Upstart New Albany eyes powerlifting gold

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

Other than Calhoun City and Kossuth, the New Albany boys powerlifting team has the most lifters scheduled to compete in Saturday’s MHSAA state championship meet at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
While having seven lifters competing may not present the best chance to score enough points to win a state title, Bulldogs coach Ron Price still believes his team has a shot.
“Seven is the most we’ve advanced to the state meet,” said Price, who’s also New Albany’s head football coach.
Not bad for a program that had its first powerlifters qualify for the state meet just last April.
Meanwhile, the New Albany girls team nearly equaled the boys team’s amount for state qualifiers this year. Coached by one of the busiest people around, the NAHS girls team had six lifters qualify for the state meet under the watchful eye of Jay Cossey – an assistant football coach, junior high baseball coach and science teacher.
Back to the boys, Wade Simmons and Zach Hand, two Bulldogs football players, will be the most likely NAHS lifters to win individual state titles.
Simmons – not to be confused with his brother Cade, who also qualified – posted a 1,500-pound total to lead the Bulldogs to a second-place finish at last month’s Class 4A North meet at McClain High School in Lexington. His total was the highest among any of the lifters in the 308-plus weight class during the North and South 4A state-qualifying meets.
“Wade Simmons has been our best lifter all year,” Price said of his senior lineman on the football field. “He’s got a natural body for powerlifting.”
After having to sit out last year because of knee surgery, winning an individual state title on Saturday would truly be a special moment for Simmons – and not only him, but for the rest of his schools powerlifting program: In a year the Bulldogs won their first division title, Simmons could become the first NAHS lifter to win a state championship.
With three-time state champion DeShawn McGaughy of Itawamba AHS graduating last May, Hand is No.1 in the 198-pound weight class after the 4A North and South meets. Hand, who lifted 1,305 pounds to qualify, is also expected to defend his state shot put title in May.
Fellow Bulldogs linebacker O.J. Hardin will accompany Hand in the 198 weight class of the state meet.
Another NAHS football player, Luke Foley, who placed second in the state last year, will be going up against Pontotoc football player Devonta Montgomery, who posted a North meet high of 1,510 pounds, in the 242-pound division.
“A lot of these guys are the same guys that carried us during the football season,” Price said about his powerlifters and his 2010 football team that went 13-1. “So, it’s a special group of kids that we’ve had this year.”
Lafayette, the school that beat New Albany in the football state quarterfinals in November, happens to be the defending Class 4A state champion and boasts the MHSAA Powerlifting Coach of the Year in Dennis Robbins.
Meanwhile, the Lady Commodores, led by M.C. Pate, stand a good chance of winning the Class II state title on Saturday. However, Brianna Farr and Pontotoc could very well stand in their way.
Speaking of special kids, that nod will have to go to Ben Brewer, an ex-football player, who will be going for his second consecutive state title. The Itawamba AHS athlete was diagnosed with a rare form of salivary gland cancer in July of 2009.
Now cancer free, the 2010 148-pound state champ will be lifting Saturday in a heavier weight class – the 165-pound division.
“You gotta perform on the 16th. None of the prior numbers count,” Price said of the state championship meet.