The weight room at the Genoa High School Athletic Complex is getting busier by the day.
Junior Garrett Poiry is one of dozens of Genoa students who have turned the weight room into their second home after school, and even on weekends. A large group of them are now competing in weightlifting meets at the state level.
“Last year there was a senior, Matt Bury, who told me and a couple of my closest buddies that he would really like to get something going for this school,” Poiry said. “He said it would benefit our football team, wrestling team, everybody. He said they don’t have to compete, just build them up and get them stronger and faster. Matt was the one to keep going with this.”
Initially, Molly McLear and her husband, Mike, felt that their son Joey, a freshman at Genoa, shouldn’t take this weightlifting thing so seriously.
“At first it was very difficult for Mike and I,” Molly said. “We thought he should stick to what we consider a high school sport – baseball, basketball, football.”
While Joey still plays football, he and several of his peers are involved in another sport that is taking off: competitive weightlifting. On March 9, Joey McLear and 17 other Genoa boys combined to take second place at the state powerlifting meet at Kenton High School.
Last year just four Genoa boys competed at the state meet and the squad finished 10th. Senior Kyle Nutter, the school’s all-time leading rusher, was on last year’s team and this year’s squad and placed third in the 225-pound weight class in Kenton.
Each individual competes in three lifts, the bench press, squat and deadlift. Nutter had a three-lift total of 1,290 pounds while his brother, David, a Genoa junior, took 10th at 210 pounds.
“Lifting has definitely become something very important to the Genoa students,” said Kyle, who signed to play football for Siena Heights (Mich.) College earlier this month. “A lot of that is just from a couple of kids starting it. A lot of the other kids are seeing the progress and followng in the same footsteps and want to do the same thing.
“It’s a great atmosphere in the weight room. There is no discrimination from the older kids and younger kids, or the stronger guys and weaker guys. A lot of guys are getting after it, and it’s easy to work hard when everyone else is also. A lot of times you see the more knowledgeable guys helping the younger guys, and that’s great to see.”
Nutter set a meet record at the Northwood regional meet, which is the state-qualifying event for lifters in this area. Nutter’s meet-record (and personal best) 360-pound bench press in the 225-pound division helped Genoa win the regional title.
Genoa had several top performers at the state meet, including sophomore Nathan Szymanski, who won the 135-pound title with a three-lift total of 1,010 pounds. Poiry was second at 155 pounds, with a combined 1,205 pounds, while junior Robert Roginski was fourth at 175 (1,090 pounds) and freshman Eric Traver was fourth at 125 pounds (625 pounds).
Also competing for Genoa at the state meet were Ramon Ochoa, Tyler Rozek, John Belsky, Blake Traver, Jay Nino, Max Reeder, Lucas Apel, Robert Roginski, David Nutter, Solomon Mutchler, Michael Deiter, Garrett Etts and Trey Fairchild.
Poiry, who lifted a personal-best 485 pounds in the squat and 440 in the deadlift, credited his lifting coach, Scott Siewert, a former powerlifting champion in the 1980s, with helping him get involved in the Northwood regional meet a year ago.
“He was big in helping me out,” Poiry said. “I gave up wrestling at the end of my freshman year and I’ve been lifting ever since. I’ve been competing since my sophomore year, and I just love hanging out with my friends and I love doing what I do and getting other people involved and seeing them grow. It’s just a cool experience.”
Molly McLear said that after seeing how focused her son has gotten in Genoa’s weightlifting “club,” she and her husband are now behind him 100 percent. Joey, the youngest Genoa competitor at Kenton, lifted 910 pounds to place 15th at 195 pounds.
“He was driven for this and we supported him along the way, and now we couldn’t be more involved,” Molly said. “He gave up on the basketball and the wrestling just for these two sports (football and weightlifting). It’s amazing to watch their bodies change. Joey is almost 6-1 and he was a short, chunky child in the sixth and seventh grade. He’s just shot up, and the tone in his body - everything he does - has improved. Those kids are close. This sport has made a bond that will last a lifetime.”
The Genoa lifters usually train five days a week for two hours after school, and many of them show up in the weight room on weekends. Several parents and coaches, including head football coach Tim Spiess, Mike McLear, John Poiry, Jon Nutter, Kurt Reeder, Keith Traver and Mike Szmanski, help supervise.
Kurt Reeder, a freshman football coach and varsity assistant at Genoa, was a competitive bodybuilder as a teenager. His son, Max, now plays football and wrestles at Genoa and is an avid weightlifter.
“I work a lot with the kids,” Kurt said. “They put forth an incredible amount of determination and effort, and that’s feeding itself. Max has competed in some powerlifting events and had some success. The Nutter boys have done very well in these powerlifting meets. The kids are all just joining in the club, working five and six days a week to the point I have to tell them to slow down. They just can’t get enough of it.
“I go in the weight room and you can hardly find room in there. It’s most rewarding for me. I tell them it makes my day when they out-squat me. When you see them accomplish their goals, that’s the best. The parents back their kids and are making it possible for them.”
Genoa’s lifters saw the fruits of their labor pay off at the state meet. The team took second behind defending champ Kenton in Divisions IV, V, VI and couldn’t have been happier.
“We were thrilled, only because we just got a team going,” Garrett Poiry said. “This really was our first year doing it. I thought we would get third or fourth. Our overall goal is to always be the best. That’s our school motto.”
Kyle Nutter said he was impressed with the second-place finish, given that this was truly the team’s inaugural full-blown effort at the state level.
“We couldn’t even fill all the slots last year; this year we filled all the slots,” Nutter said. “We just wanted to compete and have fun. I don’t know if we realized we were going to do that well. We have a lot of lifters who are going to continue powerlifting. I’m sure it will become even more popular at Genoa as the years go on. I wouldn’t be surprised if we brought home a couple state championships in the years to come.”
Freshman Joey McLear squatting.
Genoa sophomore Nathan Szymanski on the bench press.
Genoa junior Tyler Rozek deadlifting.