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Powerlifters get back to working out in Warren

On Nov. 7 powerlifters from around the Southern Tier and beyond gathered at the HERC Powerlifting Federation War For The Sword meet, hosted at S&C Powerplant gym in Warren.

Under normal circumstances, the meet would have been hosted by Erick Sandberg and his wife Cammy, the co-owners of Southern Tier Barbell in Falconer, N.Y.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sandberg and company opted to move the competition to Carl Seeker’s facility in Pennsylvania, giving powerlifters a chance to get back to competition after months off due to the pandemic.

“We actually used to host this meet at our gym in Falconer, but because of the gathering restrictions we decided to hold it down at our friend’s gym in Warren,” Sandberg said. “I met (Carl) after we opened our gym. Then we just kind of became friends and I’ve gone to meets with him and worked on becoming a referee. He used to be in charge of the judges in a different federation, so it just kind of took off from there. Now we kind of support each other. I help him at meets, he helps us at ours.”

Sandberg originally opened Southern Tier Barbell in 2016 in Jamestown, before moving to a new location on East Main Street in Falconer.

“We just moved to Falconer last year and we were only down here for the end of summer until March when we had to close for COVID,” Sandberg said. “We’re back open and somewhat normal but not fully normal.”

A graduate of Jamestown High School, Sandberg developed his interest in strength training later in life, first beginning to compete in powerlifting events in his 40s.

“I was always going to the gym and stuff, but never really serious,” he said. “Then probably about 10 or 12 years ago I really started getting into it. We kind of got into powerlifting after we opened our gym, competitive powerlifting. I met (Carl) in Warren and it kind of just took off from there. I still compete, my wife doesn’t.”

Sandberg is a certified strength coach, while his wife is a certified personal trainer.

At this month’s meet in Warren, 13-year old Chaz Sundquist of Falconer set a HERC Federation record in the 11-13 division 242-pound weight class, bench pressing 155 pounds and deadlifting 350.

“For that competition they do just what they call a push-pull. So it’s just bench press and dead lift. A lot of the other federations do have squat,” Sandberg said.

A football player in addition to powerlifting, Sundquist began training at Southern Tier Barbell in the summer of 2019.

“I think it started out as just kind of getting him strength training for football, and then we kind talked about it and he came down and watched a meet that we held,” Sandberg said. “He said ‘I want to start powerlifting.’ So we pushed it in that direction and we’ve been doing training more focused on powerlifting. It does carry over into strength training for football. He’s very determined. He doesn’t give up. He’s actually, out of being closed down for COVID for a while, he’s actually missed one day with me where he didn’t feel good. Every other day he comes here from school. I train him at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.”

In contrast to other gyms, powerlifting facilities like Southern Tier Barbell tend to have a more focused clientele. Athletes training for powerlifting meets, or other strength competitions like the Celtic Highland Games, often congregate together.

Local strongman and Falconer native Aaron Lee also trains at Sandberg’s facility, as has accomplished Highland Games champion Nick Kahanic, also of Falconer.

“Usually the people that we have are here for a purpose,” Sandberg said. “Aaron competes in strongman, I compete in powerlifting. We have a girl here who has recently started competing in the Highland Games, like Nick Kahanic.”

Should he continue to pursue his powerlifting career, Sundquist seems destined for more awards down the road.

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