Aztec athletes using powerlifting season to get some strength training done ahead of time

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON — Aside from having some semblance of sports competition for what’s left of 2020, Aztec’s multi-sport athletes are using the inaugural powerlifting campaign to get some of their strength training done ahead of time.

“I definitely feel like that’s been helping us in the long term… It gets us prepared for the season that’s coming up,” said Caleb Varzeas, a football player and wrestler for the Tigers. “Lifting for me is a big part of my life. It gets my mind off of things. Not having football this fall, it just feels like it’s a really broken piece of my heart... Once that spring season comes, we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

Aztec powerlifting coach Hank Strauss, who’s also an assistant coach with the football and wrestling programs, said doing the extra strength training now can help increase the amount of time for sports-specific training once practices begin.

Strauss also said powerlifting will benefits the athletes down the road not only for the upcoming sports season, but also because their bodies are still developing physically.

“I’ve really come to enjoy getting this powerlifting (season), having something for not only myself, but these football kids, wrestlers, cross county athletes, our volleyball athletes, our cheer athletes… it’s all for a good process for their sports,” Strauss said.

Powerlifting’s proving to be second-nature for Aztec because the athletes are already accustomed to pumping iron for their respective sports.

“A lot of us who play football, basketball or wrestle, we always lift,” said Hunter Riddick, who’s also Tiger football player and wrestler. “Now it’s really kind of better to actually just compete and put our abilities to the test with that… We definitely have been working our butts off. We love the heck out of it, man.”

Riddick and Varzeas both said powerlifting helps build up explosiveness to fight off blockers in football or take that quick shot on the wrestling mat.

The three lifts performed in powerlifting competition are the squat, bench press and deadlift. All three must be done in that specific sequence, completed within the same day and be done without interruption.

Each competitor is allowed a maximum of three attempts for their respective bodyweight category once live events begin. The heaviest successful lift for participant will be recorded and submitted to the New Mexico Activities Association.

Coaches are responsible for recording and submitting their own team’s results to the NMAA.

The campaign, which got underway earlier this month, will resume on Nov. 30.

For Aztec, it’s two-fold: immediate satisfaction with actual competition, plus the benefits a few months from now.

“They’ll have more of a peace of mind that their body is ready, prepared,” Strauss said. “They’re going feel strong in football. They’re going to feel strong through our games throughout the season.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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