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Kotey racking up KOs at Nevada

Placer grad thirsty for more success after national title
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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As a football player at Placer High, Ryan Kotey was a 160-pound linebacker going up against 260-pound linemen. Now that he boxes for the University of Nevada-Reno, he gets to pick on athletes his own size. In fact, Kotey bullied quite a few of them as a freshman last year en route to becoming the national champion at 165 pounds. He is 9-2 in his college boxing career and is scheduled to fight again on Feb. 29 when the Wolf Pack hosts the Nevada Invitational at Reno's El Dorado Hotel and Casino. Not bad for someone who only started boxing after his junior season of high school football. I'm not exceptionally fast, but I have a decent amount of power, Kotey said. My opponents respect that. They tend to be hesitant to throw light punches because I'll counter hard and do a lot of damage. According to Nevada boxing coach Mike Martino, Kotey ” whose weight normally hovers around 158 pounds ” was actually fighting in a higher weight class when he won the national championship. The Wolf Pack had a box-off before going to last year's regionals, and Kotey lost his 156-pound bout in practice to teammate Francisco Torres. It was just one of those weird turns of events you see in sports sometimes, Martino said. Ryan was not even our best 156-pounder, and he goes on to win the national 165-pound title. It was great for him and great for our team. Kotey will be fighting primarily in the 156-pound class this year, Martino said. Boxing seems like an unusual choice of sport for a civil engineering major like Kotey. Taking blows to the head, after all, doesn't seem to mix with taking math-intensive classes. Unlike professional boxers, however, college boxers wear headgear and use heavier gloves with more padding. Amateur boxing has been proven to be a relatively safe sport ” safer than football and other contact sports, said Kotey, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average. (Head injuries are) not one of my concerns. The extra padding in the gloves makes a big difference, he added. Plus, the refs are really cautious. Kotey considers himself to be what he calls an inside fighter. I prefer to be in tighter, Kotey said. I rely a lot on head movements, rolling under punches and throwing a lot of body shots and uppercuts. Kotey got started in boxing at Ringside Gym in Newcastle, where he trained under Greg Kirkpatrick. The individual nature of the sport appealed to Kotey. Everything's put on you, he said. In football, you've got 21 other guys, and one lets the whole team down when he's not training his hardest. Here, even though we're a team (at Nevada), when one person's not training his hardest, it doesn't affect my performance ” me getting up and running every day, me training at the gym as hard as I can. Kotey's self-motivation is probably his biggest asset as a boxer, Martino said. He's a very dedicated trainer, very disciplined, Martino said. He's a good student of the sport, and he really listens well. He's also a good puncher with a lot of power in both hands. Boxing is a club sport at Nevada, meaning it doesn't get funding through the school. Nor does the Wolf Pack, which finished fourth as a team at last year's nationals, have access to school facilities ” it trains at its own gym in downtown Reno. Still, Kotey said, the Wolf Pack doesn't have to do too much fund-raising for travel and other expenses. We're pretty well-funded by our alumni, Kotey said. They take pretty good care of us. It also helps to have a sponsor like the El Dorado, where Nevada hosts its home bouts. We bring in people for our events, Kotey said. They stay at their hotel and gamble at their casino. At the end of the year, they reflect some of that back to us. Kotey is not sure if he plans to box professionally or take a shot at the Olympics after college, though he's considered it. Right now I participate in boxing because I really enjoy it, he said. As far as carrying on beyond college, that's a long way off. I'll have to see how the next couple of years of college boxing goes. He won the national college championship as a freshman, Fitzpatrick said. His goal is to keep winning that. Hopefully he can win it several times. I'm sure he can do it.