By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

In sports, many fans measure a coach’s success by the number of championships their team has won. However, at the high school level, great coaches often define success quite differently. While winning is important, these coaches emphasize the holistic development of student-athletes. They focus on preparing students for life, helping them achieve their goals, and guiding them to become the best versions of themselves. This approach prioritizes character-building and personal growth over titles and victories, reflecting a deeper commitment to the long-term success of their athletes.

Regardless of whatever measuring stick you want to use, there is no doubt that St. Cloud’s Cory Aun is a success.

When the Bulldogs Wall of Champions board is updated this summer, they will have to make room for three more plaques representing five more individual state championship won.  All five were obtained in the sport of weightlifting and it is a true testament to the leadership provided Aun provides that program. 

“Without question, Cory is one of the most enthusiastic, dedicated, knowledgeable and hardest working coaches I have ever been around and we are so lucky to have him here,” Athletics Director Bryan Smart.  “His car is the first one in the parking lot in the morning and the last one leave at night.  He cares so much about the kids as both students and athletes and would do anything he needs to do to help them be successful.”

Coach Cory Aun
OBC Champs Weightlifting
Coach Cory Aun
Coach Aun Awards
Mike Ziss

A native of St. Cloud, Aun and his brother Jason attended St. Cloud High School.  While the twins were athletically gifted, they were not biggest athletes and because of that– both brothers gravitated to the sport of weightlifting.  “We both loved football but I was like 125 pounds soaking wet, I liked wrestling too, but weightlifting was the one sport that just caught my attention. It was a sport where you could compete against guys your own size and it was a sport that I realized that if you were willing to work at it, there were no boundaries on how good you could become.”

Graduating from St. Cloud in 1996, Aun attended UCF, where he earned a degree in Molecular and Microbiology.  He went to work for his dad’s company but never strayed too far from the sport of weight lifting or St. Cloud High.   

“I wanted to stay involved in the sport but it was before the internet and it was hard to find out about amateur lifting events and where they were being held.  My brother and I would just read a lot of magazines and if there was an advertisement for an amateur meet and it was close enough, we would just go and sign up and compete,” Aun said.  “While working for my dad, however, I would still spend a lot of time at St. Cloud high as a volunteer for the weight lifting program.  Setting up for meets, scoring, judging, helping run practices, whatever they wanted me to do.”

In 2007, Aun was hired as the assistant weightlifting coach at the school and took a job as a teacher there the same year – a move that allowed him to remain close to two of things he enjoyed the most – the sport and helping others.

He served as an assistant boys coach under Mark Jackson and Brad Lennox and was a girls’ assistant under St. Cloud Hall of Famer Lonnie Beckel.   Although he took over the head boys coaching job in 2011 and added the girls head coaching job in 2019, Aun said those four years as assistant coach were some of his favorite times at St. Cloud. 

“I love coaching more than anything and you can do that as an assistant coach,” Aun said.  “As head coach it’s a little different.  You can coach at practices, but during meets and tournaments, you end up running around with a hundred different responsibilities and administrative duties and that takes you away from the coaching aspect.”

Aun’s dedication to coaching and the athletes has not only earned him the respect of his peers but has made him a leading voice for the sport in the state.  Because of his expertise, St. Cloud has hosted numerous OBC, District and Regional Champions.  He has helped judge state championships since 1997.  Aun was one of the leaders in the 15-year fight to get the snatch lift added to the sport.

“At the high school level, the sport was more or less created to give the football players a structured workout program in the off-season.  For lack of a better word, the bench press is the most ‘romantic’ of the lifts and that is why a lot guys used to participate.  But in the Olympic Sport, it’s non-existent and frankly it’s the most dangerous lift.  Our original fight was to eliminate the bench press and replace it with the snatch to put it in line with Olympic weight lifting.  That effort wasn’t successful but we did get the snatch into high school competition and that will certainly help grow the sport.”

Aun’s influence extends in many other areas. 

He has helped several schools across the state begin programs and is always available to share knowledge with new coaches to the sport, regardless of where they are.  “When it comes to weightlifting, we have a saying that strong makes strong,” Aun said.  “The sport grows when more kids participate in it and the sport grows when the competition is better.  Helping others is not only the right thing to do, but it makes things better for the sport and all involved.”

Aun’s dedication and commitment to sport and school, is something Smart says is irreplaceable at St. Cloud.  “He’s not only the head coach of our boys and girls weightlifting teams, he’s really an assistant coach for practically every sport at the school.  In addition to football, he has designed sports specific weightlifting programs for baseball, softball, and almost all the other sports.  If an athlete from any sport asks him, he’s helping them.”

