For the 2021-22 season, St. Cloud weightlifter Julian Sykes absolutely dominated all competition in the 154-lb. weight class. His starting attempts were often so far heavier than opponents were reaching on their third and final attempts that he basically had to just hit his first lift to win.
That trend continued Thursday at the FHSAA Class 3A State Weightlifting Championships, as the senior blew away the competition to capture gold medals in both the traditional (bench press and clean-and-jerk) and snatch competitions to complete an undefeated season, where he won Orange Belt Conference, District, Regional and State titles in both disciplines.
In the snatch, Syke hoisted 225 pounds to win the competition by 30 pounds over his closest competitor – Lyman’s David Izquierdo. In the traditional meet, Sykes once again dominated. His total combined lifts of 615 total pounds were 70 pounds more than silver medalist Isaiah Rivers of Flagler (545).
“He came back bigger, stronger and better for his senior season,” Head Coach Cory Aun said of his lifter who finished third last year in the same weight class. “We worked so hard in the off-season to improve and that work certainly paid off with a pair of state titles.”
Sykes was not the only champion from Osceola County.
Harmony’s Isaac Balado also won a pair of state championships for the Longhorns at 119-lbs. He won the two competitions with lifts of 170 in the snatch and 495-lbs. in the traditional—winning that event by 50 pounds. He becomes the second athlete in Harmony school history to win a weightlifting state championship, joining Nick Sardoni from 2008.
“This was really a redemption meet for Isaac,” Harmony coach Nick Lippert said. “He was poised to win a state championship last year but he ended up bombing out in regionals in the clean-and-jerk and did not post a qualifying lift. For him to come back and win double gold this year was a great moment.”
Several other lifters from Osceola County reached the podium on Thursday.
St. Cloud’s Nathanael Combs took double all-state honors with a third place finish in the traditional and a sixth place finish in the clean and jerk. His teammate — Noah Carr — was also a double medalist, taking a pair of fourth place finishes in the traditional and snatch in the 199-lb. weight class. The Bulldogs also put additional lifters on the podium with Sebastian Piniero-Jirau taking 7th in the traditional in the 119-pound weight class, Kevin Hill grabbing a third place finish in the 154-lb. snatch competition, and Kaleb Perez taking sixth in the 183-lb. snatch. Harmony had an additional lifter make the podium, as Justin Isaraphanich placed sixth in the snatch at 154-lbs.
As a team, St. Cloud came through with a pair of top 10 finishes. The Bulldogs (16 team points), finished fourth in the snatch behind team champion Olympic Heights (21), followed by Navarre (20) and Flagler Palm Coach (18). St. Cloud (14) was seventh in the traditional meet, which was won by Flagler Palm Coast (24). Niceville (21) was second and Navarre (20) third.
Harmony’s Daniel Watson’s lift of 185-lbs. in the snatch was good for a six-way tie for fourth place in the 219-lb. weight class, but he missed the podium and slid all the way down to ninth place on the tie-breaking procedure (total actual body weight of lifter).
“Happy and little frustrated at the same time,” Aun said about his team and the outcome. “We had a lifter take two state championships and we put five kids on the podium in the traditional and four in the snatch. Still I thought we had a real chance to win the team championship in the snatch, unfortunately we had a few lifters miss points with eighth place finishes and had some other mistakes that costs us a higher finish. On the other hand, the whole state meet experience was a little frustrating. It’s been in the Florida panhandle for a couple of years, and unless you are located west of Tallahassee, it is really tough travel. There were also some organizational issues that I believe need addressed involving equipment and officiating. Still, we had a solid performance and I’m proud of our team’s accomplishments.”
Lippert said he was pleased with Harmony’s performance. “We qualified seven lifters, had a double gold medalist in Isaac and had Justin reach the podium. But our other five qualifiers reached several personal bests. I thought we had a great meet.”