A national championship is within Will Morrill’s reach, and he is dedicated to doing everything he can to win it.
“This is my life,” Morrill (senior-kinesiology) said. “I’m in the gym fighting people every day. This is what I do.”
Morrill did not begin boxing until he came to Penn State as a freshman in 2009. At 13, he started competing in various mixed martial arts (MMA). Morrill was a wrestler in high school and also tried taking up jiu-jitsu. He planned on continuing MMA once he arrived at Penn State.
However, Morrill said boxing seemed like a logical move, and he quickly became attached to the sport. Now, four years later, he is the president of the club and vying for a national championship in the National Collegiate Boxing Association.
The NCBA contains 36 different universities that are separated into three divisions: Eastern, Midwest, and Far West. There are regional tournaments, followed by one collective national tournament. A boxer must finish first or second in his weight class, or receive one of the maximum two at-large bids in his weight class at regionals to advance to the national tournament. Once at the national tournament, there are eight boxers competing in each weight class.
Morrill weighed about 180 pounds a few days ago, but needs to slim down in order to qualify into the 165-pound weight class for the NCBA East Regional Championships on March 15-17 at Penn State. Morrill said he has no doubts about losing the weight because of the team’s dedication to training.
During a typical week, the team has three morning runs, two lifting days and six practices consisting of sparring, skill-work and cardio. Although having this extreme workload to manage on top of his schoolwork, Morrill is confident that with the help of his coaches and teammates, he can handle everything thrown his way.
Assistant coach Osahon Omo-Osagie is one of the people there to help Morrill and the rest of team stay on the right path and extend a helping hand when someone needs it. A former champion at Lock Haven University, Omo-Osagie gives boxers such as Morrill advice.
“In order to get there, since I’ve been there, this is what you [the collegiate boxers] need to do. These are the things you need to give up,” Omo-Osagie said. “I can’t do it for you, but I can give you the tools to get there. That’s what my job is as a coach.”
Absorbing wisdom from veterans such as Omo-Osagie has helped Morrill improve over the course of his four-year career at Penn State. However, hard work and experience have also been essential to Morrill’s development in the ring.
Morrill lost in the quarterfinals at the National Collegiate Boxing Tournament last year to the eventual champion — Air Force senior Casey Habluetzel.
Morrill said that’s all he wants is the national championship, and that’s all he is focused on right now. Omo-Osagie said Morrill has to have a “no-quit mentality” to take it home.
“You have to have a resilience about you,” Omo-Osagie said. “[The other boxer is] trying to knock you out. He’s trying hurt you anyway possible within the rules so you have to knock him out or hurt him first.”
Omo-Osagie and Morrill both believe that a boxer’s mentality can carry them through life as well.
“Any time you have a school assignment or a job interview, you have to have that mentality,” Morrill said. “You can’t quit or give up easily.”
Added Omo-Osagie: “I always tell my guys boxing is a parallel to life. You have to able to get knocked down and knocked down again and be ready to get back up and fight even harder. All the tools these guys learn in the ring can carry them through the rest of their lives. That’s something I take pride in as a coach.”
But for right now, Morrill is strictly focused on boxing and obtaining a national championship.
“When you start boxing, that’s all you want. That’s the dream,” Morrill said. “For the next two months, that’s all I’m going to be focused on.”