Powerlifting Varsity Victory for CUPLC


Cambridge 1169 : 1053 Oxford

Following a spate of disappointing losses in recent years, 2011 again saw a new-look CUPLC containing 5 novice lifters take on a vastly more experienced Oxford team in the annual Varsity Powerlifting Match. This year’s match-up took place on the 20th February 2011, in the Pro-Am Fight Centre in Cambridge, in adherence to the Varsity programme followed by other mainstream sports. The event was organised following the guidelines of an official powerlifting meet, with three referees registered with the national federation (GBPF) lending their services on the day to ensure a competent standard. As CUPLC intends to make the meet an official GBPF-registered competition in years to come, spotters were provided by CUPLC, with weights and official competition grade bench/squat stands in use. I am pleased to report that this year’s event ran very efficiently, with all involved performing to a very high standard. As in previous years the match would be decided on the combined Wilks scores of the top 3 lifters of each team based on successful lifts in the squat, bench press and deadlift. Both universities provided teams of 8 lifters for the event, with Cambridge fielding 3 mathmos, a medic, a historian, a theologian, an engineer and a Viking. The competition was split into two waves; those weighing 83kg or less (in line with the new IPF weight classes) were in the first wave and those heavier were in the second. With half of Oxford’s team weighing in very light, there were only 3 lifters representing Cambridge in the first flight. And so, following a weigh-in at 9.30am, the lifting began at 11.00.

Wil ‘Senor’ Solano of Fitzwilliam College, a new addition to the team and now well-known for his commitment and determination, opened with a confident 125kg for the first discipline, the squat, and the weight came up easily for a good lift. Taking a jump to 140kg for his second lift – a weight easily performed in training – Wil lost control slightly at the bottom of the lift and was unable to stand up with the weight. Taking the same weight again for his third lift, Wil completed the lift but moved slightly too early – before the referee’s ‘rack’ command – and was the lift was not counted as successful. On the bench press, Wil pressed 80kg for an easy opener, before battling 95kg to lockout for his second good lift, 100kg proving just out of reach but definitely on the horizon. In the deadlift, Wil ripped 160kg off the floor for another easy first lift, before picking up his previous personal best of 180kg as if it were a much lighter weight; Wil’s blood was clearly up as for his third and final lift he picked up an impressive 190kg for a very fast personal record, beating his previous best by 10kg! Wil had a good first competition, demonstrating the team spirit and determination that has made him an invaluable addition to the CUPLC team.

A former England Weightlifting Champion in his weight category and age group, Peter Dutton of Trinity approached the squat fearlessly, easily squatting 150kg – an extremely impressive lift as it is over twice his bodyweight of 66kg! On the day, 160kg proved slightly too heavy. Moving on to the bench press, Peter was very conservative with his attempts, pressing out 60 and then 62.5kg before just missing 65kg. For the deadlift, Peter adopted the sumo stance and posted 150kg and then 160kg, both good lifts. Peter performed extremely well in his first powerlifting competition and has every reason to continue to compete in the future.

Rounding off the Cambridge lifters in the first wave, Alp Notghi from Trinity Hall demonstrated excellent form in the squat, powering through 160kg for an extremely fast opener before dominating 170kg. Alp was unlucky not to complete his third lift of 180kg, losing control slightly at the bottom of the lift. In the bench press, Alp showed the great progress he has made over the past months, pressing 105kg easily and then 110kg for a personal best; inspired by the ease with which his second lift was completed, he attempted 115kg but did not manage to complete the lockout. In the deadlift, however, Alp – who at some angles resembles a microphone – was in a class of his own, lifting weights normally reserved for much larger and experienced competitors. Alp showed why he is a fearsome addition to the Cambridge team, picking up 220kg and 230kg easily, before ripping 240kg off the floor for an incredibly easy triple bodyweight deadlift! Alp’s final total of 520kg at a bodyweight of 78kg gave him a Wilks score of 359.63, securing 4th place overall (3rd in Cambridge) and a half blue – less than 6 Wilks points away from the Full Blue standard! Alp has at least another year competing for Cambridge and will be an even more formidable force in the future.

Opening the second wave, ‘Maximum’ Angus Higgins of Churchill (and our resident mathmo and motto generator) was the definition of controlled aggression; 160kg flew up in the squat, and 170kg was battled out to lockout; on the third lift of 180kg, Angus once again earned his nickname, going for the lift with everything he had; the bar slipped down his back on the descent however, and he missed the attempt. In the bench press, Angus showed wisdom in his conservative lift attempts, aware that lifting in a competition is considerably different to training; on the day he ended up with a personal best of 117.5kg, but definitely had more in him. For the deadlift, Angus took no prisoners and tore 190kg and 200kg from the floor; following a group decision for his final lift, he went for a big personal best of 15kg and successfully pulled a new PB of 215kg for a total of 517.5kg and a Wilks score of 317.98, enough for a half blue.

Having lost almost 5 kilos in the two days preceding the competition from a bout of food poisoning, CUPLC President – and our most technically gifted lifter – Louis Cox-Brusseau of Homerton approached the squat with some slight consternation, uncertain of the extent to which his lifting would be affected. However, 175kg went up for a confident opener. For the second squat, Louis’ attempt at 182.5kg turned into a war as he hit a wall coming out of the hole, but the shouts of support from the Cambridge team ensured he battled the lift to completion. The bench press was a disappointing event for Louis as he failed twice to press 115kg, an easy weight in training, off the chest, leaving him with his opener of 110kg. The deadlift proved more a test of endurance than anything else, as 182.5kg went up to equal his squat with 190kg proving too much on the day.

