Penn State’s club boxing team has refused to rest in the weeks leading up to its biggest tournament of the year thus far.
The team will host the National Collegiate Boxing Association East Regional Championships this weekend, starting Friday at 5 p.m. in the White Building. The team will go up against boxing juggernauts like the United States Military Academy and Lock Haven, winners of five of the last six national championships.
The team has five boxers competing — Manuel Figueroa (112 lbs.), Corey Slosburg (175), Saeed Al Zubaidi (125), David Martinez (119), and Will Morrill (165). The top two finalists from each weight class will advance to Nationals.
These boxers eat, breathe and sleep boxing, and in the last few weeks, nothing has changed. Many of them stayed in State College during spring break to continue training.
“We’ve definitely kept busy,” Morrill, the president of club boxing, said. “We went to Annapolis to spar with the Navy guys. We’ve had morning runs and practice every day, and I think everyone is in great shape for Regionals.”
For Morrill, Al Zubaidi and Martinez, all seniors, every fight could be their last. This is the conclusion of their boxing careers at Penn State, and depending on how busy they are after graduation, it could be the end of their careers in general.
“I’ve trained almost every day all year for Regionals and Nationals,” Martinez said when reflecting on what this tournament means to him. “When I’m in the moment, every last bit of sweat I’ve left in the ring will all be worth it. This is what we train for.”
Winners in Regionals will advance to Nationals, which begin April 4 in Connecticut. Morrill said that this is what every boxer desires, a chance to win a championship.
For many of the boxers, this is not their first try at Regionals. Martinez will be attempting to advance to Nationals for a third time. After suffering two defeats in the previous two years at Regionals, Martinez is determined to leave everything he has left in the ring.
“If [the previous defeats] hurt me then, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to not give it my all and lose in this tournament,” he said. “It would kill me.”
One advantage Martinez and the other boxers have this weekend is that they get to box in State College, in their home ring. This gives them several advantages over their competitors.
“Cutting weight while traveling is terrible. You’re supposed to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes. You have to eat certain things and you have to dehydrate yourself,” Morrill said. “That’s tough enough when you’re in your own apartment, much less when you’re on a five-hour car ride.”
Another advantage for the boxers of Penn State is that they should have the largest cheering section of anyone this weekend. Many boxers said their families and friends are coming to watch. Most importantly, though, the whole team can be there to support and psyche up the boxers competing.
To Morrill, it means everything that the whole team can be together for this tournament.
“We sweat and bleed together every day,” he said. “Honestly, we’re a family.”