This season was all about redemption.
The 2018 boys weightlifting season still serves as a painful reminder to Matanzas’ Will Lam. It was a reminder that, contrary to popular belief, hard work doesn’t always pay off.
Stuff happens. Failure happens.
Lam, then a junior, entered that season as one of the area’s top lifters in the 154-pound weight class. But he never made it past the district meet, where he scratched out on all of his clean-and-jerk attempts.
He’d worked too hard, overcome so much to get to this point. How could the season possibly end like this?
Regardless, he used his early exit from the postseason as an opportunity.
“Having to sit back just gave me more time to get stronger,” he said.
“Will is the reason why coaches coach. He’s that good of a kid.”
Don Mathews, Matanzas coach
2019 was all about redemption.
Lam breezed through districts and regionals, earning a spot in the Class 2A FHSAA boys weightlifting state championship in the 169-pound class on Friday, April 12, at Arnold High School in Panama City Beach.
Lam was flawless on the bench press, easily hitting all of his lifts, including a max of 360 pounds, which was 25 pounds ahead of the next-best bench. With a relatively comfortable lead, Lam decided to “take it easy” on the clean-and-jerk, which, he professes, is not his “strength.”
He knew he was going to win gold when his closest competition went for his 285-pound max on his first attempt, which he failed to complete, in order to keep up.
Even though victory was almost assured, Lam remained calm. He wasn’t worried about the competition. He was solely focused on executing each attempt as perfectly as he could.
He finished with a max 295-pound clean-and-jerk, upping hit total to 655 pounds, which was 35 pounds clear of second place.
Lam was a state champion — the fifth Matanzas athlete to earn that honor.
“It’s very fulfilling,” he said. “Nothing beats it when you work so hard for something.”
Lam has attended Matanzas for all four years of high school. Pirates head coach Don Mathews, had nothing but praise for Lam.
“He’s Matanzas through-and-through,” he said. “He started here, he stayed here, he persevered here. That’s what Will is all about — perseverance.”
Now, with graduation just over a month away, Lam walks through the hallways at Matanzas with a glimmering gold medal around his neck — a testament to the hard work finally paying off.
“It just proves that working hard — no matter who you are or where you came from — you can make it,” he said. “You’ve just got to believe.”