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Weightlifting club wins big at nationals

Weightlifting club wins big at nationals
La Vernia Weightlifting Club members (from left) Matthew Montgomery, Connor Towns, Coach Jason Fiacco, Koby Bullard, Travis Puhlmann, and Shelby Rodriguez celebrate after winning a host of medals and awards at the 2015 USA Weightlifting Youth Championships in Minneapolis, Minn.

Coach Jason Fiacco and La Vernia High School Weightlifting Club team members Shelby Rodriguez, Travis Puhlmann, Matthew Montgomery, Koby Bullard, and Connor Towns stormed into Minneapolis, Minn., the weekend of June 26-28 for the USA Weightlifting Youth Championships. There were more than 550 competitors from across the nation, but the team from La Vernia stood out.

During this prestigious event, powerhouse programs from Minnesota, Colorado, and Georgia were in attendance, as well as athletes competing for spots in future Olympic programs. And while the La Vernia weightlifting club has only existed for about two years, it has achieved high levels of success in every competition, and continues to do so. Fiacco established a vision for the team, and each lifter has bought into the program, working hard all year to achieve success.

At the conclusion of this last event, the La Vernia lifters all medaled in at least one event, achieved several personal bests, and were awarded two team trophies for points scored a huge accomplishment considering the team only has five athletes.

Rodriguez, looking to build on her success from last year’s Nationals, was the first lifter to compete and quickly established herself among the competitors. She earned a bronze medal in the 69-kilogram category for the snatch, as well as a trophy for third place in the 14-15 age group team award for females.

Puhlmann, the ultimate competitor, was competing in his second national competition, and was the second weightlifter for La Vernia to earn an award. Like Rodriguez, he won a bronze in the snatch, also in the 69-kilogram class.

First-time nationals competitor Towns did not back down from the spotlight, and did not disappoint. He added to the La Vernia points total by also taking home a bronze medal in the snatch, though he competed in the 105-plus-kilogram category.

As one of the team leaders, Montgomery, whose efforts led to a bronze and two silver medals, once again provided an energetic performance. He grabbed bronze in the snatch and silver in the clean and jerk. That led to a silver medal in the overall standings of the 94-kilogram weight class.

Bullard also provided an amazing performance at his first national appearance. His final lift of the day elevated him to gold-medal status, and he also won a gold medal in the 105-kilogram overall standings. As a team, the boys finished in third place overall at the national championships.

The La Vernia Weightlifting Club is not a UIL-sanctioned event and relied on generous donations from the community to participate in this event. The club raised more than $2,000 at the La Vernia Junior Stock Show, and its efforts were greatly aided by generous donations from Texas Dozer Service, Buffalo Joes, Busy Bear, Pruski’s Meat Market, Mesquite Bean, Witte’s Bar-B-Que, and Red Apple Resources.

The team represented its community with pride and distinction, and returned home with heads held high knowing every team member “held their own,” while competing against many of the best youth weightlifters in the country.

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