The pressure to win a national boxing title ramps up this week, as the College Boxing Regional Championships begin in Reno.
The Nevada club boxing team will have six boxers vying for Regional championships, including sophomore Garrett Felling, who won a national title last year, his first year boxing.
Felling has been injured this year and will make his 2015 debut in Friday’s semifinals. He went 10-0 last year.
“I’m just trying not to be too big or too small,” Felling said. “Just stay right where I’m at and focus on what I can do right now at this time. I’m just here to do what I can do.”
Felling, a geological engineering major said he’s learned to use any nervousness to his advantage.
He said boxing in front of his hometown crowd is a big advantage. But at Nationals, where it won’t be a friendly crowd, he’ll have to focus on his opponent.
“When I go into the ring at the Eldorado and hear the crowd and see all the familiar faces and feel the support, it’s like the 12th man in Seattle,” Felling said.
For 10 boxers, quarterfinal action action begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Eldorado Hotel-Casino convention center.
Thursday’s five bouts are free to the public. On Friday, there will be 21 bouts, and those winners will earn berths to the Nationals next month in Florida.
Region championships bouts in 11 weight classes start at 6 p.m Saturday at the Eldorado. The Region winners and runners-up advance to Nationals.
Nevada’s six boxers in Regionals are Jarred Santos, 132 pounds; JJ Mariano, 139; Zach Smith, 147; Johnnie Aguilar, 156; Zach Shipton, 165 and Felling at 185 pounds.
Santos won Regionals the past two years.
“I’ve just got to go in there and do my job and hopefully come out with a win and move up to Nationals,” Santos said.
He went 3-1 this season with the loss coming last fall.
For Santos, a senior, this is his last chance for a national title.
“I’ve got to fight every fight like it’s going to be my last one at this point,” Santos said. “Just trying to have fun with it. I know what to expect and I know what’s it’s going to be like to be in the ring and how it feels.”
Santos said when he first started boxing, his nerves would often get the best of him.
“I’d probably be shaking right now, crying before Regionals when I was a freshman,” he said.
Smith, Aguilar and Shipton will all box Thursday night. Santos and Mariano have byes and will not box until Saturday.
There will also be female boxers in action, including from Air Force Academy and UNLV. Nevada does not have any female boxers this year.
Nationals are April 12-14 in Sunrise, Fla.
College Boxing West Region Championships
WHEN: 6 p.m., Thursday-Saturday.
WHERE: Eldorado Convention Center inside the Eldorado Resort Casino.
SCHOOLS: Nevada; Oregon State; Southern California; UCLA; UNLV; UC David; San Jose State; Cal-Berkeley; San Francisco; Santa Clara; Washington, Air Force Academy.
TICKETS: $15 available through the Eldorado Box Office online at eldoradoreno.com or by calling 775-786-5700.
Source: Jim Krajewski, RGJ