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Nevada set for national boxing event

MIKE HOUSER

RENO – When Ryan Healy and Jose Casas won National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) regional championships on Feb. 23 at Berkeley, it wouldn’t have been unexpected had they received gold medals.

But they didn’t.

No, they didn’t receive trophies either. How about a warm handshake?

Casas considered the question for a moment Thursday at the Jimmy Olivas-Nevada Gym and then smiled.

“No,” Casas said with what passed for a laugh.

But things will be different at the NCBA National Championships, which will be held today through Saturday in the Convention Center at the Eldorado Hotel-Casino: The winners in each weight division will take home a belt.

Casas (125 pounds), Healy (165), Daigo Moki (119), Shawn Goode (185) and John Lorman (heavyweight) will be the only Nevada boxers in the tournament, which will include teams from Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Penn State, Lock Haven, West Point (Army), Miami of Ohio, California and the University of Kentucky.

“This is it,” said Casas, who won his second regional championship. “I’m ready physically and mentally. Winning the regionals means you are the best in the region, but it’s the best thing to be the national champion. That’s what the bragging rights are all about – to be national champion.”

The 19-year-old Casas, from Wells, Nev., has once again found his groove after opening the season up with three consecutive losses.

“Everybody doubts themselves when they lose,” Casas said of his slow start. “I’d ask myself, ‘Is this meant for me to get it back?’ I did everything I could and I didn’t win.

“The first fight, I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t in the shape I am now. The second fight I thought I won, but the judges saw something else. The third fight I was surprised by how quick (his opponent) was. When I won my first fight, I got my confidence back.”

Casas got a bye in the regionals before winning two fights to even his season record at 3-3. But he has one more battle to win before he next steps into the ring.

Said Casas: “I’m not nervous yet. Come (pre-fight time), I’ll be thinking about what to do, how I come out. That’s what gets me nervous. I’ll be sitting in back going, ‘What if I do this and this happens?’ I ask myself so many questions.”

But, now in his second year, Casas said he has some answers for those annoying little question marks.

“I’ll do what I’ve been taught,” Casas said. “I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to do what made me a boxer: I’m going to use my own style. I’m not going to change it for anyone. I’ll be mixing it up.”

Healy, who opened up his freshman year with several knockouts only to bow out in the semifinals at the regionals, said mixing up his slugging style with some smooth boxing has been the difference for him this season.

“The more (bouts) I fight, the more I start boxing,” said the 20-year-old sophomore, of Salem, Ore. “I do tend to fall back on my brawling roots, but I’m trying hard to stay disciplined with my boxing style.”

Although Healy wouldn’t have minded receiving a medal for his regional championship-winning performances, he said he is happy nonetheless.

“It was good (winning the championship). I worked really hard for this,” Healy said. “I completely changed my lifestyle and how I was carrying myself after practice. I made a lot of sacrifices for boxing. I really wanted to do it.”

Healy fought twice in the regionals, defeating UNLV’s Steve Pakish in the semis and Leif Norhagen of Air Force in the finals. Norhagen ended Healy’s run as a freshman in last year’s regionals.

“The bout with Norhagen showed me how much progress I’ve made as a boxer,” Healy said. “(The win) gave me a lot of confidence. It doesn’t matter who I fight.”

Well, not really. Norhagen, a senior, has managed to get Healy’s Irish up.

Said Healy: “(Norhagen) fought at 175 last year like I did. (Air Force) dropped him down (to 165) because they weren’t confident against Navy’s 175-pounder. It’s kind of like a slap in the face to me. They said they dropped him down to win a national championship.”

Lorman, a 25-year-old junior from Glendale, Calif., said he wants to prove something to a particular fighter as well. Lorman lost a decision to Bryan Talmer, of Air Force, at the regionals and didn’t like the way he went out.

“I sprained my thumb in the first round,” said Lorman of his power hand – his left. “I was just trying to survive in the second round. (Assistant coach) Pat (Schellin) asked me if I wanted to quit after the second round. I came out more aggressive in the third round.”

Lorman said his confidence is high coming into the nationals and that he likes being an underdog, but he hopes he’ll meet again with Talmer.

“I don’t want (Talmer) to think I was scared because of how I fought,” said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Lorman. “I think he walked away more confident than he should’ve. I want a final solution to our (rivalry) before my senior year.”

NCBA NATIONAL CHAMIONSHIPS

Where: Eldorado Convention Center.

When: Today. Quarterfinals, 48 bouts: 1-5 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Admission is free.

Friday: Semifinals, 24 bouts: Doors open at 5 p.m., first bout at 6. Admission $15.

Saturday: Finals, 12 bouts: Doors open at 6 p.m., first bout at 7. Admission $15.