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He lifts heavy loads

Fifteen-year-old Alex Brettingen finished fourth in his weight class at the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association State Championships March 7-8 at South Milwaukee High School.

Not bad for a guy who basically had three months to prepare for his first-ever competition.

Brettingen was one of over 400 boys and girls from across the state that competed at the state finals earlier this month. Competing in the 123 pound weight class, he lifted 280 pounds in the squat, 210 in the bench press and 310 in the dead lift for a total of 800 pounds. His bench press was the second best in the state and his total weight was good enough to place him fourth out of 13 competitors in his division.

While Brettingen's been lifting weights alongside his dad, Randy, since he was 11 years old, the high school sophomore had never lifted competitively before. But when Randy stumbled across the WHSPA Web site last September, he pointed it out to Alex.

"I looked at the numbers and thought, Alex is right there," Randy said. "We should give this a shot."

But qualifying for the state championships would prove tougher than either expected. While Alex was used to lifting weights a certain way, he learned the WHSPA rules were a little stricter.

"We have a friend in Hudson, Todd Dierks," Randy explained. "We went over and saw him in September to learn the legal lifts. We left there that night with lowered expectations, just because of the different way lifts are judged."

"We were used to a certain style of bench where you bump it off your chest," Alex said. "But the rules say you have to hold it on your chest. That knocked off about 20 pounds for me, and about 30 or 40 pounds in the squat.

"I have to admit, I was disheartened," Alex added. "I thought I was benching 220 but I wasn't even close to that. I had to start over from scratch."

Alex went home, lightened up his weights, and worked on lifting according to the WHSPA rules.

"I kept my eyes on my goal," he said. "I knew what I had to do."

What he had to do was lift a total of at least 630 pounds at a WHSPA regional in Osceola Jan. 12 in order to qualify for the state championships. He exceeded the qualifying standard by totaling 700 pounds.

Just in case he couldn't make weight at 123 for the state meet, he competed at another regional in Phillips Feb. 16 as a 132-pounder and lifted 770 pounds.

Alex, who is also a member of the Wildcat wrestling team, said he had no problem maintaining his weight to compete at 123 pounds at state. Both he and his dad said he was lucky to be able to learn the proper techniques before attempting to qualify at regionals.

"Otherwise I think he would have gone to Osceola and been disqualified in every lift," Randy said. "It was an advantage to be able to work with the lifters from Hudson."

Randy said he's lifted weights all his life as a way to stay in shape.

"I never competed. I didn't know it existed when I was in school," he said. "But I've always had one room set aside in my house for weight training."

He said he enjoys his time working out in the family weight room with Alex.

"It really is unique," he said. "We lift four or five days a week, in hour-and-a-half to two-hour sessions. That's our time. Sometimes we just listen to music. Sometimes we talk about sports or politics or school. It will be the same thing with Anna (Alex's 12 year-old sister). It will be my time with her."

Anna, a seventh-grader at Meyer Middle School, has also been bitten by the weightlifting bug and plans to try her hand at competition in the future. Their mom, Elsa, said she was surprised at the number of girls who competed at the state championships.

"It's amazing how many girls are in it," she said. "Some girls just lift the bar and are happy to do that. Every individual is happy with their personal results."

Alex said seeing results is one of the things that keeps him motivated.

"I'm slowly getting stronger," he said. "I love that part of it. I notice it in my day-to-day life. I'm stronger and more fit."

He said while he has friends at school who lift weights, he's surprised more local youth haven't discovered competitive lifting. He said Eau Claire North had 25 competitors at the regional meet, and pointed to schools like Osceola, Phillips Oak Creek and Wisconsin Rapids as having strong programs.

"The schools that do have these clubs are usually strong in sports like football and wrestling," he said. "I know there are guys who would be interested. It just takes one interested person who knows what he's doing, then it takes off."

"I know there are kids at the high school who play football and other sports that lift during the offseason that would be interested in competitive lifting," Randy said. "As long as you're lifting during the offseason, you might as well have some fun and compete."

Randy encourages anyone wishing to become involved in competitive weightlifting to contact him at