Seeing is believing.
Six hundred or 700 pounds in an individual event and 1,500 pounds combined in three disciplines can be pretty imposing when you have never lifted that much weight.
But Rickey Knox said confidence has helped the Columbus High School powerlifting team soar past weights some never imagined the Falcons could reach.
“At first, we were like, ”That is a lot of weight,” ” Knox said. “Coach (Grady McCluskey) was telling us at his old school they were dead lifting and squatting 800 pounds. We were like, ”You can”t do that.”
“But as we got into the weight room we squatted 450 and we say, ”OK, we”re going to keep working.” Then we squat 500 and then 550 and you keep adding and adding and adding and you”re at 600. We built that confidence by coach pushing us. We believe in him and him pushing us and we have gotten stronger.”
On Saturday, Columbus will try to push those totals even higher at the Mississippi High School Activities Association State Championship in Jackson.
Six Falcons — Donterrio Thomas (114-pound weight class), junior Chris Richardson (181), sophomore Justin Verner and junior Ryan McDonald (242), junior Lavorus Petty (308), and Knox, a senior, (super heavyweight) — have qualified for the event.
Columbus went through a hard week of practice to prepare for the meet. The Falcons did their maximum weights in the squat Monday, their maximum on the bench press Tuesday, and their maximum dead lifts Wednesday. The team has today off and will leave at 1 p.m. Friday for Jackson.
A year ago, only Petty and Richardson qualified for the state meet. McCluskey said the Falcons have made substantial gains in the past year. He said 20 members of the football team who are on the powerlifting team bench more than 300 pounds. He said 15 Falcons squat more than 500 pounds, and 15-20 dead lift more than 600.
“The kids have really done the work, and I have just guided the process,” McCluskey said. “We have some strong kids. We”re excited about them. They have bought into our program.”
Those numbers figure to climb even higher considering Knox, who will play football at East Mississippi Community College in the fall, is the only senior.
Knox said the competition in practice has helped the Falcons persevere through a long season. He said Verner has helped set the tone by squatting 650 pounds. He said lifts like that have pushed someone else to do a little more. Each lift has added to the Falcons” confidence.
Knox said the confidence in the weight room will translate to the football field in the fall. McDonald is the starting left guard on the football team, while Verner is the starting right guard, Richardson is an outside linebacker, and Petty is a nose tackle.
First, though, Knox hopes to earn a medal Saturday. He enters the competition seeded fourth in Class 6A with a combined total of 1,390 pounds in the squat, dead lift, and bench press.
“I am happy it is finally here,” Knox said. “We are all happy it is finally here. We can”t wait until Friday comes so we can have a good time.
“It has been hard. There has been a lot of sweat and blood in here. We have worked through injuries and pulled muscles. It has been mentally tough to get to this point, too, but we”re just happy it is here.”
McCluskey wasn”t sure if the Falcons could make the gains they have made. He said the team lifts year-round and begins to emphasize the three lifts in powerlifting once the season begins in January.
McCluskey said Columbus focuses on lifting high weight totals and low repetitions. He said the goal is to get the athletes used to the weight so it is easier physically and mentally for them to handle it.
“In their mind, they have to believe,” McCluskey said. “When we first came here, no one thought anyone could squat 500 or dead lift 600. You have to break those barriers down. Those barriers have been broken. The next barriers are going to be even higher than that.”
McCluskey said the work the Falcons have done in practice and the efforts they have seen at other meets have convinced them they can shatter any number some would say is unattainable.
“The kids have done a good job,” McCluskey said. “I have to commend them. They have done everything I have asked them to do and they have really worked hard. They enjoy it, too, and that”s important.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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