Chris Bertucci and Paul Hollwedel, both 1st class Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, became a part of history Friday night.
Both men won the U.S. Naval Academy’s Brigade Boxing Championship for the fourth time. The men joined an elite group of about 16 other people in the last 70 years who can claim to have won the event in each of their four years at the academy.
Hollwedel competed against Roberto Garcia, a 4th class Midshipman, in the 139-pound weight class. For Hollwedel, who stood next to a handful of other four-time champions of years past, the competition is an event he’s looked forward to each year.
“I love it. Brigade finals is Christmas to me,” said Hollwedel after winning. “The energy, the entire brigade comes out and gives us love ... this is what we train for.”
Bertucci competed against Midshipmen 3rd class Jack Morado in the 156-pound weight class. For Bertucci, a 2010 National Collegiate Boxing Association champion, it’s not just the winning. It's the spirit of the event and the camaraderie with the other midshipmen, including his opponent, that makes it so special.
“When it’s all said and done, we’re all on the same team,” he said, adding that they would all go on to be officers in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.
Bertucci's father, Bob, flew from Chicago to watch his son earn this honor.
And it’s that spirit and the tradition that brings many people there.
Curtis Broyles flew from Hawaii to watch his daughter Caralyn Broyles compete and win in the championship for the first time.
A former boxer himself, Broyles said he remembered his first fight.
“It's her first fight you know and I’m so proud of her,” he said.
And Will Kramer, who graduated from the class of 1978, joined a group of his former classmates, donning yellow shirts or hats, to take in the action inside the ring.
Kramer, who said he’s been back to watch for the last 6 or 7 years, noted that many of his former classmates come back each year.
“It’s a great event and I’m glad that I get to come back and see it,” he said.
Boxing has been a part of the U.S. Naval Academy since 1865, and today each midshipman takes boxing as a required course in the school’s physical education program. It is also a club sport, and members of the club team participate in the championship each year.
Navy Boxing head coach Jim McNally said the competition is just part of what the midshipmen are learning while at the academy.
“It epitomizes the warrior spirit that we’re instilling in the midshipmen,” he said.
McNally said now that the tradition is 70 years strong and many former champions have gone on to great careers in the Navy and Marine Corps, the current generation wants to be part of it.
“Every year is as good as the last,” he said.