Not many people would stay in school longer than necessary.
But for Zach Smith, the chance to win a national boxing championship was worth staying in college another year.
“To always be able to look back on this and say I did it. I won a national championship,” Smith said of his motivation.
He’s fought at nationals every year he’s been boxing, but the championship has eluded him, so far.
Smith, a Galena grad and a senior at Nevada, and the rest of the Nevada club boxing team begin their pursuit of Regional, and then national titles, this week. The Western Regionals are Thursday-Saturday at the Eldorado Resort Casino in downtown Reno.
Smith could have graduated last semester, but he is staying in school an extra semester to go after the national title that has eluded him the last three years.
He is the lone remaining member of the Nevada team that won the national title in 2015 who is still boxing on the team. Jarred Santos, Garrett Felling and JJ Mariano were also on that team and they help coach the younger boxers now.
Smith is the only senior on the team this year.
“Being the only senior, it’s a little different, I want to be sure I’m setting the tone for the guys to come,” Smith said.
He is 3-0 this year, 18-6 in his career at Nevada.
Nevada coach Pat Jefferson said Smith has the conditioning, experience and talent to take the championship this year.
Nationals are in April at West Point.
“His mental makeup is set to win, because he’s in great condition,” Jefferson said. “If you’re not in great condition, that’s when mentally you break down a little bit over time. He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in, so that’s why he’ll box the best he ever has.”
Smith’s major is public health and he works at the fitness center at Saint Mary’s.
There are eight quarterfinal bouts scheduled for Thursday, starting at 7 p.m. No Nevada boxers are competing Thursday. Admission is free Thursday. On Friday, there are 18 semifinal bouts, starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $15 that day.
On Saturday, there is one session, with 16 championship bouts scheduled for 6 p.m. Admission is $15.
In addition to Smith, boxing at 156 pounds, Nevada will have Dustin Congdon (132); Dillon Maguin (156) and Nate Strother (165). They all went to nationals last year.
Of the group, only Smith advanced to to finals last year. The boxer who won last year is gone now, clearing the road for Smith.
Smith has relished his time boxing and admits it will be bittersweet when his career is done.
“It’s all going to be over at once. I’ll have my degree, school will be done, boxing will be done. I’ll have nothing to do,” Smith said, smiling.
Smith said his older brother, Sinjen Smith, a local MMA fighter, is a big part of his wanting to earn a national championship.
“He’s big inspiration to me. Sometimes I feel he wants me to win this title more than I do,” Smith said. “He’s always in the back of my head, pushing, and I’m pushing him to do big things too.”