For the last four years, Jourdanton alum Enrique Lugo has chased his dream of being an International Powerlifter Federation (IPF) World Champion.
On Aug. 31, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, he accomplished what he hopes to be the first of many world championships by claiming the Junior World Championship in his last year to compete in the division.
“It’s honestly incredible,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s something I’ve been chasing for the last four years I would say. It was my last time to compete at this world competition, so it was pretty good to come out with the gold and bring it home for the U.S.”
The 2014 Jourdanton grad took home first place in the individual lifts of bench press and squat, with respective weights of 650.5 and 821 pounds. He placed second in deadlift — the only lift he knew would be a battle — after lifting 694.5 pounds. His final total was 2,166 pounds.
“I pulled my second [deadlift] attempt with just under 700 pounds. Then that guy’s second attempt was 700,” Lugo recalled. “I wanted to win the gold. So all I had to do was pull 725, but their coach started bumping up their weight and my coach [Zac Cooper] started bumping up my weight. I had no idea this was going on. Before I knew it, they wanted me to pull 740, which, on another day, it would’ve been there. I got second on deadlift which is kind of embarrassing, but it’s alright.”
Not only is the competition stiff, so is the judging on the world stage of powerlifting. Lugo says the only thing he can control there is his preparation and focus on the next lift.
“The judging … there’s a lot of things that go into it that make it a lot harder,” Lugo said. “But you’ve gotta just show up on gameday and be more prepared than the next guy.”
Lugo has balanced his training between college and his job as a supervisor in the construction industry. He says the latter of the two makes it tough because the majority of his 12-hour workday is spent on a searing hot roof.
“It makes it a lot more rewarding because I hear all the time from people I go to school with that they don’t have time,” Lugo said. “They let other things get in their way. It feels good to try and motivate people and show they do have the time if you make the time. If you want something, you will make the time.”
But the passion for lifting isn’t new. Lugo attributes his love for lifting to his days as a member of the Jourdanton Indian football team. He picked it up to get stronger for football, but eventually took to powerlifting in the football offseason as well. He won a state title in 2014 and set numerous records during that time.
“I just lifted to get bet- ter for football and fell in love with lifting,” Lugo said. “I was always a fat kid growing up, a real fat kid.”
But lifting helped Lugo not only get stronger for football, but it helped him get into a healthier lifestyle. He hopes his journey will lead to more people understanding the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
“Once I started hitting the weights, the bodyweight started coming off and a whole new level of confidence came about,” he said. “That’s something I’ve always been really big on, just trying to encourage others to hit the weight room and take care of themselves because we only get one life. There’s no point in being unfit and unhealthy and unhappy with yourself. If there’s one place to start, that’s one of the easier ways to get in there. Get in the weight room and get after it.”
Knowing that kids are still able to look up to him as a source of inspiration is something Lugo enjoys. It means he’s passing the same feeling he felt as a young athlete to the next generation.
“It’s pretty huge, because I remember looking up to older guys and what they were doing,” Lugo said. “It motivated me to be better than them and to do my absolute best, no matter what.”
While powerlifting is not sanctioned in the Olympics, the IPF has submitted proposals to the International Olympic Committee to hopefully get the sport into the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Lugo, who will continue to compete on the world stage through the IPF’s World Games, hopes he can one day represent the U.S. at the Olympics.
“We have this thing called the World Games and it’s getting closer to being an Olympic competition,” Lugo said. “We’re looking for, not this coming Olympics, but the following Olympics. They’re looking to have a powerlifting event there. The next step is to compete in the World Open competition and see what I can do against literally the best. I’m not really far off. I’m probably top five in the U.S. across all age groups and not far off from first place. I’m hoping by next year I can represent as one of the youngest competitors in the world.”