Most high school athletes include weightlifting as an integral part of their conditioning programs for their chosen sports.
Some, like Marion High School athletes Mikael Antoszyk, Colten Johnson, and Spencer Fugitt, will take it to the next level Saturday when they pit their strength and skills against others in the 3A Kansas State Powerlifting Championships in Marion.
Antoszyk and Fugitt started weightlifting as sixth graders in the Centre school district.
“The last semester in sixth grade you got to go lift with the high schoolers. It was kind of a big deal, and it was exciting,” Fugitt said.
Antoszyk’s involvement was a natural extension of a family powerlifting legacy.
“My older brothers all won state, and that got me hooked on it,” Antoszyk said.
Johnson got involved with weightlifting in seventh grade football.
“I liked it and that’s why I keep doing it,” Johnson said.
Fugitt likes powerlifting competition as a gauge for his own development.
“I wanted to see where I was at, and it’s fun to watch yourself grow,” Fugitt said. “My overall was 695 pounds as a freshman, and last year it was 815, so I had a lot of improvement and I was excited to see that. I’m trying to reach for that again this year.”
Each participated in his first powerlifting competition as a freshman, and of the three, Antoszyk has had the greatest success.
Antoszyk and his older brothers Cahn and Zach claimed individual state titles as the trio lead Centre to the 1A team championship in 2009, and Antoszyk has continued to excel.
“I won state my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, and I’m going for my fourth in a row,” Antoszyk said.
While Antoszyk is driven by his past success, Johnson is motivated by the quest for a state championship. His third-place finish in the 3A state wrestling championships in February gives him extra incentive and insight.
“I’ve always wanted to be a state champion in something,” Johnson said. “Being there before, I’m not nervous anymore, but it makes me know how prepared and focused I need to be.”
Johnson missed last year’s competition due to a broken wrist, but believes his hiatus from lifting was beneficial.
“During the summer I increased all my lifts by at least 20 pounds,” Johnson said. “I think it was good to have a little break there, because I’ve been doing it so long I think my muscles were just getting tired.”
Powerlifters push themselves to the limit to raise the most weight they can in three events — bench press, squat, and clean. To prepare for competition Antoszyk, Fugitt and Johnson have altered their regular conditioning routines.
“We started off with low-weight, high-repetition sets, and as we get closer we decrease the reps and increase the weight,” Johnson said.
“It’s more about the quality than the quantity. You want to go for strength reps, because you can’t lift heavy unless you lift heavy,” Fugitt said. “We cut back on the side lifts and just focused on the main lifts.”
Fugitt believes the squat is where he gains the most competitive advantage.
“You can be relatively the same in bench and clean, but if your squat is a lot higher you can put up some big numbers,” Fugitt said.
Powerlifters get three attempts in each event, and correct strategy in choosing what weight to start with and how to progress is essential.
“You don’t want to start too low, because then it’s hard to decide what you want to do for your next lift,” Antoszyk said. “But you don’t want to start too high, because if you don’t get it, you can’t move down in weight for the next try.”
“You could lose 10 or 20 pounds if you start too low,” Fugitt said. “Ultimately you want to do one right below your max, do the most that you’ve ever done for your second one, and then you want to up the ante on the last one.”
No matter how well one prepares for competition, there is always an element of unpredictability.
“It changes from day to day. You can have a good day and your max prior to that is really easy,” Fugitt said.
“Anybody can have an off day or a great day,” Johnson said. “It just comes down to being able to perform when you need to.”
The power-lifting competition will start at 9 a.m. in the Marion Middle School Gymnasium.