Program ready for states
By Kyle LoJacono
It isn’t uncommon for a few high school athletes to compete on several teams together, but rarely would team photos be as similar as the Sunlake football and boys weightlifting teams.
“I’d say 90 percent of the boys come from the football team,” said Sunlake coach Matt Smith, who is the offensive line coach and defensive coordinator for the Seahawks football team. “That gives us an instant bond and team nature when we get going each season.”
Junior Dean Bui thinks that also helps the lifters push each other.
“We’ve created a little brotherly competition,” Bui said. “It all helps us out to get stronger and know everyone has your back.”
Bui was a cornerback and wide receiver his first two years, but broke his arm before this season. He could not play in 2010, but plans to return to football in 2011.
Three Seahawk lifters are Canon Clark, Nate McCoole and Mathew Sanders, part of the Seahawks offensive line that made the All-Laker/All-Lutz News football first team this year.
“I started because I needed to get stronger for football,” said Sanders, who competes in the 238-pound weight class. “Then I started competing in the events and I liked it. I wanted to get better to get a chance to go to states.”
Sanders’ best bench press is 295 pounds and 255 in clean and jerk. He has yet to qualify for states, which has pushed him to get better for his senior season.
Heavyweight lifter McCoole said the mindset needed in football and weightlifting are very similar
“There’s the mind over matter you have to use,” McCoole said. “It’s a big mental game like with football.”
Junior 154-pound lifter Kyle Fraser even works himself into a mini frenzy before each lift.
“In the weight room you want to put yourself in a state of mind where you can get your adrenaline pumping,” Fraser said. “You’re body only has so much it can produce at one time, so you have to put yourself in that state of mind and get the blood pumping. I try and get myself upset and angry. When I do that my heart starts to race and I feel like I’m stronger than when I’m mellow. I still have to focus on what I’m doing, so I have to stay in control.”
Fraser was introduced to weight lifting while in at Rushe Middle and has been hooked since.
“My eighth-grade year I was introduced to the weight room by my football coach,” Fraser said. “Obviously I wasn’t very strong then. I only weighed 130 pounds. I was a little stick. I came in here and fell in love with the weight room. It grew on me.”
Fraser, who is an outside linebacker and safety in football, now maxes out at 275 in the bench and with a 240-pound clean and jerk.
Senior John Michael, a 169-pound lifter, played football is first three years at Sunlake, but not focuses on weightlifting. Like Fraser, Michael plays mental games with himself while lifting.
“You always have to focus,” Michael said. “Coaches have always stressed you have to focus to do your best. If you go into a lift and think you might not do it you probably won’t. If you think you can you have a much better chance.”
Michael went to states last year in the 154-pound division, coming in eighth. His best lift is 310 in the bench and with a 240 clean and jerk.
Bui’s best lift is 220 and 200 in the bench and clean and jerk respectively. He reached the state event as a freshman in the 119-pound class and is now a 129-pound competitor.
All five lifters have plans on getting to states this season, something Smith would love to see. Seven Seahawks qualified for states last season, the most ever for the program.
“I’d like to continue from what we did last year,” Smith said. “Four of those boys who qualified last year have graduated. We’re going to try and take as many as we can. It’s hard to tell from year to year how strong the other guys in the area are going to be when you get to state qualifiers. I think we have quite a few kids who have a good chance.”
The Seahawks won their second straight Sunshine Athletic Conference championship March 26 by beating out Pasco 61-50. They followed that up with four individual champions at the Class 1A-District 6 meet, which includes Rashaud Daniels, Bui, Michael and McCoole.
To advance to states, a lifter has to either win a weight class at sectionals, or be in the top nine in the entire state. They will also host the third annual Sunlake Invitational at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 8.