Last weekend, club boxing saw five of the eight athletes it sent to the United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association National Championships at California State University-Northridge take home national titles: freshman Hana Burkly, junior Sinead Schenk, freshman Aaron Vanya and senior co-captains Jeff Wong and DK Yun.
Two years ago, the Georgetown club boxing team took home one individual title belt from the USIBA Championships. Last year, the club saw its participation numbers double from the year before, and it took home three titles at the end of the year from the national competition. In 2015, the club’s leaders marveled at the progress their program made in one year — but another year brought even more success to a program that is now confident in its consistent ability to compete on the national stage.
Wong, the only athlete who has been on the team for all four years, has witnessed each major stage of the team’s progress, culminating in the program’s most successful national performance to date during his time at Georgetown.
“My freshman year we brought three people [to nationals] and not all of them were even ready for nationals, but that’s all we could bring in terms of people who were even just dedicated enough,” Wong said. “My sophomore year, we brought six people, and we were kind of scraping to see who might be able to be competition ready. Last year was the most, we brought 13 or 14 fighters, and that was everybody. This year, we only brought eight, so this is the first year where we’ve had enough fighters to be selective.”
Burkly and Vanya, both competing in the beginners’ bracket, showed strong performances in their first national appearances. Vanya fought all three days of the competition, an exhausting feat that ultimately saw him come away with a belt.
Schenk, fighting up a weight class, defeated her opponent in the 132-novice bracket. Schenk was one of the three athletes who earned a title for Georgetown at last year’s national championships and is currently the only Georgetown boxing athlete to win two championship titles. Yun and Wong competed at the novice level as well, winning two additional titles for Georgetown on the men’s side.
With participation numbers and commitment levels rising steadily each year, the program is now working on refining its skills and getting more of its athletes ready to compete at the national level.
Under the guidance of coach John Garry, and by involving its athletes in the process of coaching new members, the team places a strong emphasis on improving their skills.
Yun said including all team members in the coaching process has helped athletes on the team at every skill level.
“As you coach, you also become better yourself. While you’re teaching, you start thinking about it more and analyzing it more deeply,” Yun said. “Having that experience makes you a better boxer. While you’re teaching, you’re learning at the same time.”
As the team has made strides over the past few years, so has its competition. This year’s national event was USIBA’s fourth annual national championship competition, and Wong said Georgetown’s athletes stepped up to the challenge.
“The competition itself has been getting more and more difficult as the years have gone by, so I was really proud of all of our fighters,” Wong said. “The league is growing, the competition is getting better, so we’re getting better at a rate that’s faster than that of the league. I was really happy with how everything worked out.”
Georgetown’s success at the USIBA championships went beyond individual results; the athletes’ performances put Georgetown at a collective second place finish on the women’s side of the competition and third place on the men’s side.
Yun said Georgetown’s progress at the national level is earning the program recognition.
“In terms of the college boxing scene, I think we’re really getting our name out there. We’ve had other coaches come to our coach and say, ‘Your team is really, really well trained, your team is performing well.’ People are really seeing that and recognizing that,” Yun said.
With Yun and Wong graduating next month and handing off two key leadership roles in the club, they anticipate a continuation of the success they have seen over the past few years and well into the future.
“At this point now, we have enough skill in different boxers with different styles and different strengths, that I totally see us improving as a club,” Wong said.
“I’m really, really excited,” Yun added. “Our club has just been growing every year, and every year something new has been added onto the club — not just the people, but in terms of the activities we do. We’re branching out and trying to do other activities outside of boxing. I’m just really excited to see what the next year will be like, because there will be different people in leadership and new freshmen.”
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