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I'm an addict, and have been since freshman year. The first time I walked into my high school's weight room, I knew it wouldn't be the last. Heavy metal music blasted, seniors were getting huge, and my history teacher was doing a billion pull-ups. Everybody looked at me, the little freshman benching the bar.
Fast forward two years. It's a Saturday morning. I look out the window at the beautiful vista of Aurora, Colorado, grab my bag, and roll into the hotel lobby. My only concern is the weighing in. I hop on the scale: 123 on the nose. Let the pigging out begin.
I return to my room, put on all my gear, and make my way to the warm-up room. The thin air is messing with my head. I feel winded, but that's probably just the butterflies.
Squat begins. I swiftly walk up to the rack, rattle around the bar, and get under it. The judge screams, “Squat!”
I hit parallel and get out of the hole, then tell the judge the weight for my next attempt, and it begins again. I head back to the chairs, put in my headphones, and get in my zone, patiently waiting to be three out on the list.
Three out. Time to start wrapping my knees.
Somebody yells, “Robert, up!”
I finish my wraps and wobble to the platform. I get under the bar again. Boom. Attempt two is over and it's on to the third, my last. The only difference is the amount of weight. I probably won't get it, I think. But once again, I nail it: with 320 pounds, I've set a new personal record.
I return to my room, throw on my bench shirt, and the process begins again; I do a light warm-up, hit my opener, and head up to the competition. I'm the first one up. I pull my wrist wraps tight and walk out to the bench.
The lift is over, and my adrenaline is rushing. I report my next attempt to the judge and sit back down, closing my eyes, taking in the music blasting from my headphones.
Somebody taps me. “You're up!”
I pull my wraps tight, chalk up, and lie down on the bench.
“Start. Press. Take it.”
I didn't get it. I'll take 150, though: another new personal record. It's a numbers game now.
I return to my room, switch out the bench gear for deadlift gear, and do a lightweight warm-up to get my form down. Third attempt, 340 on the bar.
Everybody in the room is cheering me on. I approach the bar, feet shoulder-width apart. I pick a spot on the ceiling, grab the bar, and rip it.
About three quarters of the way up my thighs, I get to a sticking point. I think of the hours of training, the countless reps. I let out a grunt and finish the lift. Three white lights.
Emotion. Testosterone. Dedication. Each event squat, bench, and deadlift creates this atmosphere. I'm a nationally ranked powerlifter, but how many people even know what my sport is?
Powerlifting allows me to work hard and see results. From my first meet freshman year to nationals last year, my numbers and achievements have increased. Interest in the sport is growing nationwide, but at my high school there's not even a team.
I trained without a coach and ended up fifth in the state, fourth in the nation. But where were the college scouts, the scholarships? There aren't many. There is no true powerlifting at the next level, and high school is my only shot. But when I find something I can dedicate myself to, positive results follow. Just look at what happened to that freshman who started out benching the bar.