Henderson Gymnasium used to be the home of Shippensburg University basketball and volleyball before Heiges Field House was constructed.
The gym is now used for indoor softball practice while the locker rooms on the lower floor are used by the softball, lacrosse and soccer teams.
One aspect of Henderson Gym that many people do not know exists is the boxing room, which was the training facility for two All-Americans along with three national tournament competitors in 2014.
The SU boxing club is overlooked a lot of the time because it is not among the top sports at SU.
Despite the lack of publicity, it does not stop the team and fighters from making noise inside the ring.
SU sent three boxers, Emily Appleman, Tylik Guilford and Luke Belski, to nationals this year, but they overcame a hard fought journey to get there.
Before getting to the national stage the preparation starts once the boxers step onto the SU campus. According to head coach Travis Wylie approximately 100 potential boxers come out to the first week of practice which takes place on the recreation fields. The first few weeks are used for conditioning, a span where, from what Wylie says, is when the weak dwindle out.
From there the team moves into a small room on the bottom floor of Henderson Gym. This room has a few heavy bags, one speed bag and a few scales along with a boxing ring.
From that point on it is all work for the select few that decide to take on the challenge of being a boxer.
The ones that do stay do not have an easy road ahead of them, but they never stop improving.
“I am the smallest guy here,” Belski said. “I always have to spar with guys that are bigger than me, but when I finally get into the ring to fight someone my own size their punches do not phase me.”
Appleman faces a big challenge every time she steps into the ring during practice, being that she is the only girl on the team. She does not see that as a downfall, only something that can make her better.
“I go into the ring and fight some of the girls I am used to getting hit by the guys,” Appleman said. “I know they (the girls) will not knock me out, I just go in the ring and do what you have to do.”
Training varies from day-to-day for the boxers, but something that always stays true is working on cardio, hitting the speed bag and increasing their punching power by hitting the heavy bag.
Wylie says his fighter’s progress quickly from training session to training session and for good reason.
“Each week we film them, study their weaknesses and then the following week we work on drilling, they no longer become weaknesses,” Wylie said. “The next thing you know they become a well-rounded boxer.”
The season is a long one, mostly comprised of training with a few individual bouts, including a home event that the team held in the beginning of February.
The fighters use these fights to perfect their skills before stepping into the ring on the big stage.
“Just like any other fight we go to, it gives us experience,” Appleman said.
SU held a successful home event earlier this year that attracted a good crowd and allowed the boxers to showcase their skills.
The next stage is the national tournament, where the boxers compete against the best competition from around the United States.
The boxers say they try to stick to their normal routine, despite having such a big fight.
“A lot of it is just staying calm,” Guilford said. “You want sparring to feel just like that national event, you just want to have fun.”
The days leading up to the big fights can be long but once the big fight comes it is all business.
“I like staying calm,” Guilford said. “When you stay calm you remember your technique and can listen to coach.”
From a coaching standpoint, Wylie tries to keep his coaching style the same when the big time comes.
“I try not to change at all, I try to be the same person during nationals,” Wylie said. “It would not be right for me to change — you do not want them to change their styles.”
Nationals treated the team well this season, Appleman and Belski were named All-Americans while Guilford made it to the quarterfinals.
Guilford lost his bout by disqualification. From what Wylie said, Guilford got hit with a strong punch that caused his jaw to need some adjusting. The boxer was unable to keep his mouthpiece in, as it fell out when he threw punches and was eventually disqualified.
Wylie says the future looks bright for the team with the core group of boxers that he has returning.
“Top three team in the nation, I will be drilling that into their heads from the get-go,” Wylie said. “If everyone lives up to their expectations we can honestly make a run at the national team title.”
Wylie says coaching a team or an individual to a national title would awesome. He noted that this year was a big step in that direction and he expects more of the same in the years to come.