Powerlifting Club sends seven to Nationals in inaugural season

by Matt Yuen | 4/24/16 5:12pm

Drake Corbin ’17 pulled 232.5 kilograms during the U.S.A. Powerlifting Collegiate National Championships.

Every great thing starts off as a small idea. In the fall of 2015, Tony Choi ’16 had a dream: to start a Powerlifting Club at Dartmouth.

From the notorious breakfast bomb to the daily Late Night Collis ventures, one oftentimes encounters certain obstacles when attempting to maintain one’s fitness. There’s a reason why many college students find they can no longer fit into their clothing, and it’s not because they shrunk in the wash. The fact of the matter is it’s not easy to stay in shape.

“Fitness in college is a struggle, it’s hard to stay motivated,” Choi said. “You kind of need some kind of goal, or at least I did. I struggled for the first three years, but last summer I discovered powerlifting as a sport, and I started training. Having that competitive goal in your mind makes you want to go every day. It makes you reevaluate your goals for fitness and almost makes you OCD about your training.”

In Choi’s mind, the benefits of having a goal in mind were just too good to be kept to himself. He wanted to be able to powerlift with other students who struggled on campus to maintain their fitness. And just like that, the Powerlifting Club was created.

Like any other club or student organization, there were a lot of skeptics. Choi said that people had told him powerlifting was not interesting enough to gain devotees, because it was unlikely that people would add on powerlifting to their academic and extracurricular priorities. However, Choi was determined, and he persisted to grow and develop his club. That being said, Choi admits that his initial recruiting tactics were a bit unconventional.

“I was a pretty creepy dude,” Choi said. “Literally, whenever I saw a dude doing a lot of weight, I’d basically hit on [him]. I’d say, ‘Ayy, that’s a lot of weight. You been training for a while and stuff?’ It was the most awkward thing, especially before this was established as a competing team.”

Although the Powerlifting Club may have started off with questionable recruiting tactics, it steadily grew, eventually holding information sessions. It was at these meetings that the club really grew in size and credibility. The club’s inclusivity and welcoming environment attracted members, rather than the sport itself.

“I’ve tried everything here, and I think that the reason why I wanted to be part of the Powerlifting Club was because at the first informational session we had it was really inviting,” Yesenia Mejia ’18 said. “These were buff dudes, but they really wanted me to be able to be comfortable and happy. They said if I’m having a bad day, they’d be there for me. Everyone was so inviting and everyone was really happy that people wanted to be part of it.”

In addition to the information sessions, the club’s GroupMe adds another layer of inclusivity and support to the club.

“I wanted a lifting family,” Choi said. “Whenever someone reaches a new max, we just say it in the GroupMe and everyone is like ‘Good job!’ It’s an amazing support group. The bromance is kinda crazy.”

Furthermore, the Powerlifting Club offers a rich experience of diversity because of the universal appeal of health and fitness.

“I think health and proving yourself is something everyone is inherently interested in,” Choi said. “Everyone can go to the gym and be healthy and exercise, so you end up having a lot of people from different backgrounds. I’m pretty confident if it weren’t for this club, some of my friends on the team I would have never met because you don’t really cross paths.”

Nevertheless, the Powerlifting Club is much more than just a supportive and inclusive group of students. The club has demonstrated its ability to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk as it had seven members qualify for the U.S.A. Powerlifting Collegiate National Championship in Providence, Rhode Island. Given that the club was founded in September, actually having members qualify for Nationals is a huge achievement in and of itself. The relative youth of the club posed many logistical and experiential difficulties for Dartmouth’s club.

Many of the teams Dartmouth competed against had years of powerlifting experience, coaches to instruct them and many more members. For example, powerlifting is a varsity sport at the United States Military Academy at West Point with over 30 members. Dartmouth’s club had realistic goals going into the tournament.

“For us, it was just the chance to get people participating and kind of figuring out how to start a culture of powerlifting at Dartmouth and a culture of just being a team in general,” Drake Corbin ’17 said. “I think really the main goal was to go as a cohesive unit and to cheer each other on and make sure we handle [each other’s] attempts well. We just want to build a foundation that we can build on moving forward.”

Logistically speaking, going to Nationals was also a huge accomplishment for the Powerlifting Club. Unlike many other schools competing at the tournament, the club does not have a coach. As a result, there was no one at the top to organize the trip to Rhode Island. Corbin said that Choi really stepped up to the plate by organizing the trip, keeping in touch with everyone and holding everyone responsible.

As predicted, no one did exceptionally well at the tournament, but no one came at the last of their division. All in all, the journey of the Powerlifting Club really is one of dedication and passion. When the Powerlifting Club was first created, no one thought that it was going to be a club that sent people to nationals. But after having seven people qualify, the team learned to dream and expect the unexpected. Contemporary rapper Drake would be proud of what the team has accomplished. They started from the bottom, but now they’re here.