CAPTION: Marble Falls powerlifters Jasuel Ruiz (left) and Xavier Lopez represent the are a well at the Division 2 state meet March 24. Courtesy photo
Marble Falls High School junior powerlifter Xavier Lopez turned heads at the Division II state meet March 24 as he powered his way to a silver medal in the 181-pound division and teammate Jasuel Ruiz set new personal records in the 148-pound division.
Lopez posted a 690-pound squat, a 315-pound bench press, and a 675-pound dead lift for a total of 1,680 pounds.
Ruiz was 13th in his weight division thanks to a 465-pound squat, a 255-pound bench press, and a 480-pound dead lift for a total of 1,200 pounds. Junior Chase Richard, who also qualified in the 123-pound weight division, didn’t compete because of an injury.
Head coach Robert Draper said the Mustangs gave it all they had.
“I’m proud of the way we competed,” he said. “I thought our kids finished well. Xavier was astounded by some of the weight. He said, ‘I can’t wait to get back in the weight room.’ The whole experience motivated Xavier.”
Going into the state meet, fans were eager to see the head-to-head battle between Andrews senior Indiana Taylor and Lopez, regarded as the top two lifters in their weight division.
“We knew that kid from Andrews was going to be tough,” Draper said. “Xavier would have to do a lot more than he’s done. He came close. It almost fell into place.”
The first lift was the squat where Lopez finished first with 690 pounds to Taylor’s 670. But Lopez chose to attempt 715 pounds with his final squat. While onlookers thought he had gotten low enough to earn the score, judges did not and didn’t award him that total.
The next lift was the bench press where Taylor regained the advantage thanks to lifting 440 pounds to Lopez’s 315. That meant that Taylor led by 105 pounds going into the final lift — the dead lift.
“That’s Xavier’s thing,” Draper said.
Here’s the format. Each lifter is limited to three lifts and each station has three judges who watch each lift. Once all three signal a good lift, the athlete puts the weight down and awaits instructions for what’s next.
Lopez dead lifted 675 pounds with ease. On Lopez’s next lift, he attempted 760 pounds. Two of the three judges awarded Lopez the lift. But the third judge did not. That forced Lopez to hold the lift longer. In the end, the length of time wore out Lopez, who put the weight down before getting the signal, which voided the lift.
So “he didn’t get 760,” Draper said.
Meanwhile, Taylor dead lifted 690 pounds.
That put Lopez in a dilemma. He could attempt the 760 pounds again to set a state record. Or he could attempt 800 pounds, which went beyond his training, and secure a state title.
Lopez opted for the win and told Mustangs strength-and-conditioning coach Richard Scales.
“I didn’t even get the chance to ask him if he wanted to bump up to 800 for the win,” Scales wrote on his social media. “I turned around and he said, ‘Load the bar coach.'”
As Scales quickly worked, Draper pulled his athlete aside.
“I told Xavier, ‘You’re fixing to do a great dead lift and shock everybody and win this thing,” he recalled saying.
Lopez got the weight off the ground but couldn’t complete the lift. That made Taylor the state champion.
The meet showed the following Lopez has on social media, the coach said.
“During the dead lift, the whole stadium was watching him,” Draper said. “They were yelling ‘I follow you on Tik Tok.’ He was a celebrity. After the meet, he was taking pictures (with fans) and signing autographs.”
Ruiz also had a terrific meet. Draper noted he set a new personal record in the dead lift and “was frustrated with himself on how he performed in the squat.”
Draper said the state meet revealed some interesting aspects of the sport. Top of the list were the suits athletes wore for the meet. Some were specific for each lift.
“(There are) suits for the dead lift,” he said. “The technology on some of those suits means you can lift a more weight than you’re capable of. The suit adds 100 to 120 pounds.”
And athletes from other schools are willing to allow competitors to put on the suits before they lift.
“It’s unbelievable what the kids do,” Draper said.
Because the meet was in Abilene and the Mustangs had time before the meet started March 24, they took the short trek to Hardin-Simmons University to attend football practice and see 2022 graduate Jake Becker. Coaches welcomed the Mustangs and invited them to sit in meetings. Ruiz began asking questions of the staff and followed the running backs when the team broke into position meetings. The others followed the defense and Draper went with the offensive linemen.
“Some were enthusiastic, some were happy to be on a university campus,” the coach said. “The running back coach treated Jasuel like he was one of the running backs. He grabbed Jasuel’s cell phone and punched in his number and told him, ‘we’d like to have you here.’ That made him feel special.”
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