By Neil Patrick Healy
The Nevada boxing program is built on the concept of tradition. This tradition comes from developing elite collegiate boxers who win national championships, but it takes shape in another way. The current coaching staff is comprised of former Nevada boxing champions and they continue to carry the torch. The new coaching generation begins to take shape in the form of former 132-pound national champion Jarred Santos. After winning the national championship last April, Santos looks to give back to the program and continue the Nevada coaching lineage.
While he was still a fighter, Santos was looked to as a leader and the team followed his example. Now that he is retired from fighting and set to graduate in the spring, some may feel the team will look at Santos in another light with his new role, but the team has responded as they always have.
“What’s so great about having Jarred around is that things haven’t really changed,” said teammate Garrett Felling. “When I started coming to the gym I looked to Jarred as a leader and he’s always pushed us harder than we could ever have pushed ourselves, and now that he’s not boxing anymore he brings the same thing as a coach. I still look to him as my captain and it’s great for all of us on the team to continue to have him around and to push us.”
Since taking over his new role, Santos has noticed the differences from being in the ring and coaching from the corner.
“It’s really great to see boxing from the coaching point of view,” Santos said. “Teaching kids how to box is like seeing someone learn how to walk. When I was a fighter I came into the gym looking to work on myself, but as a coach I have to see everyone and look to see who needs to improve on what.”
Santos’ biggest role right now is being a coach that spars with the fighters. From there, the coaches look for Santos to expand his role.
“As a coach he’s a huge benefit because we’ll have him around for a couple years and he’s in shape to work with kids in the ring and spar the guys,” Schellin said. “I’d like to see him take over down the road. There’s still some things we’re teaching him about his own game and some training techniques, but he’s a great candidate to continue the tradition here.”
Santos insists that he isn’t anything more than a glorified sparring partner, but he is the latest of a long line of former fighters turned coaches. Head coach Pat Schellin fought in 1968 and 1972-1974 (after serving in Vietnam from 1969-1971) and only lost one career fight. Assistant coach Dan Holmes fought from 1982-1986 and won a national title in 1985, and former coach and current executive director of USA Boxing Mike Martino fought in the 1970s.
“It’s a tradition not purposely started,” Santos said. “We come in here young and stupid little boys and we come out men after learning the work ethic and values it takes to box and it makes you appreciate it and want to see people do the same thing.”
This season, Santos is an extra hand helping out while he finishes his art major and psychology minor. In the future he may take a more hands-on role with the program.
“Boxing is a love-hate relationship,” Santos said. “You hate it sometimes, but you can’t seem to walk away.”
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NeilTheJuiceMan.