Boxing club sends five to nationals


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Junior Josue Avila, right, practices in the ISU Boxing Club’s practice ring at State Gym on April 2. Avila will compete at the 2015 NCBA National Championships in Sunrise, Fla., in the 139-pound weight class.

Alex Gookin

Isolated in a garage-like room down a long, concrete hallway at State Gym, a boxing ring stands in the middle of the room among hanging punching bags. One by one, students file in with bags slung over their shoulders, walking to a caged-in storage room to pick up gear and get taped up.

It’s just another day of practice for the ISU Boxing Club as coach Jon Swanson stands in the ring padded from head to waist, sparring with another boxer before practice officially starts.

“We’re just warming up,” Swanson says as he removes his chest padding, his already sweat-soaked shirt clinging to his body. “Just getting ready for nationals.”

Last year, 34 boxers competed in the National Collegiate Boxing Association National Championships, but only one hailed from Iowa State. That was 147-pound Olivia Meyer, who defeated Sabrina Kehr from West Virginia to claim a national title.

This year, she will have company at nationals as four other club members will join her from April 10 to 12 in a trip to the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. for the 2015 NCBA National Championships.

Not only is there five times as many ISU boxing club members competing at nationals, there will be a wide range of faces. Three men — 139-pound Josue Avila, 156-pound Daniel Megel and 175-pound Luke Hahn — and two women — Meyer and 119-pound Carolina Covington — will represent the small club that competes in a league dominated by the military academies.

The club hosted the 2015 Midwest Regional Championship in Ames as Megel claimed a regional championship to gain some momentum heading into nationals. Meyer also won her bout at the regional, while the others advanced despite losses.

But as the boxers prepare to take on the likes of Air Force, Army and Navy — schools that have won 30 of 39 NCBA national boxing titles — the team doesn’t see it as added pressure. Hahn, junior in mechanical engineering, has not yet won a competitive fight, going 0-6 as a boxing club member. But having faced a national champion and sparred with other more experienced boxers, he’s not ashamed of his record and hopes to claim victory at nationals.

“Any guy can come from anywhere and be a great fighter,” Hahn said. “It’s not like just because that guy is from Navy means he’s going to beat me because it’s on an individual basis.”

The same goes for Covington, who as a senior will be competing in her first and final nationals event despite having yet to win a match. But with only a limited number of fighters in each weight class, she and the rest of the competing boxing club members will have an opportunity to join Meyer as national champions.

With less than a week separating the club from a plane ride to Florida, the team won’t stop working as the boxers put in as many hours as they can before their biggest fights of the season. As for handling nerves, the team knows exactly what lies ahead.

“You’re not going to do anything you haven’t done 1,000 times already in the gym,” Megel said. “Once you start the fight, everything kind of blurs out and that’s all you’re thinking about.”