Iowa State boxing club continues to rise thanks to member development

Camryn Linster is a returning All-American for the Iowa State boxing club.

Spencer Suckow

It started off as curiosity.

“I wanted to do something different.” Camryn Linster said. “I love sports and fighting specifically, so I thought maybe I could be as cool as them.”

Now it’s other boxers hoping to be as cool as Linster, as she’s transformed herself into an All-American going into her senior season for the Iowa State Boxing Club. Last year, she made it all the way to the semi-finals before running into eventual champion Stephanie Simon of the Naval Academy, a boxer so good she was once featured on “60 Minutes.”

“Simon said that was the toughest fight that she’s had in her college boxing career,” said Iowa State boxing coach Jon Swanson.

Linster’s path to becoming one of the best in her sport isn’t unique either. Many of the competitive boxers for Iowa State started off as having little to no experience prior to joining the club. Mikaela Blount, another All-American on Iowa State’s boxing team, initially joined the club as a way to get in shape.

“I started my freshman 15 in senior year of high school,” Blount joked. “I went to ClubFest and Cam actually shoved a piece of paper in my face and said ‘join boxing,’ and I’m like ‘okay.’

“From there I stuck with it and I thought ‘this is actually a lot of fun.’ Nothing really pushes you as much as boxing does mentally, physically and emotionally.”

So how does Swanson and the rest of the coaching staff turn regular students into some of the best collegiate boxers in the country? The club’s officers agree that in addition to hours of hard work and dedication to pushing each other, the emphasis on teaching the technical aspects of boxing plays a large role in the club’s success.

“A lot of clubs basically have the same style,” Blount said. “They’re brawlers, which we don’t teach. We teach more head movements and counter punches, and taking more control of the ring.”

Linster added, we focus a lot on making sure we’re dodging their punches, getting out of the way and blocking their punches.”

This style, reminiscent to that of Mike Tyson, has proven to be very effective when going up against the best boxing programs in the country. The very best of these programs include the U.S. Military Academies, which have long held a vice-grip at the top of collegiate boxing.

Swanson points out that Simon came up to him after the aforementioned fight with Linster and specifically mentioned Linster’s head movements as a key reason for the fight’s difficulty.

Another key factor in the success of Iowa State boxing has been a gradual increase in members this decade, which in turn has increased the talent level. What was once a club that only had 30 members in 2010 now regularly gets as many as 100 members to show up for the first practice, according to member Andrew Smith.

A big reason for this uptick in members has been the increase in popularity of boxing among women. While there are several additional factors, the biggest reason for the member increase has been the integration of a women’s national competition and the subsequent success of former ISU National Champion Olivia Meyer, who now coaches for the club.

“She basically started women’s boxing at Iowa State,” said junior Connor Jobes. “She showed that men aren’t always the best boxers.”

The number of new members could even further increase with the recent Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor mega-fight. 

“I think more people will show up, which means more people will stay.” Jobes said. “The fight did a good job shining a spotlight [on boxing].”

While some potential new members may be hesitant to give the club a chance for various reasons, the club’s executive board is quick to point out that the club starts things slow. There’s no sparring of any sort during the first few weeks, and fighting and competition are not required of anyone.

Additionally, the club prides itself on creating a tight knit atmosphere that pushes members to be the best that they can be. To anyone on the fence about joining, Jobes offers up a piece of advice.

“It never hurts to try.”