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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

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Finding synergy: Rucki translates ROTC experience into the ring

“This is something you can’t do on any other college campus in the country on this level.” 

For senior Bengal Bouts vice president Rob Rucki, Bengal Bouts has been a constant source of pride during his time at Notre Dame. Arriving as a freshman during the infamous 2020 school year posed many social challenges on the closed campus. Despite his residence in Carroll Hall and participation in Naval ROTC (NROTC) Marine Corps, Rucki hoped to involve himself in something more athletically focused. When Rucki found Bengal Bouts, he was immediately hooked.

“Pretty much as soon as I heard there was boxing I was just like ‘that is awesome',” Rucki said. “I would argue that's almost every male’s reaction on campus. This is something you can’t do on any other college campus in the country on this level. It’s incredible. It really became an obsession and it had me in a chokehold before I was even at practice.”

Joining a tight-knight group during the COVID era provided a getaway for Rucki amidst a chaotic world. Despite a tournament cancellation that year, Rucki gained experience and built a passion for boxing that he would continue to carry throughout his time on Bengal Bouts.

“I could come here, hang out with a great group of dudes, get a killer workout in and learn a skill that has honestly changed my life physically, mentally, all of the above,” Rucki said.

Rucki entered the ring sophomore year, experiencing his first tournament and the various emotions associated with the Bouts. 

“The feeling of stepping into the ring is incomparable, it's incredible,” Ruck said. “It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life I think. It’s an adrenaline rush and it’s overcoming a fear that is really visceral.”

After not making it to the finals in 2022, Rucki set his sights on reaching Purcell Pavilion junior year. He was also chosen as a captain, increasing his involvement with the club. After a difficult battle in the final round, Rucki was eventually chosen as vice president at the end of his junior year, taking on a role where he specifically concentrates on the marketing side of the program.

“Just very grateful for the opportunity to step up even more so as VP,” Rucki said. “Me and Nick have put everything we have into fostering a culture of excellence, awesome camaraderie, incredible boxing and ultimately super strong fundraising.”

Fundraising is a core aspect of Bengal Bouts. Club members raise money for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh. Currently, the team is trying to raise $275,000 and is well on their way to shattering these fundraising goals.

“Ultimately there is a lot of service built into this very lonesome and personal sport that is boxing,” Rucki said. "At the same time, you are using that as a tool to do some real good in the world. That’s something I didn’t really expect coming in and it’s probably one of my favorite parts now.”

In addition to the fundraising aspect, there are many day-to-day operations Rucki wrangles, such as juggling an email list of over 1,000 people, preparing for the tournament and creating posters and marketing materials. When he finds himself caught up in the breadth of responsibilities necessary to make the tournament happen, Rucki reminds himself of the Bengal Bouts mission and the boxers who are invested.

“At the end of every practice we bring it in, we choose a boxer and he goes ‘1, 2, 3, sakti’ and we all say ‘sāhasa’,” Rucki said. “Sakti means strength and sāhasa means courage. It’s kind of our Bengali motto. It’s just a really cool moment at the end of practice after working so hard. It’s really the people that make the program so special.”

Rucki also takes an active role in running workouts and preparing the boxers to be fit for the tournament. Rucki’s involvement in NROTC Marine Corps has been directly helpful in developing the grit necessary while also having the confidence and presence to lead in the ring. Rucki holds physical therapy/fitness leadership positions within ROTC that have strengthened these skills. His participation in elite military programs has also increased his confidence. 

“I had the opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School this summer in the Marine Corps which is a really huge milestone for my ROTC program,” Rucki said. “It was six weeks of getting beat up, just really mentally taxing and it was a leadership development course. Having come back from that this summer really set my foundation for coming to the club and being able to have that presence.”

Immediately following graduation in May, Rucki will be commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps for a four-year service commitment. He aspires to be a pilot and will be working toward that goal during this time. 

“My future is more or less laid out for me and again it has a lot of synergy with what I’m doing in this program,” Rucki said. I know the skills and leadership lessons I’m learning here in The Pit can translate to the next decade in my life of being a Marine and flying cool stuff.”

In the meantime, Rucki is gearing up for what he hopes will be “the coolest tournament in the last 94 years.” When asked what people can do to support, Rucki emphasized the importance of showing up to the bouts.

“Come out to the bouts if you can, if you can’t, tune in online,” Rucki said. “We want to see a turnout on the 24th of February at Purcell Pavillion. It’s going to be an electric night with a lot of guys giving it their all in the ring.”

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