Weightlifting meet gives state’s athletes chance to compete, improve

By Donna Stephens Originally Published May 26, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 24, 2013 at 12:09 p.m.
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It’s a long offseason for high school football players who don’t move on to other sports, and the Arkansas High School Weightlifting Championship provides the goal at the end of the grind.

The 21st state championship was held at Russellville in April. Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado was the individual winner, lifting 385 pounds in bench press and 335 in power clean for a combined total of 720. Trent Cheek of England was second with 445-255—700, and Brian Cline-Karns of Ozark was third at 415-275—690.

The total weight lifted provides the individual score, and the combined weight lifted for each team provides the team score.

Top individual finishers from the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area included Christian Barnett of Pottsville, third in the 181 weight class (325 bench, 265 power clean—590); Jessie Flores of Dover (305-265—570, tied for ninth in heavyweight); Stephen Sappington of Clinton (305 bench, 265 power clean, 570, eighth in 220); and Harrison Lester of Clinton (285-275—560, tied for ninth in 259).

“We’ll have anywhere from 400 kids-plus participate,” said Jeff Holt, head football coach at Russellville, who has coordinated the event since 2002.

This year, more than 40 schools brought full teams of 10 lifters. Other schools bring individuals.

“It’s been steady that we’ve grown to that, and now we’re starting to see new teams get in,” Holt said. “It’s a widespread event. We’ll have southern Arkansas, eastern Arkansas, northwest Arkansas and central Arkansas all represented every year.”

Awards are given to the top three in each weight class, as well as to the top school in each of five classifications. Rison won Class 2A with a team total of 4,790 pounds. Fountain Lake won Class 3A (5,125); Booneville won Class 4A (4,825); Nettleton won Class 5A (4,815); and Bryant won Class 6A/7A (5,015).

Other area team finishes included Danville, second in Class 3A (3,930); Perryville, third in Class 3A (3,825); Dover, fourth in Class 4A (4,595); Pottsville, fifth in Class 4A (4,335); Clinton, sixth in Class 4A (4,280); Dardanelle, ninth in Class 4A (3,805); and Russellville, sixth in Class 6A/7A (4,100).

Weight classifications are heavyweight, 259 and under, 242 and under, 220 and under, 198 and under, 181 and under, 165 and under, 148 and under, 132 and under, and 123 and under.

Other top individual results from the region included the following:

Blake Kriesel of Dover, third in 198 (275-280—555); Kyle Roberson of Russellville, tied for sixth in 198 (295-240—535); Andy Vanderlinde of Dover, fourth in 165 (245-255—500); Logan Hunt of Pottsville, tied for fifth in 165 (245-245—490); Robert Ferrell of Clinton, first in 148 (270-245—515); Chance Stines of Dover, tied for sixth in 148 (225-215—440); Tyler Cotton of Dardanelle, eighth in 123 (165-165—330); and Chris Salgado of Pottsville, ninth in 123 (150-165—315).

“You want to get them as strong as the body will allow,” Holt said. “Sometimes that’s strong enough to win and sometimes it’s not, but giving them a goal or something to shoot for is how we feel that the weight meet helps.

“It’s an opportunity for them to compete. It gives them something in the offseason to shoot for and try to get on that top 10 weightlifting group so they can compete for their school.”

He said that in the football offseason, the Cyclones put their athletes into the 10 weight classes.

“When they first started, nobody really knew what weight classes they needed to have, so they started out with the wrestling weight classes, and we’ve modified that to fit more with football,” Holt said. “You would like to have a lifter in each weight class.”

The Cyclones have “weigh-offs” in each class to determine who will represent RHS at the state meet.

“They’ll do what we call tests, and they’ll see whoever lifts the most,” Holt said. “Whoever does gets to go represent the school.”

David Bazzel, the former University of Arkansas All-Southwest Conference linebacker, started the event, and Holt and Russellville volunteered to take charge in 2002.

“[Bazzel] saw a need for kids in the offseason to have something to compete in,” Holt said. “There was no state weightlifting meet in Arkansas.”

Although the event is not sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association, the governing body of the state’s high school sports, Holt said he doesn’t think that is a problem.

“We haven’t pursued sanctioning,” he said. “I think what we do is sufficient.”

The RHS booster club makes some money from hosting the event, which Holt said has drawn the support of Russellville first-year athletic director Johnny Johnson.

None Donna Stephens can be reached at .

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