Tigers rise up in Abilene

TYE CHANDLER sports@theglenrosereporter.com
Tigers (l-r) Antonio Ponce, Azahel Herrera, Cesar Herrera and Cody Halcom step up at state March 28, causing coach Terry Harlin to declare 2015 the best year in program history.

Four Tigers traveled to Abilene for the state powerlifting meet March 28, and four Tigers rose to the challenge.

Each one improved on his state ranking by at least two spots, while each lifter set personal records in at least two of three lifts.

Entering the day ranked fifth in the 132-pound class, senior Azahel Herrera finished third to become the second-most successful lifter in program history after two-time champion Jared Thames. He set personal records across the board with a squat of 390 pounds, a bench press of 260, a deadlift of 430 and a total of 1,080.

"The competition was so intense that one mistake could cost you," the medal winner said. "I went 8-9 on all my attempts. I missed my last attempt on squat (410) that cost me a big advantage going into the deadlift, but I also had a good body weight advantage. Nevertheless, I came here and did my best.

"I wouldn't be here without the support of our coaches. They've supported me every step of the way, I did my best and that's all that counts to end my powerlifting career as a senior.

"I'm proud of all my hard work to make it to state two out of three times. Thanks to my friends at school, my coworkers at Hammond's BBQ and my family for all the support."

Coach Terry Harlin was happy for his top lifter.

"Azahel had a great day," Harlin said. "Anytime you can PR in everything, that's all you can ask for. He was right there in the hunt. I know he's a little disappointed (not to win first place), but I think when it all sinks in he'll be really proud.

"I'm really proud of him, as is Coach (Brandon) Greenhaw. He is the second-most successful lifter ever in our program after Jared. Work ethic and determination to get better are why Azahel got to this point.

"His bench was probably most impressive, because he'd never been able to get past that 250 mark even though he's so strong on bench. I knew he was capable of it, and it's a lot to be proud of for his size. He turned a lot of heads getting 260 while lifting alongside the 148s."

Speaking of 148s, junior Cesar Herrera entered the day ranked seventh in the 148s, but set personal records across the board to place fifth and earn a medal. He squatted 485, benched 255 and deadlifted 460 for a total of 1,200.

"I was the lightest in my weight class and probably the youngest," Cesar said. "On my deadlift, I went for 475, which would've put me in third place. I got it up, but I hitched it and ended up getting fifth. The coaches are always there on every attempt supporting all of us and helping us out on what (weight) to go for on our lifts.

"Coming into next year, I'll have more confidence because I have this experience and I know what the competition is like now. My cousin, Azahel, ended up having a great year."

"I'm very proud of Cesar, and he still has next year," Azahel said.

Harlin talked about Cesar's rapid rise from the 2014 season.

"I knew Cesar would be successful at some invitationals this year, but we never expected to get out of him what we did with his top finishes, outstanding lifter honors and major contributions to the team," Harlin said. "To not only make regionals, but to make it to the show and do well enough to medal was a big surprise and a big plus. But after seeing his work ethic and determination like Azahel early in the season, I knew it could happen. He is very well-deserving.

"Cesar's top lift was probably his squat, because that's the one he increased the most. It put him in contention from the get-go, because he was kind of on the outside looking in to start the day."

Entering the state meet ranked ninth in the 114s, senior Antonio Ponce set personal records in squat, deadlift and total to place seventh. He squatted 330, benched 165 and deadlifted 385 for a total of 880.

"I'm super proud of Antonio," Harlin said. "We knew he had real strong legs, and it showed by his squat and deadlift improvements. Antonio actually joined Cody (Halcom) as our only four-time regional qualifiers ever - Antonio just couldn't compete his sophomore year because he was sick. He's had a really successful career.

"I would say the squat was his best lift of the day, because that was his biggest weight increase. Even though he didn't get his first squat, we knew what he was capable of, so we moved him up his last two lifts and it paid off."

Heading into state ranked 13th in the 123s, senior Cody Halcom made the biggest jump to finish ninth at state with personal records in squat, deadlift and total. He squatted 325, benched 160 and deadlifted 370 for a total of 855.

"You can't ask for more than that," Harlin said of Halcom's jump. "I'm super proud of him, and he's been a lot of fun to have around the last four years. He's a hard worker who deserved to get to state and be successful. He made the same increase in both deadlift and squat, so I'd have to point to both as his best lifts of the day."

"Antonio and Cody broke some PRs and had a great year," Cesar said.

"Antonio and Cody each worked their way up the rankings to finish strong in very competitive weight classes," Azahel said.

While Thames remains the program's benchmark, as a team 2015 Glen Rose powerlifting has no peer.

"That's great to see everyone PR in at least two lifts and move up from their ranking coming in by at least two spots," Harlin said. "We're bringing home some hardware, too, so it caps off a great overall year. We won all invitationals and the regional meet with our most kids ever at state.

"This is now the most successful year in program history. Jared got this going for us, these guys took it to a new level as an overall team and hopefully some of that carries over to our other guys."