ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Elk Mound powerlifting team

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ELK MOUND, Wis. (WEAU) -- It's a sport not often talked about among the ranks of football, basketball, or even baseball, but powerlifting has become increasingly popular in high schools around the State. SportScene 13's Chance Dickman features the Elk Mound powerlifting team in our Osseo Automotive Athlete of the Week.

For such young program, Elk Mound powerlifting has made a big splash around the State.

"It's pretty exciting, but it's a little scary as a coach knowing that we're predicting around 75 kids next year," head coach Coty Schmidt said. "It's not going to slow down anytime soon, we don't think."

Elk Mound had 65 athletes competing in just its fourth year as a program, almost a fifth of the high school. 32 of those lifters made it to State.

"I think it shows how much we've strived from the beginning and how much we're improving," senior Darren Svihovec said. "It's showing that we can compete with bigger schools."

"It's great. I'm really happy to see where all these guys are at, and how it's just really progressed from there," senior Hunter Gagner added. "It kind of exploded a little bit."

Hunter Gagner, Darren Svihovec, and Bryce Kasper are just three of six Mounders that did well enough at the State Tournament to advance to Nationals.

"I know we have some guys ranked first in the Nation, and we have some other guys ranked up there. I'll be really great to see them succeed," Gagner said.

"It's a really good feeling to be able to go to Nationals with my friends," Svihovec added. "I'm really excited to go and hopefully perform well."

"Oh, it's really cool," junior Bryce Kasper said. "I love these guys around here. They help me and I help them. It's just amazing."

During competition, powerlifters are separated into two different categories, raw and equipped. Those that are raw utilize nothing to help them lift the weight, while those that are equipped can use assistance such as knee wraps and lifting suits.

"It's kind of something they have to figure out the week before," Coach Schmidt said. "We spent a whole week of preparation with the knees wrapped and our z-suits on getting them to know their max out."

And whether you compete in raw or equipped, both sides understand how much weight is on your shoulders, literally, to be the best.

"People in powerlifting have a lot of respect for the other lifters because they know what it takes to actually do it," Kasper said.

Lifters from Elk Mound, as well as, Eau Claire North, Altoona, Bloomer, and Colfax will be competing at Nationals from March 28th through April 2nd in Scranton, PA.

Reporting in Elk Mound, Chance Dickman for SportScene 13.

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