Big Vincent ‘The Priest’ Vezha was probably the most physically imposing lifter on the day, towering over Cambridge and Oxford lifters alike, with a physique born out of ploughing fields in his native Zimbabwe (on his own!). Vincent’s lifts were suitably titanic, as he proceeded to give a competition clinic on the platform, lifting personal bests in all three disciplines! 200kg and 210kg flew up in the squat, and 220kg was dominated for a terrifyingly easy (beltless!) final lift, leaving Vincent with a big personal best of 20kg. Vincent embodied the spirit of CUPLC in the bench press, showing both control and power, pressing 120kg, 130kg and then 140kg – a 10kg PB – with ease, to the cheers and applause of both the Cambridge and Oxford teams. In the deadlift, Vincent’s first two lifts appeared to be entirely unchallenging for the big man, with 230 and 245kg flying up without apparent effort. The Priest decided to show why he is a CUPLC legend with his final lift, picking up 260kg from the floor and hitting a lifetime best total of 620kg, earning him a Wilks score of 359.59 and 5th place overall and 4th in Cambridge; Vincent was extremely unfortunate not to finish in the top 3 Cambridge lifters, but it simply shows the strength and depth of this year’s squad, as in previous years Vincent’s lifts would have earned him a top 3 place overall.

Jerrell Whitehead of Kings’ College returned this year for the third and final time to cement his legacy as one of the strongest lifters in Cambridge and possessing the largest smile in the history of the squad, despite suffering from an interrupted training schedule in the months prior due to injury. This was not apparent in his lifting however, as Jerrell posted 195kg and then 205kg in the squat with ease. Similarly, 135 and 142.5kg proved solid lifts in the bench press. In the running for 2nd place overall at a bodyweight of 89kg, Jerrell approached the deadlift determined to claim it as his own. One of only two Cambridge lifters to utilise the sumo stance in the deadlift, 220 and 230kg came up from the floor easily. With 245kg needed on the last attempt to secure 2nd place, Jerrell was extremely unfortunate not to make the lift; however, he ended with a total of 577.5kg and 370.15 Wilks points, only 17 points off his best from the 2010 match; this is the third year Jerrell has consistently made the Full Blue standard and will doubtless be the recipient of the award this year.

Another lifter returning from back injury, David Oliver demonstrated astonishing speed more reminiscent of an Olympic lifter as he powered through 240kg, 250kg and then 260kg on the squat, showing no fear and dominating the weight each time he stepped up to the platform. David has been an inspiration to all lifters on the Cambridge team this year in lifts and in training mentality, perhaps most of all in the bench press; David almost missed the start command on his first bench attempt, as the referee’s vocal command was almost drowned out by the collective sound of the Oxford jaws hitting the floor as he unracked and pressed 200kg for an easy opener. 205kg and 210kg followed for extremely impressive – and successful – attempts, with the biggest bench in the room – by almost 60kg! – clearly belonging to Cambridge on the day. On the deadlift, David could be forgiven for thinking that he had the match in the bag, but chose to go with an aggressive opener of 270kg before picking up 285kg easily for a lift that drew applause from both Cambridge and Oxford teams alike. With 300kg now optional, David went for the lift but decided against completing it, with a back twinge proving cause for concern. David took 1st place with an enormous total of 755kg – likely to be an all-time Varsity record – and reaching a grand total of 439.31 Wilks points, leaving the Full Blue qualification standard trailing far behind! David’s third bench of 210kg also equalled the GBPF unequipped bench press record for his weight class in 2010. Quite the statement in his first powerlifting meet!

By the day’s end, it was clear that Cambridge had won the event, with a combined Wilks score of 1169.09 to Oxford’s 1053.26. Oxford produced some quality lifters on the day, with some of their team being forced to withdraw due to injuries unfortunately sustained during training. The progress made by Cambridge Powerlifting since last year’s Varsity match has been nothing short of phenomenal; in the space of less than one year the club has gone from a collection of individuals lifting weights to an organised, efficient team of powerlifters dedicated to winning Varsity and promoting the sport of powerlifting within Cambridge. With the mission statement for 2010-2011 achieved in full, the club now looks to the future to plan its road to victory at Varsity 2012 and to ensure the club’s continued success at both Varsity and nationwide competitions to come. Further to the club’s goal of becoming a GBPF-affiliated club, CUPLC has been asked to act as co-host for the Anglian Open later this year, and will provide several lifters as well as at least one divisionally qualified referee for the event.

CUPLC President Louis Cox-Brusseau would like to thank everyone involved in helping run Varsity 2011 and making it a truly incredible day of lifting, particularly the spotters and loaders from CUPLC and the referees for making the meet’s organisation nothing short of a proper GBPF-sanctioned event. I am glad to announce that through the efforts of Vincent Vezha Jambawo £500 was raised in the build-up to Varsity for the Romsey Mill charity, to go towards helping children and young families. CUPLC is very proud to be associated with Romsey Mill. On a final note, on behalf of all involved, CUPLC would also like to thank the kind hosts of the meet, the Pro-Am Fight Centre, for agreeing to hold the event and helping with set-up and clearaway before and after the event – Nigel and Debbie were fantastic hosts and without them the day simply would not have been the awesome experience it proved to be for all involved.