Rutgers Powerlifting Club has strong showing in IPF University World Cup
The Rutgers Powerlifting Club has been around for less than a year, but it’s already making significant strides up the ranks of the community.
After finishing in third place at the United States Powerlifting Association’s National Tournament in both the men’s and women’s raw categories, the club placed fifth out of 20 schools on the women’s side and 13th out of 29 teams on the men’s side at the inaugural International Powerlifting Federation’s University Powerlifting World Cup in Minsk, Belarus.
The Scarlet Knights received an invitation to the World Cup after teams dropped out in both gender categories for different reasons — UTSA on the men’s side and LSU on the women’s side, according to club president and co-founder Kevin Hejnas.
“We were the only team in the United States to send both the men’s and women’s teams to the World Cup,” he said.
Earning the invitation was euphoric but it resulted in a problem for the Knights — it did not have access to emergency funding from Rutgers due to being a first-semester club.
To attend the tournament, the team began a GoFundMe drive, titled ‘Belarus or Bust, with a goal to raise $20,000.
The $16,176 earned wasn't enough to send each member of the team that qualified over to Europe, but a majority of those who qualified were able to make the trip.
The Knights’ top male performer in Minsk was Noel Tuvera. The junior finished 3rd in the 66 Kg category, going a perfect 9-for-9 in his three lifts after finishing in second at nationals.
Constantly looking to improve his marks, Tuvera had a little extra motivation to put in his best performance in Belarus. While he was happy to place on the podium, the fact he was able to compete was the most important thing to him.
“Where I placed wasn’t as important to me because a couple of days after we got the invitation to Belarus, my grandma passed, so I decided to dedicate this entire preparatory phase and the entire competition to her,” he said. “Just to finish 9-for-9, which I got all my attempts, was an accomplishment in itself, and that honestly meant more to me than third place.”
On the women’s side, Emily Ho placed the highest among her teammates, finishing third in the 47 kilogram category. Ho flipped places with teammate Nicole Yu from Nationals, where Yu won the 47 kg category and Ho finished as runner-up.
Despite fighting a leg injury that dated back to before Nationals, Yu was able to complete all but one of her reps, the final of her three deadlift attempts.
“Two weeks before nationals, there was a point where I couldn’t walk,” Yu said. “There was a point where I ran for the bus and nearly fell on my face because my legs were messed up.”
Yu had powerlifted for a few months before winning the national title, a quick progression mirrored by the club she represented.
Five months after becoming official, the group of friends stood on the podium at nationals and placed respectably in Belarus. From here, they look up, aiming to take their early success and surpass it with another year of training under their belt.
“As a team, we were actually the youngest team by far that went since we were only established just this year and some teams have been competing for a while,” Tuvera said. “Everyone that i talked to there had been powerlifting for 4-5 years, where as some of us barely have half a year experience exclusively powerlifting. So it was definitely a huge building block and we’re excited to work to get back there and do better than 13th.”
An integral part of the team’s nucleus, Tuvera has hope of improvement in the club’s future. The more you climb the hierarchy, the heavier the goals seem to be.
“The goal is to win Nationals and then World’s,” co-founder Hejnas said. “I think we actually have a good chance to do that but we have to execute better than we did this meet. … We now know how to prepare for an international competition and a national competition as well.”
Brian Fonseca is the sports editor of the Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. Follow him on Twitter @briannnnf for more stories.