Boxing Club at Potomac State College Packs a Punch

By Roy Harper

KEYSER, WV -- One of the newest student organizations at Potomac State College of West Virginia University may not be the largest but it’s most definitely the hardest hitting -- in the face that is.

The Boxing Club at PSC is having its own Cinderella story of accomplishments in the short time it’s been in existence. Head Coach Tom Hartman gets right to the point when he shares the simple reason the team has been successful: "It's not easy. Just a lot of hard work at the gym."

The Boxing Club has been competing a full schedule so far this year, including: the Shippensburg Invitational at Shippensburg, Pa.; the Penn State Invitational at Penn State, Pa.; the Lock Haven Invitational at Lock Haven, Pa.; and the upcoming Maryland Invitational at College Park, Md. on March 3rd.

The hard work that Hartman speaks of does indeed bring success. At the Lock Haven Invitational this past week several fighting Catamounts had their share of 'Rocky' type victories at the event.

Josh Connor, fighting in the 139 lb. weight class, won a unanimous decision over Rui Ponte from the University of Maryland making his record 2-1. Conner, from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., is serving his second term as president of the PSC Boxing Club.

Fellow teammate Dione McKewn, fighting at 185 pounds, from Highland Falls, N.Y., lost a split decision with Louis Thorne, also from the University of Maryland.

Alec Peer, from Fort Ashby, W.Va., who weighed in at 132 pounds, won a unanimous decision over Tyler Shelton, who was representing the University of North Carolina.

The dedication that Hartman expects goes beyond the gym. While there are no NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) eligibility requirements, Hartman has his own set of academic expectations. "A student, in order to be with the club, must carry a 2.0 average or better at each midterm," said Hartman.

"This year there was a student who was struggling academically during the first semester. I told him he could not participate. He worked hard and brought his grade point average up to a 4.0. He then competed last week at the Lock Haven event and won his first bout. It takes a certain type of person to do that," added Hartman.

Hartman also has a legitimate perspective on what type of person it takes to be successful in the ring.

He started boxing when he was 19 years old while in the Navy. He had 13 matches with 0 loses in non-registered matches. He later registered with the USA Boxing Association and had a record of 33 wins and 3 loses including two open class Golden Glove Championship fights.

He then turned his attention to training fighters in the Cumberland, Md., and the Keyser, W.Va., areas. In all, Hartman has more than 35 years experience in fighting and training boxers for competition.

The Fighting Catamounts put in their fair share of work to prepare for the rigors of standing in the center of the ring.

Hartman begins workouts at 3:30 p.m. and usually ends around 6 p.m. Team members are required to make at least two workouts per week off campus as Potomac State does not currently offer facilities on campus. However, Hartman usually doesn't have to worry about those two workouts.

"The team has been real steady at making three [workouts] per week, said Hartman. "Those who are going to compete travel with me to other gyms to spar. Last semester we went to Virginia Military Institute and spared their team. We also went to a private gym in Morgantown and spared individuals. It's very important that boxers are aware of what they are getting into, especially to know the difference between being in shape and being in fighting shape."

Hartman has lofty goals as anyone who knows him may expect.

"The goal for the Boxing Club is to, in time, produce regional and national champions at a collegiate level. This takes time, but it is possible," stated Hartman.

They say anything is possible with hard work. With the efforts of the Boxing Club at Potomac State it is very obvious they already know that.