Plainfield boxer wins second straight title, heads to regionals this weekend
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org January 3, 2013 5:20PM
Updated: February 5, 2013 6:22AM
PLAINFIELD — Erik Santiago, a 12-year-old boxer from Plainfield, has won his second straight Silver Gloves State Championship and will compete this weekend in the regional tournament in Kansas.
Erik won the Silver Gloves title in December 2011 and for a second time this past December in Rockford.
Now, he will box in the Great Lakes Regional Tournament in Wichita.
“I’m excited. I’m going to be a little nervous because it’s regionals — big stage,” Erik said Wednesday while taking a break from training at Rocket Boxing in Oswego.
“This is basically the best of the best, who come from all different regions,” said coach Chris Chodhary, who has trained Erik through the two state championships.
If Erik wins in Kansas, he will advance to the Olympic trials in Colorado. All three of these tournaments — Rockford, Wichita and Colorado — are single-elimination.
“So Peanut’s got to bring his A-game,” said Chodhary, using Erik’s nickname at Rocket Boxing.
In Rockford in December, Erik fought in the Open Division instead of the Novice Division, which he won in 2011. In the Open Division, the competition is tougher, and some competitors are well-seasoned, having been in the division for years.
“This was his first Open fight,” Chodhary said. “But he still performed. Before he went in there, I psyched him up, got him pumped.”
Erik was the most experienced of the seven young boxers whom Chodhary took to Rockford this year. Erik was like a captain, and the team was successful: Four of the seven boxers won championships in their weight classes.
“Going into the fight, I was nervous because it was my first Open fight,” Erik said. “I felt pressure because I know all the kids were looking up to me. I was defending champ.”
After his Dec. 15 victory in Rockford, Erik has been training in his basement for the Kansas tournament. Rocket Boxing was closed over the holidays, so Erik took to a large punching bag, speed bags and jump ropes in his own home.
Erik trains year-round, but his training picked up in the fall as the Rockford tournament approached. He also is an athlete at Aux Sable Middle School, participating in track, cross country, basketball and wrestling. He is a member of Force Wrestling in Plainfield, plays on the Plainfield Junior Cats traveling football team and plays on the Wheatland Ducks traveling baseball team.
Erik’s parents are Erik and Melissa Santiago, of Plainfield. He has two sisters: Shaieley, 18, and Erika, 14.