By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Not even Alex Cox quite knew what he was getting himself into.
When Cox, the head coach of the Grand Canyon University Powerlifting team, decided last summer to take charge of the program in its first season of operation, there wasn’t much structure, direction or participation to speak of.
By December, the program had grown to nearly 20 members, many of whom had made great strides in the fall and were scheduled to compete in upcoming spring events around Arizona.
“I remember sitting there one day looking at the roster of a little less than 20 people and saying, ‘Shoot, this is actually working,’” Cox said. “We had gotten the year moving in a forward direction, and we had people getting scheduled for meets. Seeing everything actually work and moving forward was an incredible feeling.”
In the two spring meets GCU competed in prior to the statewide coronavirus cancellations, the Lopes were dominant.
At the 2020 United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) Drug Tested Arizona Open in February, GCU’s Jimmy Vasquez, Jacob Mares and Franky Hobbick each set state records and qualified for the USPA Drug Tested National Championships.
At The Lumberjack in March, Alex Stambaugh and Taylor Oda both took first place in each’s age division’s weight class.
Neither Stambaugh nor Oda had much weightlifting experience coming into the school year – something many of this year’s Lopes’ participants had in common.
“They (Stambaugh and Oda) both worked hard, put in a lot of work over months of time, and it finally paid off in March,” Cox said. “Their attitude in the gym and while training always made the spirits bright and really brought the group together.”
Other self-proclaimed ‘newbies’ also excelled.
Duy Nguyen, who had no knowledge of the sport coming in, became beloved for his infectious positive attitude, and earned the nickname “Danger Zone” after being pinned under heavy weight numerous times while trying to set new personal records.
Blake Witty and Jacob Mares also made big strides during training. Veterans of the sport, Vasquez and Masson Wubben helped Cox teach the intricate techniques and fundamentals of the various lifts around the gym.
“The thing that really surprised me was how unique and genuine every person was,” Cox said. “Everyone was their own person, embraced being their own person and used their individual strengths to help other’s weaknesses.”
“This year was all about setting the foundation and giving the club a groundwork to build up from,” Cox said. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but with the help of the awesome people at club sports and the amazing kids on the team, we made leaps and bounds.”
Interested in joining GCU Powerlifting? Contact the coach for more info!