Viadana 1970, a professional team out of Italy.

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“I am very blessed to be joining Viadana and coach Filippo Frati next season,” Wooching said in a statement. “There is something special going on at Viadana and I can’t wait to start my professional career there. I have been working my whole life for this opportunity and I wouldn’t want to start off anywhere else. Excited to meet up with the team and get the 2018-2019 season underway”.

Viadana is equally excited to have the former Waverider on the roster, who will suit up for the team as its blindside flanker.

“As a club we are proud to be the first to give him this opportunity,” the team said in a statement. “He believed in us and we in him.”

Viadana compete in the Eccellenza, Italy’s highest domestic competition.

In February of 2017, just before the NFL draft, Wooching shocked many when he announced his plan on Twitter to pursue a rugby career rather than the NFL. He was coming off a senior season where he gained a reputation as a feared defender in the Pac-12, leading the Washington in sacks.

“I will be exchanging shoulder pads for short shorts and rugby boots,” Wooching wrote. “My first love and sport I excelled in was rugby, and it is time for me to follow my heart.”

He left possible millions on the table, but just over a year later, he has already played for the US national team and has a deal done to play professional rugby.

Out of the gate, Wooching has garnered attention from multiple professional teams in Europe, going through a tryout with French squad Pau in April of 2017 and eventually signing on for a trial with the Harlequins, based out of London. After showcasing his skills and putting it on tape, he caught on with the USA Selects, the second-tier of the national team, in October of last yar.

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The 24-year-old Wooching progressed from there, and is fresh off competing with the top USA National Team — also known as the Eagles — in the Americas Rugby Championships. The squad won the title in dominant fashion, going 5-0 in the top elite tournament for the Americas nations.

Wooching made his international debut with the Eagles against Chile, a game the team won 45-13. The appearance earned Wooching his first “cap” allowing him to sign a professional contract overseas. He previously played for the Seattle Saracens.