Toledo's Monica Van Pelt, a 15-year-old boxer representing the Police Athletic League, is the 2011 Junior Olympics 101-pound champion.
Toledoan Monica Van Pelt looked around the room at the weigh-in of last week's Junior Olympics boxing tournament in Mobile, Ala. hoping to find someone small enough for her to fight.
There was only one other girl who checked in at 101 pounds, and as it turned out, she wasn't able to pose much of a challenge to Van Pelt.
Van Pelt, a 15-year-old entering her sophomore year at Start, not only won a Junior Olympics championship last Friday but she also was named the most outstanding female boxer among the 12 weight class winners. The tournament is sanctioned by USA Boxing and is considered a national championship. To qualify, one must first win at the state and regional levels.
In securing her first national championship, Van Pelt, who competes for the Police Athletic League, dominated Dominique Siller of Abilene, Texas, 32-6.
It was the highest point discrepancy of any of the championship bouts.
"I was so nervous," Van Pelt said this week prior to a sparring session at Riverside Elementary, the PAL's home.
"We kept going at it, but she didn't go at it as hard."
With the win, Van Pelt improved to 13-1 over her career, the lone loss coming in her first bout against an opponent roughly 10 pounds heavier.
Of Van Pelt's wins, only six are legitimate, as the other seven were awarded to her because no opponent at the weight was available to fight. The 101-pound class is the lowest contested division for female boxers, and Van Pelt rarely needs to cut any weight prior to competition.
"I don't want to stay this small forever," Van Pelt said.
To earn a berth in the Junior Olympics, Van Pelt first won titles at the state level -- by virtue of being the only 101-pound contestant -- and then at regionals in Ann Arbor with a win over a competitor from Kentucky.
Monica Van Pelt works out at Riverside School, above, while coach Darrie Riley helps her with her chin strap on her headgear, below. Van Pelt is 13-1 in her career and is expected to be ranked No. 1 in her weight class by USA Boxing.
"She's a trainer's dream," Riley said. "I don't have to ask her to do anything."
Van Pelt has the opportunity to win another national title in early October at the National PAL tournament, which will be held at the SeaGate Center. Should she accomplish that feat, it wouldn't surprise Riley, just as he wasn't surprised by her Junior Olympics crown.
"In her last few bouts, we were seeing it," he said.
Women's boxing will be an Olympic sport for the first time next summer in London. Van Pelt is ineligible to participate, as the minimum age requirement is 17 -- a birthday she won't celebrate until about three months later. Three weight classes will be contested -- 112 pounds, 132, and 165.
Van Pelt will be 20 during the 2016 Olympics and hopes to grow into the introductory weight by then so she can have a chance of representing the United States.
"I want to win the Olympics in 2016," she said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6160