Penn State crowned another National Champion in Reno, NV this weekend! You probably know the NCAA Wrestling tournament was held in Pittsburgh and has been over for weeks. You also might be thinking–the US Open is in Nevada, so perhaps this refers to a Freestyle or Greco Roman champion. However, US Opens are held in Las Vegas this year, and don’t start until April 24th. No, we are not referring to a wrestling champ, but to another mano a mano sport–Boxing. Musa Al-Sulaimani became Penn State’s first male Boxing National Champion in over a decade at the National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) Championships in Reno!
If it weren’t for a heartbreaking split decision of his training partner and college roomate, Ian Vernon, Penn State would have taken two championship belts home this year. Vernon defeated the returning national champ and the hometown Nevada boxer before losing the close decision in the finals.
Boxing is a Club Sport at Penn State, consisting of a competitive team that trains the same as a varsity sport would. Those who make the Regionals/Nationals team train twice a day, every day. Last year, Penn State sent nine boxers to Nationals ending with a National Champion, two National Runner- Ups, and six All- Americans. This year, Moose (as he is known) Al-Sulaimani took the gold and Ian Vernon took silver. Peter Kondrat, and female team members Micaela Murphy and Eliza Kuener earned All-American honors.
Penn State Boxing has been making a statement these last few years. With the coaching of Os Omo-Osagie and Marc Hessel, this program continues to be successful each year. It wasn’t until 2017 that Captain Taylor Varner (147) brought home Penn State’s first Champion belt in over a decade. Following her success, this year’s current captain, Eliza Kuehner (119), brought home the belt for the second consecutive year. And of course this year, Musa became the third consecutive Champion and first male in over a decade.
Eliza is a two time All-American and lost split decision in the semi- finals this year in Reno. She is a senior finishing with an 8-5 record. Peter Kondrat (156) is one of the five All- Americans this weekend. His teammates say it was his best fight yet and he dominated every round, but unfortunately the judges saw it differently. Micaela Murphy (165) also lost in the semi- finals as the fifth All- American. She has improved as a boxer since last year and will take the role of President in this upcoming year. Jackson Creighton (185) lost to a tough opponent in the quarterfinals. Jackson will be one of the few members from this year’s National team returning next year. This group of boxers competed in Regionals/ Nationals last year together as well. They have set a standard on what it takes to compete in such a demanding sport, and make it to the Nationals level.
You probably don’t want to step in the ring with these All-Americans on your first day (any more than Micah Parsons really wants to get on the mat with Bo Nickal or Anthony Cassar). However, if you are a boxer, any student can join the club team. The club team meets twice a week, and you can get started regardless of your experience level. Once club members have had a change to build up their skills and conditioning, tryouts are held once a semester to join the competitive team.