Yes, I have been into sports since the age of 4. I started at that age in tae kwon do and did that for six years, twice a week, and was one belt short of a black belt. I started playing flag football very young and played tackle football from sixth grade all the way through senior year, and also wrestled from seventh to 11th grade. I began lifting weights at age 13, mainly to improve my performance in sports. I also grew up reading MD, Flex and Muscle & Fitness. They all said the three powerlifts were the best for improving performance, so those were my main focus, although I was aware of all the other exercises. My stepfather put his foot down and didn’t want me to liftweights until I was in high school because he thought it would stunt my growth. He may have been right! I’m 5-foot-10½ and my doctor said I should have been about 6 foot.
You started out competing in powerlifting, which isn’t a very popular sport among teenagers these days. How did you get involved in that?
I had broken all the lifting records at my high school by senior year, so I started looking for a local meet to compete. The annual Wisconsin State Fair is one of the biggest in the country, and it’s so close to my house I can walk there. They have a push/pull meet with bench press and the deadlift. I won the bench press and took second in the deadlift. Since I had a decent squat, the next thing I looked for was a full meet with all three lifts. I looked into a few federations. USA Powerlifting (USAPL) was drug tested, so that seemed the most legit to me. They had a meet in December, three months after the fair, at Whitnall High School. That school had a powerlifting team; mine didn’t. My parents and I went over there to talk to the coach, a great guy named R.G. His team had won something like five or six state titles in a row. He agreed to let me train with his team, though I would be representing myself at the meet. When I won, they announced me as being from Nathan Hale High School in West Allis, and a lot of people attending looked confused, since we had no powerlifting team. While I was still 17, I traveled to Hungary to compete in the pro division of USAPL, which is the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), and won the teenage world championship with a 705 squat, 430 bench press and a 650 deadlift.
You were a prodigy in powerlifting and had so much success so fast; why didn’t you continue with it?
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