Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

St. Cloud won five weight classes in the Olympic Division and three in the Traditional, but it was their team depth that made the biggest difference as they swept both team titles to win the Orange Belt Conference Boys Weightlifting Championship on Friday night at Harmony’s Butler Gym.

In the Olympic competition, consisting of the snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts, the Bulldogs tallied 87 points to outdistance second place Harmony (59) for the team title.  Osceola and Liberty tied for third with 26 points.   In the Traditional (clean and jerk plus bench press), St. Cloud also won with 82 points, finishing in front of Harmony (62), Osceola (26),  and Tohopekaliga (19).

The 169 combined points also gave St. Cloud the official Orange Belt Conference boys weightlifting title and the accompanying first place team points that will go towards the All-Sports Trophy at the end of the year.

“Absolutely pleased to sweep the Traditional and Olympic team titles,” St. Cloud head coach Cory Aun said. “Frankly, we did not do as well in the lighter weight classes that I thought we would do, but we had some outstanding performances in the other classes.  Traditionally, we have moved some guys around in OBC’s to maximize team points, but we didn’t really do that this year.   We will keep everyone where they are for districts and hopefully maximize the number of lifters we send through to regionals.”

St. Cloud got a huge lift from sophomore Michael Ziss and senior Noah Carr, who won double gold medals on Friday.  Ziss absolutely dominated the 119-lb. class, winning the Olympic competition with a snatch lift of 175-lbs. and a clean-and-jerk of 205 for a 380-lb. total – easily beating out the second place total of 250 pounds.  He added a 185-pound bench press to his 205-pound clean-and-jerk for a 380-pound total to win the Traditional by 145-pounds.  Carr was also a double winner for the Bulldogs, taking the 219-pound class in the Olympic (520 pounds total) and the Traditional (625 pounds total).   

Overall in the Olympic portion, St. Cloud posted five champions as Caleb Perez (183-pound class), Dylan Hayes (199) and Conner Howes (UNL) also won titles.    Harmony had three champions in the Olympic side, with Brayden Shelton winning the 139-lb. class, Longhorn football standout Cooper Richards winning the 154-lb. class and Santos Torres taking first at 129-lb. class. Liberty posted the other two champions in the Olympic discipline, with Kevin Hill winning the 169-lb. class and Joshua Fabian winning at 490-lbs.   

In the Traditional (Clean and Jerk plus Bench Press),  St. Cloud won its second team title, fourth in six competitions and a record 20th team OBC Championship overall, despite Harmony winning more individual titles (5) compared to the Bulldogs (3).  

Harmony’s individual champions included Dominic Trombetta (129), double gold medalist Shelton (139), Brayden Adams (183), Anthony Rodriguez (199), and Josh Moss (238); while Lance Rodriguez (169) joined Ziss and Carr as St. Cloud’s individual weight class champions.  Anthony Rodriguez’s win at 199 was particularly interesting as he edged out his twin brother Louis Rodriguez (605-555) for the class championship.

But depth again made the difference.  

Each team was allowed to enter two lifers in each weight class, with the top six lifters earning points on a 7-5-4-3-2-1 basis.  St. Cloud scored eight or more points in seven of 10 weight classes; compared to the Longhorns, who scored eight or more points in four of 10 weight classes.

Other individual champions in the Traditional included Osceola’s Brandon Rosa in Unlimited Class and Liberty’s Samir Murray in the 154-lb. class.  

District meets will be held next weekend, with regional meets being held April 6-8.  The State Championships are at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland Apr. 14-15.  “Normally we move some people around at the OBC meet to maximize potential team points,” Aun added.  “We really didn’t do that this year. We will keep people at the same weight class for districts and our goal is to simply get as many lifters as possible through to regionals.”

The double win by St. Cloud gave them a clean sweep of OBC championships for the 2022-23 school year.  Last fall, the Lady Bulldogs also swept the Traditional and Olympic OBC championships.