The 2016-2017 Natalia Powerlifting season has been one full of records being broken. Last Saturday, three Natalia Mustangs traveled to Abilene to compete in the Texas High School Powerlifting State Championship.
With 98 schools in attendance in Division III (3A, 2A, 1A schools), the competition was competitive to say the least with 149 lifters competing in the division.
After plenty of hard work, dedication and effort, not only did the Mustangs claim two gold championships and a 4th place medal finish, but they claimed the first outright State team title. This marked the first team state title for any Natalia Athletic program, since the long forgotten 1949-1950 Natalia Palamino Girls Basketball team that claimed the “Golden Girl Championship” which was equivalent to a state title back in this time era.
“Going in, we knew we had a shot to do something special, but it would take everyone doing their part and our boys didn’t disappoint winning our first ever state title for our powerlifting program,” Natalia Head Coach Ilyan Martinez said.
The Natalia Mustangs finished the day with 16 points which put them a point ahead of 2nd place San Diego to claim the Team State Title. Coming in 3rd place was Axtell with 10 points and 4th place was Karnes City with 9 points. Numerous other traditionally tough programs such as Franklin, Pilot Point, Hebbronville, Jourdanton, Mathis, Kemp and 90+ others finished behind the boys in blue!
The first step toward a team state title came when senior Santiago Leija captured an individual state title in the Super Heavy Weight Class. Leija, entered the state meet ranked #4, but left atop the competition.
“Santiago entered Saturday’s meet sitting in 4th place in the Super Heavy Weight Class, but he had a great day going 8-9 on lifts becoming Natalia’s first ever boys state champion,” Coach Martinez said.
Leija was able to win the state title with a 1,710 lb. total which included a squat of 715 lbs., a bench press of 405 lbs. and a dead lift of 590 lbs. Thanks to his total, he was able to edge out West Hardin’s Chesson who finished with a 1,690 lb. total and Pilot Point’s Giron who finished with a 1,685 lb. total. There were a total of 13 lifters in the weight class.
“This was Santiago’s 4th year lifting with our program and his first ever state meet,” Martinez said. “He left no doubt, he was the strongest in the SHW division out-pulling the competition to win and set the table for our team. As a senior, I could not be prouder of the way he represented all year and Saturday was no different. He is humble, hard working and when he got his opportunity to represent his community, he found a way to get it done and win it!”
The second individual state champion came as Manuel Padilla battled 11 other athletes in the 123 lb. weight class.
“Manny out-pulled the competition with his final dead lift which put our team in the driver’s seat,” Martinez said.
This talented sophomore was able to win the state title, by using a 425 lb. squat, a 185 lb. bench press and a 405 lb. dead lift to account for a 1,015 lb. total. This total edged Kemp’s Lowrie by 5 lbs. (1,010) and Pilot Point’s Giron by 10 lbs. (1,005).
“Manny is only a sophomore and had to overcome adversity to claim a state title which truly allowed our team to get in position to win it all after missing his last two bench press attempts and his first dead lift attempt,” Martinez said. “He came through like a season veteran, not making any excuses, but finding a way to win it all and help his team. He had to be committed to a strict diet and work harder than he ever has and in the end, he reaped the rewards for his hard work and no one is more deserving. From the beginning, he was determined to win state and help our team and that is exactly what he did representing our program with class and integrity.”
In order to claim the team state title, they needed junior athlete Julian Martinez to come through in a huge way.
“Julian would have the toughest path competing against tough competition in the 220 lb. weight class, but would prove to be the final piece to help us secure our first ever state title,” Martinez said. “After going 1 for 3 on squat, 2 for 3 in the bench and 2 for 3 in the dead lift, Julian had to pull 600 lbs. on his dead lift to help secure a 4th place finish and the final piece of the title.”
Martinez was able to finish the squat with a 550 lb. total and the bench press with a 350 lb. total putting a ton of pressure on him in the final event and eventual final lift of the meet for this hard working junior.
“It would have been really easy to find a way out, especially after missing 600 lbs. on his 2nd dead lift attempt,” Martinez said.
On the final dead lift of the meet for Martinez, he was able to pull 600 lbs. to not only secure the 4th place medal finish with a 1,500 lb. total, but helped the boys in blue clinch the team state title!
Martinez trailed Boling’s Gooden (1,725), Mathis Pirate Gibson (1,600) and McGregor’s Castillo (1,545). There were a total of 16 lifters in this weight class.
This team state title was huge, breaking a drought dating back 67 years.
“It was really important to the boys to go out and represent our program, school and community on the biggest stage and at the highest level” Martinez said. “I was really proud of how they competed all day and stuck together. They knew it would take a total team effort and they would all have to pull their final dead lift to finish the way we needed to be state champs and they didn’t disappoint. State Championships are uncommon accomplishments many will never get to experience and our boys showed an unselfish desire to put Natalia atop 98 schools in division 3 and be called STATE CHAMPS! While we had three boys represent our program this is an entire team, program, school and community accomplishment. We started this program 5 years ago and we’ve had great dedicated lifters set the standard and example, we’ve had great support from the top down from school board to Dr. Cone, Dr. Harris and Coach Graves, our community who support us in every way possible, and finally our entire team and coaching staff who have put so much work and time to get us to this point in our programs history. I’m humbled and honored to be part of such a great group of kids and staff along with a tremendous administration and community. Couldn’t be happier for the city of Natalia and I look forward to continued success moving this program forward.”
By Eric Smith