The National Collegiate Boxing Association’s 2017-2018 season kicked off for the Nevada Wolf Pack on Oct. 19 in the Circus Circus Mandalay Ballrooms with two wins and three losses. While Dustin Congdon and Zack Smith took home the Ws for Nevada, every fight was contentious and one was arguably controversial.

After three months of preparation for their bouts against the Air Force Academy, Nevada boxing finally got to punch the cobwebs off, and see where their five-man team stood in comparison to the rest.

Congdon V.S. Farqaleet

The first fight of the night featured two southpaws clashing with Congdon squaring off against Air Force’s Osama Farqaleet at 132 pounds. Round one was a draw, but Farqaleet took the beginning stages of the round as he slipped a host of punches and came back with well-timed counter punches. Congdon started to gather himself toward the end of the round as both fighters put one another on the ropes as the last few second ticked off the timer.

After the first round something clicked in Congdon’s head. The second round featured an onslaught of punches coming from Nevada’s fighter. Farqaleet was on the run for a majority of the round. Finally Congdon landed a huge combo that stunned Farqaleet, landing four head shots and a body shot. Directly after this vicious combo Farqaleet got an eight-count from the ref and the Air Force corner called the fight. Congdon was victorious through TKO in the second round and even though he won before the third bell, it was not an easy fight for Congdon.

“He caught me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting a southpaw, none of us were,” Congdon said. “Us southpaws don’t expect southpaws. It’s like lefties, they’re not common. I wasn’t training for that until I stepped in the ring. Just kind of had to switch gears mentally.”

After Congdon’s loss in the semifinals last season, he looks like he gained a step during the offseason and is ready for any fighter the NCBA has to throw at him.

Maguin V.S. Chieves

Nevada’s Dillon Maguin took on Sean Chieves at 142 pounds for Nevada’s second match of the contest. The fight went three rounds with neither fighter truly gaining an edge. The first round appeared to go to Maguin as he was the main aggressor that round, landing a majority of his shots. Round two was a toss up, starting with an all out brawl in the middle of the ring. Round three went to Chieves as he had Maguin against the ropes at one point and was always walking Maguin down. Chieves went on to win the match through a split decision.

“I think most of the fight was caught in the first,” Maguin said. “He caught a good one in the second but I just need to be more aggressive.”

Maguin opens the season on a loss, but there is a great deal of boxing left to be had.

Strother V.S. Bseiso

Returning Nevada fighter Nate Strother’s questionable loss against Air Force’s Naji Bseiso threw the entire Reno crowd for a whirl as boos rained down after Bseiso was announced the winner. The only part of the fight Strother lost was mid first round. Strother got caught off balance and Bseiso took advantage of the situation knocking Strother down for an eight count. After the first, Strother dominated the next two rounds as he pressed the pace and continuously had Bseiso on the ropes. Even with Strother winning what appeared two rounds to one, Bseiso was the victor on the night through split decision. Strother too thought he was a shoo-in after the first.

“He just caught me with one good hit right at the beginning,” Strother said. “I feel like past that point I won every single round. I understand why they’d give the first round to him because he got the knock down. But I don’t get the second or the third round. I thought I clearly won both of those.”

While Strother may be down in the record column, the fight was thrilling until the bitter end. An early loss should be taken with a grain of salt, but the first fight of the season comes with a great deal of nervousness and preseason jitters.

Steele V.S. Smith

Eden Steele had his Nevada Boxing debut last Thursday fighting against an experienced Air Force fighter in Cenada Clifton-Smith. The fight only went two rounds before the Nevada corner called the fight. Steele had good circling in the first, but couldn’t put together any combinations to inflict damage on his opponent. While Steele may have lost his first collegiate boxing match, it’s not uncommon to see early failures precede later success.

“What I gain from this is that I need to work harder,” Steele said. “I need to work on my foot work and I need to work on my power. When I was trying to get him I was getting hit, getting tagged. Wasn’t really what I expected. But overall I just have to work harder and come back harder next fight.”

Steele’s optimism will go a long way in boxing, because he truly aspires to improve with every punch and bead of sweat expended.

Smith V.S. Smith

Fan favorite, seasoned veteran Zack Smith took on Devon Smith from Air Force Academy for the last match of the evening. Nevada’s Smith looked perfectly comfortable from the jump of the fight. He continually played mental games with his Air Force opponent as he was always stepping forward and using his feints to throw AFA’s Smith off of his scent. Every shot Nevada’s Smith threw was calculated and perfectly placed. His knee seemed to be a non-factor for the entire fight, as he came out with Nevada’s second win of the night. Much of Smith’s success in fights stem from his hard work outside of the ring.

“I’m running every single day,” Smith said. “Doing time on my miles. Timing my three miles. Doing dozens of dozens of hundred yard sprints. That’s what really gets me at that level.”

Smith and Congdon highlighted the performances for Nevada with their wins of the night, but Maguin and Steele showed some promise and Strother’s fight still doesn’t appear to have gone in the right direction. Even with that being said, Nevada looks to add another NCBA National Championship title to their trophy case, since the last one came at the gloves of Garrett Felling in 2015. Nevada’s next stop for boxing is the Big Apple, as Congdon, Smith and Strother travel to take on some experienced competition across the country.