INSIDER: Success motivates Grasso
Joe Everett | Friday, February 26, 2016
For Mike Grasso, a senior captain from Stratford, Connecticut, choosing to box at Notre Dame was not a hard decision. With the dedicated encouragement and support of his sophomore year RA, Jeff Ulrich, Grasso grew accustomed to the sport and recognized its benefits, ultimately deciding it was for him.
“Sophomore year, I was lucky enough to have [Ulrich], who had competed in Bengal Bouts for fours years,” Grasso said. “He was a two-year captain and won his senior year. Jeff really supported me to join the club, and I had no hesitation after watching the Bouts the previous year. Seeing the great competition made me very interested”.
However, Grasso’s roots with boxing stretch much further than Notre Dame. He said remembers the boxing stories his great-grandfather use to tell him growing up; stories that made quite an impression on the now-senior captain.
“My great-grandpa was also a boxer,” Grasso said. “He would always tell me stories about his boxing matches. He competed in the Golden Gloves, because in the [1940s] and [1950s] boxing was the go-to sport. It was what kids were playing, going to boxing clubs after school. So I’d always heard stories, and then with Jeff as my RA it really wasn’t a hard decision for me”.
This is the 86th year of the Bengal Bouts tournament, but it’s purpose of raising funds for the Holy Cross Mission in Bangladesh remains the same as it did in 1931. The motto of the Bouts: “Strong Bodies Fight, That Weak Bodies May Be Nourished” resonates strongly with boxers such as Grasso, who sees the Bouts as an opportunity not only to improve the lives of people halfway around the world, but to also improve himself individually. With the Bengal Bouts being such a multi-faceted event, Grasso said he appreciates the many areas where the experience of boxing at Notre Dame has helped him grow. Especially now as a senior and captain, he understands the cause of working to provide help for those who need it in Bangladesh.
“I’ve always enjoyed being able to push myself physically,” Grasso said. “Seeing how far you can push yourself before your body starts caving in and before you mentally start breaking down — that physical aspect of the club really appealed to me … finding your limit, and then exceeding it the next week at practice.
“However, with the Bouts it’s twofold with the fundraising and the giving back that we do, so now as a senior captain you get a different perspective on the fundraising, because instead of just kind of being in charge of yourself and your own fundraising, as I was the last two years, now it’s more encouraging the other 150-plus guys in order to pull their weight out of the fundraising, and really seeing what kind of impact this can have in Bangladesh. So pushing yourself physically, mentally and exceeding those expectations, but also the giving back aspect are obviously the two best parts of Bengal Bouts”.
Winning the championship as a senior captain would mean a lot for Grasso, who lost in the final of the 166-pound weight class his sophomore year to Jason Ellinwood and then lost in the semifinal of last years 167-pound weight class to fellow senior captain Patrick Shea. These past losses have served as strong motivation for Grasso as he eyes the 157-pound weight class title in his final year.
“There is big time motivation for me, and I’m really seeing my experience in the club coming full circle, so hopefully it all works out and we have a good fight on Tuesday,” Grasso said.