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Fresno State Powerlifting Club competes in 2023 USA Powerlifting Western Collegiate Cup

Seven+Fresno+State+students+partcipated+in+the+first+session+of+2023+USA+Powerlifting+Western+Collegiate+Cup+on+Nov.+11+at+San+Jose+State.
Courtesy of Roman Pawar
Seven Fresno State students partcipated in the first session of 2023 USA Powerlifting Western Collegiate Cup on Nov. 11 at San Jose State.

The first day of the 2023 USA Powerlifting Western Collegiate Cup took place at San Jose State on Saturday, Nov. 11. 

Members of the powerlifting clubs of Fresno State, University of Southern California, San Jose State and Cal Poly Pomona competed in the first session out of two for the day. 

“When [COVID] shutdown happened, I came back [to SJSU] for my second master’s to get my teaching credential,” Nicole Thompson, director of the event and Spartan Powerlifting coach, said.  

She said when she was attending the university, the club had been deactivated for a while so she had to restart the powerlifting club from scratch.

“I realized the only way I can guarantee my team would have a meet was to hold one myself. So, I traveled all over, getting experience with different meet directors, different state chairs and learning as much as I could,” Thompson said. “This is our third time hosting it here.” 

The Spartan Recreation and Aquatic center will host five registered universities, 18 independent lifters and one community college for the Nov. 11-12 competition. The competition is divided into two sessions a day in order to manage the large number of lifters.

Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three barbell lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. Only three attempts are allowed with the goal of reaching maximal weight. 

Seven Fresno State lifters represented the university in the first session. Five competed in the Women’s Raw Collegiate weight classes: Esmeralda Lopez (60 kg), Annabelle Ortega (67.5), Wendy Hernandez (75 kg), Citlalli Rodríguez (82.5 kg) and Annika Boungnavong (100 kg).

Andrew Sanchez (59.25 kg) and MiRick Tarazon (59.8 kg) competed in the Men’s Raw Collegiate 60 kg weight class.

“We have a wide array of weight classes,” Roman Pawar, president of the Fresno State Powerlifting Club, said. “We have a lot of depth on our team. We have a lot of strong guys. I think we’ll do pretty good.”

Pawar started the club in September 2022 with a few friends who were already attending a powerlifting gym and wanted to bring the sport to campus to open up to other students.

The team has a total of 25 lifters competing over the two days.

Ortega and Boungnavong placed first in their weight classes.

“I’m pretty proud of myself. I came into powerlifting honestly not knowing what I was doing,” Ortega said. “It’s been super fun, something new and I’m just happy to be here.”

Ortega totaled a score of 295, and Boungnavong scored a total of 315 points. Boungnavong was nine for nine in successful attempts in every section. 

Madeline Gonzalez, powerlifter for Bronco Lifting of Cal Poly Pomona, broke two state records for the Women’s Raw Collegiate 52 kg weight class for her second and third squat attempts, squatting 132.5 kg and 135 kg. On top of that, she broke another state record for her second deadlift attempt, lifting 132.5 kg. 

“I really liked that there was a lot of girls in my weight class. It was really cool to see what everyone else put up at a similar weight,” Gonzalez told The Collegian. “I’m really happy about that (breaking records). That was definitely one of my biggest goals.”

USC Trojan Kingston Cooper of the Trojan Barbell Club broke two state records for her third bench press attempt for the 52 kg Women’s Raw Collegiate weight class, benching 72.5 kg, and for her second deadlift attempt of 137.5 kg.

Trojan Brooklyn Cooper also broke two state records in Women’s Raw Collegiate 56 kg weight class in her second and third successful deadlift attempts of 150 kg and 155 kg.

Thompson said a lot of people have the misconception that powerlifting is similar to Olympic weightlifting, but it’s different.

“It looks scary because it’s lifting heavy weights, but anyone can do it,” Thompson said. “I’ve trained beginning lifters on our team from not being able to bench press the bar to being able to get to that 55 pounds.”

Fresno State had three collegiate national qualifiers and all lifters made the podium for the first session. 

Sanchez placed second and Tazaron placed third in their weight classes. 

Pawar said he is hopeful for today’s meet, in which the remaining male lifters will be participating, and the men’s team has a solid shot at placing high.

“Anything can happen. It’s a state level competition. I’m excited to see what they put up on the platform,” Pawar said.The second day of the 2023 USA Powerlifting Western Collegiate Cup will take place on Nov. 12 at the same location at 8:30 a.m. Scores will be updated here.

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