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Penn Football team 2009 wins against Bucknell at Franklin Field 21-3 Penn 67 - Luis Ruffolo OL Penn 2 - David Wurst WR Credit: Priscilla des Gachons

Described by some of my friends as a “meathead,” I have to say that getting a tour of the new Weiss Pavilion with senior offensive lineman Luis Ruffolo was not exactly an experience I dreaded.

To be honest, I was not extremely surprised to witness what I saw. Last spring, I heard about the growing excitement in anticipation of the gym’s opening — which came in late May — and the finished, 18,000-square-foot product was just about what I expected: a seemingly endless line of machines and all of the latest in shiny equipment.

What did surprise me, however, was what I saw once Ruffolo, fresh off finishing up a workout for the football team, took me toward the back of the gym.

Ruffolo led me to a large open space and showed off the 18 heavy bags that can wheel out on a track from above.

Explaining that it was one of the “cooler things that we do,” Ruffolo then demonstrated some of the basics of the kickboxing routines that his teammates perform both during the regular season as well as the off-season.

“We do kickboxing because of the hand-eye coordination aspect, which helps us, and it’s really good cardio,” Ruffolo said. “And you know, it’s violent, so it plays into the sport pretty well.”

He’s not kidding.

Before Ruffolo starts his demonstration, one of the coaches pops in a disc called “All-Round Fighting,” featuring kickboxing instructions from former mixed martial arts fighter Bas Rutten.

Rutten, with his distinct, arcade-game-esque voice, shouts out orders such as, “Four!” (a successive combination of a jab, a straight punch, a hook and another straight) or “Defense!” a move which Ruffolo describes as similar to a squat thrust.

The kickboxing is just one of the innumerable upgrades, compared to the athletic team’s previous facility — which had just one heavy bag.

The biggest difference seems to be the vast increase in the number of machines and space, which has also helped build more team camaraderie according to Ruffolo. Now that the entire team can work out at the same time.

“This place is incredible,” Ruffolo said. “You can’t even start to compare it.”

When it comes down to how working out in this facility will translate to the field, Ruffolo noted that one of the biggest things Penn prides itself on is its strength on both sides of the ball.

A 6-foot-2, 270-pound offensive lineman, Ruffolo helped Penn lead the Ivy League, allowing the fewest amount of sacks a year ago.

That strength figures to be only, well, strengthened.

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