Illini Powerlifting gains recognition

By Nathan Grimm

Two years ago, Illini Powerlifting wasn’t contending for World Championships.

They didn’t hold a single record and didn’t have one lifter with his name in the books. They didn’t even make the trip to the World Association of Benchers and Dead Lifters (WABDL) World Championships – the pinnacle of lifting.

That’s because two years ago, Illini Powerlifting didn’t exist.

Seventeen World Championships, 114 state records and over 70 members later, Illini Powerlifting has put itself on the map.

“It’s unbelievable that we’ve done all that in just over a year’s time,” said John Hudson, a graduate student at the University and one of the original members of the group.

The team made quite an impression at last November’s WABDL World Championships in Reno, Nev. They had a number of individuals become world champions in his or her weight class because of performances in the event.

“That’s the biggest single team accomplishment,” said team member Nicolas Lepine, junior in applied life studies.

In August 2003, Hudson teamed up with workout partners Ryan Harth, Lepine and Jake Westbrook to create Illini Powerlifting. Soon after, Hudson began lobbying anyone and everyone to join the club.

Today, the club consists of over 70 members from 16 different countries. While the vast majority of members, more than 90 percent, are University students, the team is made up of lifters from all over the area. The club is open to everyone, whether they’re experienced lifters or first-timers. That diversity, which might seem like a hindrance to some, is what makes the team special.

“As a team, we have an awesome group of people,” Lepine said.

Most of the members were new to the sport when they joined, but many had had previous experience in weightlifting because they had trained for high school sports.

“I’ve always been pretty athletic. I played football and track in high school,” Lepine said. “I always enjoyed lifting weights. I didn’t really know too much about the sport at the time.”

Blake Richards, junior in engineering, also started lifting in high school, but had different reasons for pursuing the sport more actively in college.

“It’s for me to push myself. Pushing the limits,” Richards said. “It’s really challenging.”

Because membership is constantly growing, getting everyone equal lifting time proved to be a problem.

The team decided the best way to have everybody lift equally would be to organize smaller, more efficient squads but keep the whole team ideal intact. Lepine said the mix of young and old lifters adds to a group’s character.

“Each group dynamic has its own thing,” Lepine said.

With the team continuing to grow, the members expect only better results in years to come.

“Championships and records are going to continue to pile up,” Hudson said. “I’d like to see the team become a top-echelon team every year.”