INSIDER: Ellinwood finds his place as club co-president
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, February 26, 2016
Since he first stepped into the ring three years ago, senior Jason “Downtown” Ellinwood has seen Bengal Bouts take on a different meaning for him. The Fisher resident joined the club after transferring to Notre Dame as a sophomore, and at first, he simply thought of the club as an interesting way to meet new people and stay in shape.
“I came to campus and was just getting acquainted with all the different activities and things to do,” Ellinwood said. “I saw that there was a boxing program and thought that that was pretty unique for a school to have a competitive boxing program.”
Ellinwood’s first season was an undeniable success. He won the 166-pound bracket, defeating current co-captain Michael Grasso in the finals. He was invited back the following year as a captain and had another successful season, but fell to graduate student Brendan Lesch in the final round of the 178-pound weight class.
This year, Ellinwood maintains his role as captain, but has also taken on the title of co-President of Bengal Bouts. Along with taking on high-ranking roles in the club, Ellinwood has found a deeper meaning to Bengal Bouts.
“My first year, I was here for the boxing,” Ellinwood said. “It was super fun; it was a great way to stay in shape, learn a new sport and have an athletic opportunity that you wouldn’t have anywhere else. But coming back as a captain, learning more about the mission, and really having to hold that mission aspect and remind guys and keep that present and living has helped me to connect much more deeply with it.”
Ellinwood said he has made it one of his main goals as captain to ensure that the mission is at the forefront of the fighters’ minds and that everyone fully understands that Bengal Bouts is about more than boxing.
“Find something that drives you to be here other than personal success,” Ellinwood said. “It’s something we say often. Half the guys are done with the boxing after the first round of competition. So really, to have a wholesome experience and to get something out of this program, you need to be here for another reason. And obviously, we promote the mission as that reason. To fight and train for something bigger than yourself.”
Ellinwood is looking to raise the bar as captain this year, as the club pushes itself to be more successful than ever following a record-setting year in 2015.
“We had the most successful season we’ve ever had last year,” Ellinwood said. “We raised a huge amount of money. We actually sent over $130,000 overseas to Bangladesh and we don’t want this season to be a letdown after the success we had last year. We learned a lot from the leadership of the program last year, in terms of motivating guys and helping them buy into the whole fundraising aspect.
“My goal is just to provide a successful follow-up to last year.”
The impact Bengal Bouts makes on the Holy Cross Mission in Bangladesh is undeniable and it is one of the aspects of the Bouts that is unique to Notre Dame, Ellinwood said. However, another of the boxing club’s defining features, which cannot be found elsewhere, is the bond between the boxers, he added.
“I think it’s rare, especially in a very individual sport like boxing, to have such a unified team,” Ellinwood said. “It really is special in that way. If you see one of the bouts, the guys fight for close to five minutes, and at the end of it, they always hug. It’s kind of amazing to see teammates come together like that after fighting with each other and competing so intensely.”
While the mission and camaraderie have been definite motivating factors in Ellinwood’s Bengal Bouts career, the competition is still very important to him, he said, as he looks to take home a second title in three years and make his third consecutive trip to the final round, this year in the 191-lb bracket.
“[I want to] get back to the finals and take care of business,” Ellinwood said. “That’s pretty simple. It’s kind of the same goal every year.”