After three days and 67 collegiate boxing fights from 20 different schools Army was named the 2008 National Collegiate Boxing Association team champion at the Downtown Reno Ballroom in Reno, NV.
It’s the first boxing team-championship in Army history.
“It ended perfectly,” Army senior boxer Steve Solaja said. “The last couple years we thought were ripped off. We felt we were cheated.”
Army finished in second place the last two seasons. The Black Knights lost to Lock Haven University last year. Lock Haven finished fifth this year with 20 points. The Naval Academy was second with 38 points, the University of Nevada, Reno finished third with 32 points and the Air Force Academy finished fourth with 21 points.
“They’re a great group of young men,” Army coach Ray Barone said. “It’s tough because the seniors are done now and headed to Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s part of the job, though. “They’re all warriors.”
Barone started coaching at Army in 1999 when he was named the head director of boxing.
“He’s the best technical coach I’ve ever had,” Solaja said.
Barone spent 21 years in the Army before becoming the coach. He has been boxing since the late 1970s.
“I’m a student of the game,” Barone said. “I really like to study it.”
Army’s youth leaves it with a bright future, Barone predicted, since four of Army’s six championship fighters were freshman.
Army had four individual champions in Saturday’s final rounds. The Black Knight’s Matt Longo won the 119-pound weight class; Danilo Garcia won the 125-pound weight class; Ryle Stous won the 165-pound weight class and Solaja won the 185-pound weight class.
The Reno crowd wasn’t rooting for Army, though. It was rooting for its UNR Wolf Pack boxers, especially four-time champion David Schacter.
Schacter fought Lock Haven’s Addy Pizarro, who beat Schacter last semester in New York City.
“It was always a dream of mine to box in New York,” Schacter said. “And then to get knocked out the way I did was just embarrassing.”
Pizarro knocked Schacter out in the first round of the NYAC Invitational last November. Schacter had experienced a secondary concussion just two weeks before his bout with Pizarro, when he got into a car accident while driving out of a friend’s driveway.He rehabbed in Las Vegas and didn’t fight for three months after his loss to Pizarro. Schacter has won five straight fights since his New York City loss.
On Saturday, the UNR boxer capped off his comeback by looking angry. As he moved from his corner of the ring Schacter intensely stared at his opponent before Pizarro’s named was announced.
“Everything was in slow motion,” Schacter said.
Schacter came out slowly in the first round, but dominated in the second and third rounds. After he was announced the winner, the heavy pro-UNR crowd chanted “four more years” for Schacter.
“It’s sad that it’s my final fight,” a crying Schacter said as friends and family gave him hugs and high fives. “I’m really going to miss it.”
Schacter is the first four-time NCBA champion from UNR. UNR has three, three-time champions.
“He’s one of the greatest Nevada boxers of all-time,” former UNR boxer Joey Gilbert said.
Gilbert was the last UNR boxer to win three championships (1997, 1998 and 1999).