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Druley: Tri-City club keeps members fighting

St. Charles resident Amanda Matejko describes herself as a stay-at-home mom.

In the eyes of Ringside Masters boxing, she’s a national champion.

In March, Matejko and three other members of Tri-City Boxing & Muay Thai represented their gym at 1856 Dean St. in St. Charles at the Ringside Masters nationals in Kansas City, Missouri. Three of the over-40 athletes earned titles, while all were bound by a confidence their training so often instills.

“Honestly, when I started boxing three years ago, every day, every week, every month I fell more in love with it,” Matejko said. “I figured, ‘Well, I’ve got all this training, let’s see what I’ve got.’ Kind of that, ‘Let’s see how much I’ve been paying attention in class,’ put it that way.”

Tri-City owner Pat White doesn’t guarantee homemaker-to-powerhouse transformations, largely because the majority of the gym’s 90 members don’t aspire to fight.

Of course, that was Matejko’s refrain as she gradually upped her involvement with what was once a boxing club within Tri-City Fitness, which closed its location in the Valley Shopping Center in late February.

The boxing club remained open an extra month before moving to its current space just west of the Foundry Business Park. Not every member rejoined White at first, but things quickly grew through word-of-mouth and the Mixed Martial Arts network of White and recent training partner Wayne Gregory.

“We’d just like to be known as a gym that offers something for everyone. Whether you just want to get in shape, whether you want to learn skills but do that for fun or whether you want to become a fighter,” said White, who retired from competitive MMA in 1998.

“We have a lot of confidence in our ability as coaches and the product that we turn out. I don’t think there’s too many people that come and try our classes or come and actually train with us that are disappointed in that.”

The Ringside Masters contingent – champs Mario Gariti and Trish Sterland joined Matejko and Larry Williford – certainly can attest.

Like Matejko, Gariti – a St. Charles resident and owner of Amato’s Pizza and More in Galewood and Elmwood Park – soon discovered a new passion.

“He just won’t stop talking about it,” White said. “He came in. He lost, like, 40 pounds in about six months and thought he would never get in a ring and he won a national championship. It’s nice because we kind of have all walks of life in here.”

Adding Gregory expanded the program’s reach as White sought to implement Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand considered “the art of eight limbs.” That’s both hands, feet, knees and elbows.

Gregory, the first American to win at Bangkok’s famed Lumpinee Stadium, credits a “kinetically charged” approach as he nears his 25th year as a fighting coach and trainer and a 35th as a training participant.

“My tenure in your city won’t last forever. … It is in my nature to keep moving,” Gregory wrote in an email. “That said, before I leave … I will leave you with individuals that are more than qualified to take my place. I will leave your city a better place!”

White said two new members signed up off the street at 7 a.m. Tuesday. He wasn’t immediately sure of their intentions, professions or backgrounds, but he was certain that didn’t matter in his or any gym.

“This is just the honest-to-God thing,” White said. “It’s great. It’s the sport that I love.”

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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