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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Bengal Bouts senior captains speak to transformative power of program

The Observer Speaks to the Bengal Bouts Senior Captains

A storied tradition at the heart of Notre Dame's campus,  Bengal Bouts is back. The program traces its roots back to 1920 when it was established by legendary football coach Knute Rockne as an off-season conditioning regimen for his players. However, it wasn't until 1931 that Bengal Bouts discovered its true purpose — serving the minority Catholic community in Bangladesh. Today, the club strives to “strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished,” echoing its commitment to supporting the Congregation of Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh.

With a fundraising goal of $275,000, the Bengal Bouts, led by senior captains, embody resilience and dedication to their mission. As a large student organization, the club utilizes the experiences of adult coaches, but primarily, the boxers rely on the seasoned experience of senior captains, all students at Notre Dame. The Observer caught up with a handful of the captains who spoke to their experience with the program.

Andrew Cassidy

Andrew Cassidy, a finance and philosophy major hailing from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, steps into his first year as a captain. His journey began in his sophomore year, navigating the challenges of virtual workouts. Now living off-campus, the former Keenan resident kept hearing about the club from guys around the dorm. 

Cassidy found a desire to learn something new and embraced the ring, fighting in tournaments and setting his sights on taking home a championship this year. He’s been close in his last two, losing in the semifinals his first tournament and then the finals last year. 

Beyond the physical aspects, he attests to the discipline and composure boxing instills, a trait he carries into all facets of life.

“You’ll hear from the guys that nothing really phases them,” said Cassidy. “[The program] teaches you a kind of composure necessary for success in the ring. You can’t help but carry that over into real life.”

Cassidy said that as he heads into the banking world, he hopes to include elements of boxing in his workout plan. 

Damien Sylva

Joining Cassidy is Damien Sylva, a finance and ACMS major from Morristown, New Jersey. Sylva’s connection to Bengal Bouts began before Notre Dame, with alumni of his high school sharing great accounts of the club. Starting his sophomore year, Sylva immediately fell in love with the sport, dedicating himself to regular practices. Despite lacking official boxing experience, his love of UFC gave him a sense of what he might expect. 

Sylva’s goal is clear: to triumph in the finals, a pursuit that extends beyond the ring, providing stress relief in his demanding schedule. He called Bengal Bouts his “main thing at Notre Dame.”

Sylva expressed a love of the serenity Bengal Bouts brings, something he hopes to take with him after graduation as he enters the investment banking world.

“Last year, I left it all out there,” he said. “I had no idea who won”.

While disappointed in his loss, he was confident in his work, propelling him for another hard year of training in order to continue to compete for a title this year.

Niko Tarasenko

Niko Tarasenko, a computer science major from Long Island, New York, heard about Bengal Bouts before arriving at Notre Dame. In fact, it was one of the main reasons that he applied.

Driven by the camaraderie and a desire to engage in boxing or martial arts, Tarasenko was drawn to the club's unique community. The aura held up. Tarasenko described the guys involved as “really just the best group of people.”

Tarasenko loves boxing, but his main focus in the club has been mentoring younger athletes.

“I call them kids,” he says, “because they’re like my kids. I want to change kids’ lives.”

Tarasenko said that when he initially joined the club, he lacked confidence, and senior leaders helped him develop confidence both inside and outside the ring. Next year, Tarasenko will join the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer after participating in Naval/Marine ROTC on campus. He envisions serving as a platoon leader. He stated that he believes his experience leading a group of guys through Bengal Bouts is a great step in developing the skills to lead a larger group.

Jack Lannon

From River Forest, Illinois, Jack Lannon is eager to step into the ring this year. A finance major, Jack was unaware of the club before coming to Notre Dame, but friends from Knott Hall (his former dorm) thought it would be a place he’d love.

“Some guys I knew just really thought it would be a great place for me,” he said. “And I’m glad they pointed me in this direction because I never looked back.”

Lannon has been involved in Bengal Bouts since his freshman year, and although he had to deal with the COVID restrictions in 2021, he said that he was grateful for some of  the unique experiences. 

“During that year, there was a lot more talking and focusing on personal development which was very helpful,” Lannon said.

As Lannon heads into the finance world in Chicago, he looks to stay close to the club, and he already is looking forward to coming back to campus next year to watch his mentees battle.

Nolan Lyon

Nolan Lyon, a business analytics and economics student from Cincinnati, joined Bengal Bouts in his sophomore year, initially drawn just out of curiosity. Now in his senior year, Lyon emphasizes the importance of different leadership styles within the club. 

His commitment extends to setting the tone with actions, putting in the work six days a week, and leading by example. He emphasized being consistently present, saying that a lot of his impact has come from being accessible to younger boxers before and after practice. Beyond the win-loss dynamic, Lyon sees Bengal Bouts as an opportunity to showcase his hard work and put on a display of resilience under the bright lights of Purcell Pavilion. 

When asked how the final round environment in Purcell compares to the first couple of rounds in Dahnke, Lyon stated that “the lights are literally and figuratively brighter.”

Yet regardless of the venue, Lyon emphasized that his goals go far beyond winning.

“It’s more than just win or lose. It’s about putting on a great display of work," Lyon said.

The action ahead

As these leaders prepare for the tournament, their stories serve as a powerful testament to the club’s impact on one’s personal and physical growth. They are assisted in their duties by Mike Guyette and Marcello Nanni, who also serves as senior captains.

Under the bright lights of Purcell Pavilion, Bengal Bouts emerges as a beacon of purpose, service and everlasting fraternity. 

This year’s Bengal Bouts begin with the quarterfinals on Thursday, February 15th at 7:00 p.m. in Duncan Student Center. Tickets can be purchased from any boxer or on the Bengal Bouts website. 

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