Air Force Boxers Set for 2009 Wing Open Championships
March 5, 2009
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - After weeks intense, hard-hitting, preliminary action, the Air Force boxing team is ready to compete at the 2009 Wing Open Championships on Sunday, March 8. Highlighted by 11 bouts, the contenders will finally head under the lights of Clune Arena for the chance to earn their spot in Academy history. Action begins at 2 p.m., and admission is free.
The Air Force Wing Open Boxing Championships began in 1958 with just four bouts. Now, 51 years later, the championship bout is one of the most anticipated events on the Academy calendar.
This year's line-up features nine past champions, as well as two previous finalists. The championship round features an extraordinary total of seven freshmen, the most in head coach Eddie Weichers' 33-year tenure with the program. Only one weight division will go uncontested this year, with unopposed sophomore Matthew DeMars winning the 112-pound title.
The winners of the Wing Open will form the base of the Air Force team that will represent the Academy at the National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) regional and national competitions. The Falcons have won 18 of 29 national titles and produced 99 national champions.
Let's take a look at this year's contenders by weight class...
119-POUNDS: Senior Jesse Horton will look to defend his Wing Open title at 119 pounds. Horton is a NCBA national champion, winning the title in 2007 after earning finalist honors at that year's Wing Open. He will face freshman Rainer Caparas, who will be competing in just the second bout of his young career.
125-POUNDS: Senior Harvey White will step into the ring looking for his third straight Wing Open title in the 125-pound weight class. White will face freshman Nicholas Watts, who will be competing in just his second bout. White has amasses a perfect 3-0 record against his fellow cadets during the season's Friday Night Fights.
132-POUNDS: The 132-pound bout features a pair of Wing Open champions. Senior Dave Simon is the defending champion in that weight class, while classmate Dean Chuva won the 112-pound title one year ago. Although it is his first year in the 132-pound final, it is the fourth straight year that Chuva, the defending NCBA national champion at 112 pounds, has advanced to the Wing Open finals. Simon is making his third appearance to the main ring at Clune. Having faced each other twice this season, Chuva holds a 2-0 mark against Simon.
139-POUNDS: Junior Seth Gunn and freshman Daniel Starr will face off with one another in the 139-pound final. It is the second appearance in the finals for Gunn, who was the runner-up during the 2007 championships. Having started his Wing Open journey in the quarterfinal round, Starr is 2-0 in the tournament and 3-1 overall. Gunn, holding an even seasonal record at 2-2, is 1-0 in the Wing Open.
147-POUNDS: The 147-pound bout is the only rematch from last year's championship. In order to defend his Wing Open title, senior Nathan Liptak will have to get past sophomore Michael Dunn. In 2008, both boxers were newcomers to championship round, as Liptak took the decision from Dunn. The senior has an advantage over the sophomore this year as well, earning a victory during the Jan. 16 round of Friday Night Fights.
156-POUNDS: Two new faces are featured in the finals of the 156-pounds weight class. Senior Rudy Bowen and freshman Tyrus Korecki will step into the ring for the first time. The pair has not faced one other during the season, although both are even on the season with matching 2-2 records.
165-POUNDS: Like the previous bout, the 165-pound bout features a pair of first-time finalists. With matching overall records of 4-1, senior Austin Almand will take on freshman Nick Cataldo in the Wing Open Championships. It will be the second time this season that the two have faced off inside the ring. Cataldo's only loss of the season came at the hands of Almand, who earned the decision over the newcomer during the Nov. 14 round of Friday Night Fights.
175-POUNDS: Looking for his second consecutive Wing Open title, senior Lucas Gagliardi will take on freshman Mike McLain in the 175-pound weight class. Gagliardi, who made his Wing Open debut last year, holds a perfect 6-0 mark on the season. The senior holds a 1-0 advantage over the youngster, having won by decision at the Feb. 6 round of Friday Night Fights.
185-POUNDS: Senior team captain Boyce Loomis enters the main ring for the 185-poudn bout with a third straight Wing Open title in his sight. Standing in his way is freshman Logan Brandt, a local contender from Colorado Springs. Although they have not faced one another during the Friday Night Fights season, Loomis is 2-0 against Academy boxers, while Brandt has split the season with a 1-1 record.
195-POUNDS: Although their roads to Clune Arena are vastly different, seniors Andrew Catoire and Kevin Williams will meet up in the 195-pound final. Catoire (2-3) returns to the weight class that earned him a championship title as a freshman, after spending two years competing at 175 pounds. Williams (1-1) recently joined the program following a successful four-year stint on the water polo team, where he served as team captain during the 2008 campaign.
HEAVYWEIGHT: After a two-year absence from the Wing Open card, the heavyweight contest returns to the center ring, as junior Cory Tintzman and sophomore Mike Chambers close out the afternoon. Tintzman is the defending champion, having won the 2008 title after going unopposed, while Chambers is a newcomer to the program. Both heavyweights are 3-2 on the year, having not faced one another during the regular season.