Pen­nridge pow­er­lift­ing team mus­cles its way into record books

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Meghan Ross

Coach Steve Pat­ti­son, or “CP” for short, re­cruits Pen­nridge stu­dents for his pow­er­lift­ing team by walking up to them in the school hall­way and ask­ing, “Hi, how are you? How much do you weigh?”

Un­moved by the brazen ques­tion, about 35 stu­dents and par­ents have joined CP in his gym in Perkasie for in­tense one- to two-hour lift­ing ses­sions four times a week. And what­ever he’s do­ing, it’s work­ing be­cause the Pen­nridge pow­er­lift­ing team has beaten not just school, state and re- gional records, but 26 world records. Go­ing up against about 40 other coun­tries, the team beat oth­ers and its own past world records in bench, squat, dead-lift and to­tal — the best of all three — at the world cham­pi­onships in Las Ve­gas in 2012.

“Coming from a town like Perkasie, what th­ese guys have ac­com­plished really is un­heard of,” CP said. “It’s just not done.”

The team is on its own for fi­nances, which can add up to large amounts quickly. This year the team had to pay its way to Las Ve­gas, and

two years ago team mem­bers paid their way to the Czech Repub­lic.

CP said that the team fundraises with bake sales and car washes. Af­ter send­ing out let­ters to peo­ple and do­ing all he can to gather more funds, he “finds a way,” mean­ing CP cov­ers the rest of the costs.

Though the team does have some tall, brawny characters, the ma­jor­ity of them look like nor­mal Pen­nridge stu­dents un­til they flex.

“It’s not nec­es­sar­ily a body builder strength,” CP said. “Your body does get big­ger, harder, firmer but it’s more power. That’s what it’s all about.”

Danielle Tasher, a Pen­nridge stu­dent who weighs 97 pounds, can dead-lift 230 pounds, but no one would guess it with her petite frame.

Johnny Hess, a 92-pound mem­ber of the team with bright blue eyes, broad shoul­ders and a con­stant smile, can bench 135 pounds. What makes Hess even more im­pres­sive is that the 16-year-old sopho­more can bench that much while par­a­lyzed from the waist down, a re­sult of spina bi­fida, a birth de­fect.

CP said usu­ally your legs are your base of ev­ery­thing, your drive for power.

“He’s do­ing it all from just the up­per body,” CP said.

CP said he treats Hess no dif­fer­ently from the other mem­bers of the team, and Hess com­petes in the same meets as the oth­ers, not in hand­i­capped pow­er­lift­ing meets.

“I don’t look at him as hand­i­capped — I yell at him just the same as any­body else,” his coach said.

Hess’ first meet was at the world cham­pi­onship, where he benched 135 pounds and got a stand­ing ova­tion — some­thing CP said never hap­pens. As emo­tions ran high, CP said he got a lit­tle teary-eyed watch­ing Hess com­pete.

“I think we all did,” said Chris­tle Chap­man, Hess’ mother.

Hess and CP met in the school hall­ways, where CP would of­ten ask Hess to flex for him. One day, CP asked Hess to join his pow­er­lift­ing team. Hess didn’t hes­i­tate to say yes.

“Mom was a lit­tle ner­vous about me join­ing at first,” Hess said.

Chap­man agreed; she was a skep­tic at first. She was used to see­ing her son on the side­lines, act­ing as score­keeper. When Hess told her he wanted to join the team, she didn’t con­sider it se­ri­ously, but when her son brought her pa­per­work to sign, she called CP to talk about the pos­si­bil­ity.

“I promised I would take care of him,” CP said.

Then, Hess be­gan work­ing out at the gym, get­ting big­ger and stronger. At first, he could bench 80 or 85 pounds. CP has even higher hopes for Hess, even be­yond the 135 pounds he can bench now.

“We’re go­ing to have him up to a 250 bench in an­other six months,” he said. “He hasn’t even touched what he’s go­ing to do. None of th­ese kids here or the moms have touched what they’re go­ing to stop at. We’re just get­ting started.”

CP says he re­cruits fam­i­lies, not just stu­dents. He ropes in par­ents whom he in­vites to visit his gym.

“You walk by and he traps you in,” Tasher said, whose mother is also a record holder.

“I need their trust. Next thing you know I suck them in,” CP said, as he pointed to Chap­man as his next po­ten­tial re­cruit. “She doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll be in­volved too.”

Anne-Marie Kem­merer, whose son used to lift, came into the gym and couldn’t even lift the bar. Now, she has set records in the masters di­vi­sion and is un­beat­able, CP said. At 132 pounds, she can dead-lift 314 pounds.

CP said the se­cret to the team’s success was its hard work and mem­bers’ will­ing­ness to do what he asked of them.

“I put them through the ringer,” he said. “I de­mand the best from my best. Ev­ery sin­gle one of them gives 100 per­cent.”

Some of the par­ents at the gym, how­ever, said CP de- served just as much credit.

“It takes hard work and com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion on the kids, but it takes as much hard work and ded­i­ca­tion from the coach,” Chap­man said.

CP re­cently won Coach of the Year at the world cham­pi­onships this year, which is an award that all the coaches in­volved voted on. CP said he re­ceived it since his team had won the world cham­pi­onship two years in a row, some­thing that just doesn’t hap­pen, he said.

“We’re go­ing to win it again next year. I know it,” he said. “Th­ese kids work ex­tremely hard. They’re very ded­i­cated. They do ev­ery­thing we ask. I couldn’t be more proud of what they do.”

News-her­ald photo — DEBBY HIGH

Coach Steve “CP” Pat­ti­son, cen­ter, poses with the Pen­nridge High School pow­er­lift­ing team.

News-her­ald pho­tos — DEBBY HIGH

Kelly Hen­ni­gan, a Pen­nridge High School fresh­man, lifts 135 pounds as her coach and team­mates watch.

Steve “CP” Pat­ti­son, owner of Metal Health Gym and coach of the Pen­nridge High School pow­er­lift­ing team, flexes his mus­cle with sopho­more team mem­ber John Hess, 16, who is par­a­lyzed from the waist down as a re­sult of spina bi­fida.

Steve “CP” Pat­ti­son, coach of the Pen­nridge High School pow­er­lift­ing team, stands with sev­eral of the awards, medals and tro­phies he has won.

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