(Louisville, GA) — The Heard County Braves weightlifting team traveled to Jefferson County High School in Louisville over the weekend in hopes of defending their title as GACA Class AA State Champions of a year ago and they did just that in a big way scoring 80 points to finish well ahead of second place Vidalia who finished with 60 points.
Four senior Brave lifters led the way earning state titles including Austin James (141-150 lb. class), Ta Freeland (171-180 lb. class), Tori Rogers (151-160 lb. class), and Taron Person (246+ lb. unlimited class).
Tori Rogers made his mark once again as the overall pound-for-pound state champion for the second consecutive year as he lifted a total of 1075 pounds while weighing only 158. Rogers, who has won a state title the last three years running, squatted 475 pounds , bench pressed 325 pounds , and power cleaned 275 pounds establishing himself as one of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes in Class AA state history.
Rogers, a multi-sport athlete who also competed in track, basketball, football, and wrestling during the past few years was most proud of his lifting accomplishments. “I am a warrior and blessed by the path that I walk,” said Rogers.”I will continue this walk and will not regret looking back. I will leave a champion.”
“Tori is without a doubt the strongest kid I have ever coached during my 13-year tenure,” said strength coach Rich Fendley. “To be a state champion for three straight years in three different weight classes is just phenomenal.”
Senior Austin James performs the power clean as Coach Rich Fendley spots from behind. James won the state title in the 141-150 pound class
Further signifying the Braves dominance was the fact they won or finished runner-up in six of the 10 overall weight divisions.
Senior Taron “Fluffy” Person won his second state title in the unlimited heavyweight class backing up a title he won as a sophomore.
Seniors Ta Freeland and Austin James both improved upon runner-up performances in 2013 by grabbing first place medals in their final championship meets before graduating.
Overall, 13 Braves earned points for the team by finishing sixth or higher in their respective weight classes.
“It says a lot that we had kids point in all 10 weight classes,” said Fendley. “That really says a lot about how our kids as a whole are buying into the weight program and working so hard day in and day out.”
Three Braves finished up with State Runner-Up awards including Seniors Jace Mock and Keyante Watkins as well as junior Duranta Dunson.Mock followed up a third place finish in 2013 in the difficult 206-225 pound class while Dunson grabbed a second place medal for the second year in a row in the 171-180 pound class. Watkins surprised a lot of people in the 226-245 pound weight class.
UGA football recruit Jake Edwards continued his noteworthy year with a third place finish in the 246+ pound unlimited class and also set a new Heard County record in the power clean with an amazing lift of 355 pound breaking Person’s former record of 350.
Other Braves scoring points included senior Fenuku Shaheed (4th), sophomore Andrew Cannon (4th), senior Lance Daniel (5th), Junior Zack Stephens (6th, and sophomore Hunter Lane (6th). Forty-four lifters made the trip to Louisville for the Braves.
Rounding out the top five finishers in Class AA were Long County (32 points), Screven County (32 points), and Lamar County (24 points). Washington County won the Class AAA crown held at the same facility.
Some controversy surrounded the event as the host Jefferson County Warriors team lifted in the Class AA division despite being a AAA school. They only finished in sixth place out of the 14 teams that competed in AA, but coaches from several schools were miffed that medals were taken from AA lifters by the AAA school.