His infectious and positive attitude has worn off on his team.  It is not surprisingly to see St. Cloud lifters screaming encouragement to not only their teammates but to their rivals.  You will see them congratulating them when they hit a big lift.  “One of my assistant principals jokingly said our program sort of reminded her of a cult,” Aun said.  “I took that as a compliment because we are a family and even our competitors are part of that family.  We sort of have an unofficial motto…. it’s not how much weight you lift on the bar that is important, what’s important is how much you lift the people around you.”

Aun said that his passion to help is deeply rooted in his own experience.

“Coach Wallauer was a good high school coach, but after I graduated and remained in the sport, it was tough to get any sort of real coaching.  I would try to pick up pointers at meets from other coaches and lifters, but to tell you the truth, I made every mistake you could make as a competitor,” Aun said.  “But in doing so, I gained a lot of knowledge about the sport and that’s why I have such a passion for coaching it.  If I can help a kid understand what he did wrong or teach him something to keep him from making a mistake, it’s the most satisfying thing in the world to me.”

The successes of Aun’s programs speak for themselves.  As an assistant or head coach, the St. Cloud girls have won the last 13 Orange Belt Conference Championships.  The Boys’ program has won three in a row and both programs have numerous district and regional titles, as well as top 10 team finishes in the state tournament. As head coach, Aun has seen nine lifters will a total of 14 individual state championships.

That success continued this past year In January, as Aun’s daughter Ashley won a state title in the Traditional in the 110-lb. class; while Reese Butler took state titles in both the Traditional and Olympic disciplines.  In the boys’ state championship in April, junior Mikey Ziss won double gold medals at 119-lbs., where he hit all six of his attempts and set and later broke several state records.  He was so dominating that his Olympic 460-pound total won his weight class by an astonishing 60 pounds. In the traditional, his 480 total was 40 pounds better than second place. Ziss earned overall MVP honors across all weight classes at the state meet and was later named the Florida Dairy Farmers’ Mr. Weightlifter, a coveted award signifying the top athlete in his sport in the entire state.

“Ashley is a really special person, who takes more joy when a teammate or friend does well.  She shies away from personal accolades and attention,” Aun said of his daughter.  “So when she won a state championship it was more of a relief than excitement for me because I knew how hard she works I she probably felt that not winning would somehow disappoint me, which would never happen but her winning was sort of low key.  Now Mikey was a different story.  He has been so exciting and dominant all year, I expected him to win but when he did I still nearly jumped out of the gym in excitement for him.”

Ziss is the top junior weightlifter in the country at his weight class, he went to Peru last month for the Junior World Weightlifting championships, where he finished a very respectable eighth.    He is ranked as the top junior lifter in the nation at his weight class.  “When I first laid eyes on him, he was a little kid running around and disrupting freshman orientation,” Aun said.  “I thought I could channel that energy and recruited him to come out.  He just kept getting better and better and working harder and harder and became a champion.  He’s on the radar of the national governing body for USA Weightlifting and if he stays healthy and stays dedicated, I believe the sky could be the limit for him in the sport, and by that I mean the Olympic Games.”

Aun’s passion for the sport does not begin and end with just coaching.  At age 46, Aun he still lifts daily and competes in the sport – entering four or five age-group tournaments per year.  Although he doesn’t brag, he has a drawer full of medals he has won over the years. 

“Some guys have a passion for golf, they will play it for 50 years and during that time they are constantly buying new equipment, watching professional tournaments for pointers, taking lessons and constantly working on their game to get better.  Weightlifting is my golf. I love it. I’ve been lifting now for 30 years and me still trying to learn new techniques and tips to get better.”

Counting a master’s degree in exercise physiology (UCF 2011), the high amount of respect he garners at the state and national levels and the fact that he has earned just about every national certification you can gain in coaching, athletic training and weight training, one would think that Aun would be highly sought after as a strength and conditioning coach at the college or pro level. 

It’s a thought he says he has never even entertained. 

“My wife Casey and I grew up in St. Cloud, we went to St. Cloud High School and now we both teach here,” Aun said.  “I love the town and I love the school and I have never even thought about applying for another position.  Last week, Noah Carr, went to states in weightlifting when he was here and is now playing college football, stopped by the weight room and thanked me for coaching him.  It meant so much to me that he would do that and I just can’t imagine any other job being as satisfying.”

Aun’s State Champions

  • Austin Occasion, 2013
  • Josh Piasecki, 2017
  • Kaylin White, 2020
  • Hannah Wagner, 2020
  • Julian Sykes, 2022 (Traditional)
  • Julian Sykes 2022 (Olympic)
  • Mikey Ziss, 2023 (Olympic)
  • Mikey Ziss, 2023 (Traditional)
  • Abby Davis, 2023 (Olympic)
  • Reese Butler, 2024 (Traditional)
  • Mikey Ziss, 2024 (Traditional)
  • Ashley Aun, 2024 (Traditional)
  • Reese Butler, 2024 (Olympic)
  • Mikey Ziss, 2024 (Traditional)