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It’s a new season for the Matanzas weightlifting team. Coach Joey Lippo has taken over, and several top lifters from last season have graduated. But, some things never change.
As the Iron Pirates stacked on the weight and started with the bench press in the Matanzas Field House Wednesday afternoon against St. Augustine in the season opener, Lippo did what he always does: Before each lifter gets ready to perform a lift, he looks down from above, whispers some words of encouragement and then slaps them on their ribcage. It’s not just a tap, either. The slap echoes along with the clanking of the weights.
He has done this for as long as he can remember.
“It’s just to get their mind right,” Lippo said. “It’s to get their mind off where the weight is. It’s something they like, I’ve always done it, and I don’t know why they like it, but it clears their mind. It gets their adrenaline going.”
For the most part, it worked once again Wednesday, despite losing the overall meet to St. Augustine, 45-44.
The goal early on for Lippo and his coaching staff, though, isn’t to win meets. It’s to help lifters continue to develop as they get further into the season.
Last season, the Iron Pirates went undefeated throughout the regular season and went on to finish third in the state meet. Eight lifters qualified for the state meet last season.
“The only job for me and the coaching staff was to hit all six lifts,” Lippo said. “We focus on that every week so they can adapt and grow strength-wise.”
In the 129-pound class, senior lifter Chris Santana returns after placing second in the state last year. He placed first on Wednesday with a 440-pound total — one of the heaviest totals of all Matanzas lifters despite being in one of the lower weight classes.
Joe Murtagh (199 pounds), Travis Thompson (238 pounds) and Alec Kubiet (heavyweight) all took first place in their classes Wednesday, too.
Lippo said this year’s team is young in regard to experience, but he expects them to be contenders by March/April, much like most Matanzas weightlifting teams in the past.
“They practice at a high level on a daily basis,” Lippo said.
And although it’s his first season as head coach, Lippo doesn’t plan on changing a thing, including his pre-lift ribcage slap.
“The kids have been successful for a reason, and I’m not going to change a thing I do because it has worked,” he said.
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Note: (Bench press/clean-and-jerk/total)
Liam Thoubbason, second: 70-60-130
Chris Santana, first: 210-230-440
Brian Reynolds, second: 150-120-270
Coy Sprunger, second: 195-185-380
Troy Magnuson, third: 190-160-350
Isaiah Lugo, third: 170-165-335
Mark Serrano, fourth: 190-145-335
Marquese Jones, third: 225-205-430
Rahim Booker, fourth: 225-180-385
Dakota Manferd, second: 200-200-400
Christian Sikes, third: 165-140-305
Joe Murtagh, first: 280-230-510
Dyllan Fagas, fourth: 220-215-435
Alec Strenger, second: 200-205-405
Christian Clark, third: 205-185-390
Travis Thompson, first: 270-240-510
Zach Gonzales, second: 290-215-505
Alex Kubiet, first: 270-275-545
Loubens Polinice, third: 215-250-465