Five Fighters To Represent Lion Heart At National Muay Thai Event
Balancing school work with daily workouts, a strict diet, and competition is a combination we often associate with the 800 student-athletes we see around campus. However, five current Penn State students prove there are athletes in Happy Valley committed to a sport that transcends the blue and white.
Penn State’s own Bruce Lombard has spent the past year training seven Muay Thai fighters at Lion Heart Fitness for an upcoming competition in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
“We’ve had well over 20 Muay Thai fighters train with us over the last 15 years,” Lombard said. “This is a very unusual situation because people who train with us typically train for a couple years and then stick with us for a few years after. A lot of these fighters started last spring, went home for the summer, and returned to training in the fall.”
Five of Lombard’s competitors are training for the USKA Fight Night on April 23 at the Hamburg Field House in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, a fight that consists of three two-minute rounds with 60-second rests between each round. Fighters wear head gear and shin guards; they are allowed to punch, kick, knee, and clinch their opponent.
Lombard’s fighters have two or three training classes per week in addition to their own individual workouts. Fighters are recommended to stick to a healthy diet and limit their drinking to little or none. “They kickbox four days a week, they’re expected to get weight training in three times a week, and they’re expected to run four times a week,” Lombard said.
Lombard’s 12-week training camp kicked off at the beginning of February and is the final step in preparing his athletes for their April fight. Weeks one through four focused on conditioning and perfecting basic level drills. The following weeks transitioned to more advanced drills and light sparring. The final four weeks are dedicated to personal strengths, hard sparring, and focusing on their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
“The commitment to the sport is just as big as any sport. They commit to being an athlete and a student, they give up part of their social life, and they take the risk of getting hurt,” Lombard said. “You can get knocked out, you can break bones. It’s a hard commitment for a college student to make..for anyone to make really.”
Fighters usually train with Lombard for about two-and-a-half years before they are allowed to get in the ring. However, Lombard was quick to explain that this year’s group of fighters is committed and excited for the fight. “We’re ready to throw them into the fire,” he said.
Corey Tighlman, war veteran and Penn State junior, is entering his 12th competition in April. “I’ve done sports as long as I can remember and I’m not at the point where I’m ready to stop competing,” Tighlman said. “It’s in my personal nature to be competitive. Not in the sense that I compete in every aspect of my life, it’s just a way for me to push myself and grow in abnormal situations.”
Tighlman also coaches alongside Lombard; both feel that the fighters are prepared for the upcoming competition but agree that successful preparation is what will lead to a successful outcome.
“We all have the skill and the technique but it’s about having your body prepared for such an adrenaline shock,” Tighlman said. “You’re putting yourself in harm’s way and the best way to prepare for that is pushing yourself ahead of time.”
All the athletes are excited for the upcoming month; each competitor agrees that Lombard’s training has really helped them prepare for the forthcoming challenge.
“Bruce does a great job at preparing us for every aspect we’re going to be facing,” said graduating senior Adam Cole.
Senior Khaled Sabah admitted that although he feels prepared, they’re still six weeks from the fight. “Every day we’re getting better and closer to the fight,” he said.
Meghan O’Toole is a Penn State sophomore, ROTC member, and one of two females that has been training with Lombard. “I chose to competitively fight to leave my comfort zone,” she said. “It’s a way to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and give myself more mental toughness.”
“I get to train with people who are physically stronger than me, it’s better preparation for my opponent and I can use that to my advantage,” O’Toole said of her male training partners.
“It really is a great sport,” Lombard said. “It’s different because the athletes are risking their bodies. But it’s rewarding because they challenge themselves both physically and mentally. No one knows if they can handle this sport until they punched in the face.”
Despite feeling prepared, the student fighters have personal concerns and nerves for their upcoming fight. “The thing that makes me a little nervous is being in the arena with the lights around you. It’s so fast paced and I have to give 100 percent,” Sabah said. “It’s much different from the training process.”
Lombard’s fighters have won more than 80 percent of their fights and he’s hopeful for this year’s dedicated athletes. Seniors Kahled Sabah, Daniel Yoo, Adam Cole, junior Corey Tighlman, and sophomore Meghan O’Toole will represent Lombard’s camp during the USKA event in mid April.