La Vernia weightlifting club competes in Daytona Beach
Members of the La Vernia Weightlifting Club who made the trip to Florida for a national competition gather for a team photo. Team members include (l-r) Travis Puhlmann, Shelby Rodriguez, Brandon Floores, Matthew Montgomery, and Anthony Trevino.
Olympic weightlifting has been an official sport in Olympic competition since the late 1800s. Despite its storied history, though, it is somewhat unknown to most of the population. Many people are more familiar with powerlifting, which consists of the bench press, squat, and dead lift. Olympic weightlifting, however, consists of two lifts -- the snatch and the clean and jerk.
Perhaps due to its lack of exposure, the small community of La Vernia had never fielded an Olympic weightlifting team. That all changed this year, though, as La Vernia started its first Olympic weightlifting club. The La Vernia Weightlifting Club consists of children ages 10-18 from La Vernia and the surrounding communities.
The club competed in its first meet during the Iron Cat Open at Texas State University on April 15. The results from the team’s first competition surprised many, as all eight members of the team qualified for the USA Weightlifting Youth National Championship/Youth Olympic Games Qualifier in Daytona Beach, Fla. This marked a historic day for La Vernia, as children from the small community competed against the best and the strongest from around the nation.
Of the eight that qualified, five La Vernia lifters went on to compete in Daytona Beach. Those athletes were Shelby Rodriguez (Girls 14-15), Travis Puhlmann (Boys 14-15 -- 69-kilogram class), Matthew Montgomery (Boys 16-17 -- 94-kilogram class), Anthony Trevino (Boys 16-17, -- 105-kilogram class), and Brandon Floores (Boys 16-17, -- 105-plus-kilogram class). The team of five competed in what ended as the largest domestic weightlifting meet in American history, with more than 530 participants ranging in ages from 10-17. The competition at Nationals proved to be best, but La Vernia proved it deserved to be there, and two lifters returned home with hardware.
Rodriguez was the first of the La Vernia lifters to compete and won a bronze medal in the Girls 14-15 age group. Rodriguez, who is only 13, set a personal record in the clean and jerk with a lift of 125 pounds.
The other medal recipient from La Vernia was Montgomery, who finished second to win silver in the Boys 16-17 94-kilogram class. Montgomery turned in an impressive lift of 315 pounds in the clean and jerk. The lift seems even more impressive when considering that Montgomery only weighs 205 pounds.
The other lifters from La Vernia also fared well, with many of them breaking personal records on the national scene. Puhlmann matched a personal best and placed fifth in the snatch with a lift of 160 pounds. Trevino broke personal records in both events. He placed sixth in the clean and jerk with a lift of 255 pounds. Floores also matched his personal best in snatch to earn himself 10th-place honors. The La Vernia Weightlifting Club finished eighth overall in the Boys and Girls Team standings.
“I’m extremely proud of each and every one of our kids,” said La Vernia team Coach Jason Fiacco. “This is a group of extremely hard working kids. Qualifying for Nationals alone is a daunting task. But when you factor in that these kids have only been exposed to the sport for such a small period of time and they competed so well on a National Scene, it is truly impressive.”
The La Vernia Weightlifting Club looks to improve upon this year’s results, as it returns all eight lifters next year. The club is also looking to increase its membership numbers. La Vernia has lifters with the potential to qualify for the Youth Pan Am Games, and to lift for the USA National Team. La Vernia is poised to return next year and make an even bigger splash on the national scene.