Oxford’s Paine lifting Chargers to championships

Oxford powerlifter William Paine entered his senior season with the goal of winning a state championship. After the Chargers failed to win a football state title this past December, Paine wasn’t about to let his powerlifting teammates down by falling short. Not only did the Chargers win a second straight MHSAA Class 5A crown, Paine won the 220-pound individual title as well.

His success was able to erase the stinging loss suffered in football, where Paine helped protect quarterback Jack Abraham and open holes for running back Kenzie Phillips as a guard.

“It felt good, especially after losing the state championship (in football). I didn’t think about it all the time, but I did tell myself that I didn’t need to slip up, that I needed to be ready to go. I realized after that loss (to Picayune in football) that even though you work hard, somebody has to lose to somebody,” Paine said about his motivation heading to powerlifting. “I was ready to do what I had to do. I was focused.”

Paine never lost his focus, even when others weren’t paying attention. Powerlifting is a lonely sport. There are only four meets a year, which means most of the work is put in on daily lifts and competitions among teammates.

 “It comes down to somebody that is willing to go into the weight room, when there are no fans watching and competition at stake, and compete. We don’t win on the contest platform, we win in the weight room and how hard we work every day,” OHS coach Jason Russell said. “You’re competing with yourself. The only time you’re actually competing against another lifter is when we get into the competition. Now we do some competitions in the weight room where we are challenging each other in the weight room, but when it comes down to it, they’re all about personal goals in the weight room. It comes down to can I lift more than I did last week? Can I bench just a little bit more? Can I squat just a little bit more? As far as that goes, it’s completely a mind game when you come into the weight room, day in and day out, and it takes somebody like Will who has enough drive to grind through the difficult times. It’s not always that glorious.”

Russell has helped lead the Chargers to four straight division titles, three 5A North Half titles and two state titles. Before he took over, Oxford barely had enough lifters to make up a team, let alone win a title.

“The players started buying into the coaches and it started showing good results. It was very effective,” Paine said of the transformation. “It was more about the players finally buying into what the coaches were trying to do. My first year I was recruited and then I worked myself up.”

The end result of buying into what Russell was selling has set the stage for continued success, and Paine’s strong work ethic is a testament to how Oxford trains.

“I think a lot of what we do in our program revolves around what Will represents. You have to have the genetic makeup for that to work for you, but we train very difficult year round. We lift weights with the football team. Most of our football players are on the powerlifting team and we work them out year round,” Russell said. “In order to compete and go through that type of process, where if they don’t lift perfect, if they don’t start on time, we start the whole thing over. The entire group suffers and that type of mindset is built from the time they walk in to our program. It shows up in a guy like Will, who is completely focused on the task at hand.

“We left last year with three individual state championships and Will was the only one that left with a state championship this year. Will was the only senior there and I couldn’t have picked a better ambassador for those younger guys. To see the way that Will worked, to see the way he walked into the weight room and challenged himself every day, all those younger lifters got to see that. That was special, that was important to them to see that he was still hungry,” Russell continued. “I think a lot of things that we’ve done in our program helps with that mindset. It’s what has helped him. He said it wasn’t good enough, that one championship wasn’t enough. We want to challenge ourselves. I think what Will did, and with nine guys coming back, those guys are going to draw on that and they’re not going to let up either their senior year. I’ve already heard the guys talking about that, about how many wins they can get. I think that’s a credit to what Will did in the weight room.”

There are many lifters, in all weight classes, that get amped up for each of the three lifts – deadlift, bench press and squat – that are used to determine a champion. A lot of that extra energy revolves around being mad, but Paine, who listens to music just before he heads out to lift, said he never lifted mad.

“I wouldn’t say I get mad, but I motivate myself, knowing what I have to do. I do listen to music, but it’s more myself and staying focused,” said Paine, adding the deadlift was his favorite, while his least favorite to complete was the squat. “There is always that anticipation that you might mess up or this might happen or this might happen. It kind of correlates to football because you never know what’s going to happen the next play either or the next drive. You have to stay focused.”

“We always called Will the machine. When he got into that focused mindset going into a powerlifting meet … That’s news to me because I always thought he got mad,” Russell added with a laugh. “When he took the music off and hit the platform, it was complete focus. He was only focused on the task at hand. He always had a one-set mindset when he got out of his seat to go up to do his lifts.”

Paine competed at 208 pounds during the season, and rather than drop down a weight class, he stayed at 220 in order to help the team. Paine finished the year ranked No. 14 in the state of Mississippi, for all lifters in all six classes, based on his scores.

“You have a range. People like Will that started the season at 208 would have tried to weigh down to the 198 class because they are a little bit weaker in that weight class,” Russell said, who called Paine one of his strongest lifters, pound for pound. “We knew we needed Will in the 220 class because we had a good 198 class and a good 242 in Christian (Sanchez). That really was the best place for him to be.”

Powerlifting may have come to an end for Paine, but he has his future mapped out. He will attend Ole Miss in the fall and has plans on using the U.S. Army to help pay for his school.

“I just got enlisted into the National Guard and I plan on going to Ole Miss and being in the Army ROTC and be in the National Guard. After I get done, after I graduate, my plan is to be commissioned as an officer in the Army,” Paine said. “I felt like the military has helped my mental strength, not just my overall strength.”

There is still one more football game left for Paine, who will take part in the Northeast Mississippi Coaches All-Star game May 21 in Booneville. Russell, who was Paine’s offensive line coach at OHS, said it was great fun watching Paine use his immense strength at guard in 2013.

“You should have seen him rip the defensive end’s head off when he was pulling. It was impressive. He did some neat stuff when you watched him pull,” Russell said.

About John Davis

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