By Todd Vinyard
Sometimes the steep steps up to the Tupelo High School athletic department weight room seem even higher.
“There are days you don’t feel like working out, but what you do here determines how well you do later,” Tupelo powerlifting team member Sammy Brooks said. “But we have to be strictly business, because our goal is to win state.”
Brooks and his teammates will begin trying to reach that goal March 23rd in Senatobia at the North State Tournament. Brooks, a senior, will be competing along with sophomore Tony Dancer; sophomore Mark Cannon; senior Michael Osborne; senior Marcus Bell; senior Jovan Listenbee; senior Manvil Standifer, and senior Pat Berry.
The Golden Wave have competed in three meets this year. On March 10th they won the Aberdeen Invitational edging Pontotoc, Aberdeen, West Point and four other schools.
Powerlifting requires more brute strength than the Olympic sport of weightlifting since more weight is lifted, but not as high. Competitions require nine lifts in three categories: squat, bench press and deadlift. A combined total of those weights is taken at the end of the lifts for each competitor.
Squats are done with the lifter pushing up weight on their shoulders from a deep knee bend. In the bench press a lifter is on his back on a bench and uses upper-body strength to lift the weight. The weight is lifted off the floor and above the knee in a deadlift. The lifter stands erect with knees locked.
Lamar Aldridge has been coaching the Golden Wave powerlifting team for three years.
“A lot of people don’t realize some of the strategy involved during the meets,” Aldridge said. “You have to know when to change lifts, and where to place people in weight classes.”
One of Aldridge’s prize pupils is Berry. At the district meet a week ago Berry set four career best including shattering his total lift mark of 1,470 with 1,515.
“Pat is just a pleasure to work with because he comes in totally dedicated to get better everyday,” Aldridge said.
Berry, a 6-foot-1 220 pounder, caught the weight lifting bug at the end of his ninth grade year while watching.
“I use to watch people over at Evergreen Square lift, and think I should be able to do that,” Berry said. “Once I got into to it I just loved it. You work and work and then it comes time to better what you did before.”
After not playing football in junior high Berry has become quite an athlete. He led Tupelo in total tackles during football, and throws discus and shot put for the track team.
“Football and powerlifting are probably my favorites,” said Berry, who has signed a football scholarship with Itawamba Community College and hopes to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Powerlifting may look like a solitary sport, but Berry says real pleasure comes from team not individual success.
“Getting an award by yourself doesn’t mean much, but a team win is special,” Berry said.
Those team wins don’t come easy in powerlifting. Unlike other high school sports there are no classifications so small and large schools all compete together.
“It may be one of the toughest sports to win a state championship in,” Aldridge said.
Especially, when your route to a state championship means going through the north and teams like Pontotoc and Aberdeen.
“This area has some very good programs, and we are going to have to keep working and try to increase our weightlifting ability for the North State,” Aldridge said.