Leadership/Character - Opportunity

The Gathering of the Iron Tribes Begins…

2022 IHSPLA Season Kicks Off at the Charger Regional

Author: Chris Dertz

On Saturday, February 26th, the first meet of the 2022 Illinois High School Powerlifting Association (IHSPLA) season commenced on the campus of Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Palos Hills, Illinois. Representing the IHSPLA’s South Suburban Region, powerlifters from Sandburg, Romeoville, Marist, and Lockport high schools joined their Charger peers on the platform to compete in the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift.

Meet Director Brian Buglio, a Stagg High School physical education teacher specializing in strength and conditioning, first helped to establish a powerlifting club in 2011. Over the course of several years, interest in powerlifting grew and by 2016, Buglio and Coach Dan Carrier hosted the annual South Suburban Regional Powerlifting Invite. The following year, Stagg officially joined the IHSPLA and the South Suburban Regional Powerlifting Invite (also known as the Charger Regional) became the opening event of each subsequent IHSPLA season. This year, a record 93 lifters competed in the meet.

A powerlifting meet requires tremendous planning, organization, and most importantly, volunteers. The event support provided by the certified and custodial staff at Stagg High School is essential to success. Members of the powerlifting team and even some of the PE classes are recruited to load the bars and run the tables. Former Stagg powerlifters served as judges and spotters. Without the support of dozens of these volunteers, the event would simply not be possible.  

IHSPLA meets are different from meets hosted by other powerlifting organizations. According to Buglio, the IHSPLA “creates a community in which lifters truly support each other. You just don’t see that in other sports. When a lifter is on the platform and kids from other schools are yelling and screaming encouragement for them, it’s an amazing experience. These kids aren’t thinking about themselves. After a meet, kids will tell me that they have never been a part of something in which everyone was so supportive of them. They truly are supporting each other. As an educator, it is so empowering to hear kids say things like that.”

Reinforcing this message of community is IHSPLA Director and founder of the Good Athlete Project Mr. Jim Davis. Davis addresses the lifters and spectators after each session by linking the effort shown on the platform to one of the pillars of the IHSPLA: Character, Culture, Equity, and Service. Dr. Davis says, “The IHSPLA is the only powerlifting organization that is exclusively team based. Teamwork is the most fun, mutually enhancing component of sport. As much as we love powerlifting at the Good Athlete Project, it is far more meaningful when athletes are able to compete together.”   

Davis goes on to explain that “the foundational elements of an IHSPLA meet is representation and equity. Meets are always co-ed and athletes come to us from a wide range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Everything we do in the IHSPLA heavily emphasizes social-emotional learning. As a result, true life lessons are being learned.” 

For this, and many other reasons, lifting in an IHSPLA meet is a memorable moment for the competitors. 

Meet Day

After the teams arrive and check in is completed, the lifters and platform and table crews get to work. In a powerlifting meet, each competitor has three attempts at each lift. In order for a lift to be counted, 2 of the 3 judges evaluating the lift must give their approval. There are many reasons that a judge might reject a lift, so it is important that lifters understand the rules, standards, and judging. In order for a lifter to “total”, at least one successful squat, bench press, and deadlift must be completed. A lifter who fails to record at least one successful squat, bench press, or deadlift is not eligible for the medal podium at the end of the meet. 

In a powerlifting meet, the squat is always the first event contested. At this meet, Coach Buglio had 3 platforms set up to keep the action flowing smoothly. Breaking the 200lbs barrier for the women was Romeoville’s Ava Maglaya, Maya Edrada and Mia Meschino, Carl Sandburg’s Nicole Post, Victoria Panek, Natalie Lagunas, Emma Mraz, Nicole Tartar and Evelyn and Alicia Ramos, Stagg’s Karina Alvarado, Jessica Navarro, Karolina Granada. Rounding out the 200lbs Club was Lockport’s Skyler Wojcik, Alyssa Ramos, Skyler Rahn and Emalee Potocki.

The two biggest squats for the women were recorded by Stagg’s Hanhadie Tulemat and Gretchen Steenvoorden from Carl Sandburg. Tulemat’s successful 3rd attempt at 260lbs just nudged out Steenvoorden from the top squat of the day by only 5lbs.

For high school boys, a double-bodyweight squat is a hallmark of a highly accomplished lifter. Several double-bodyweight squats were crushed at the meet including Zacharia Alyafai, Richard Quiroz, Baraa Moussa, Carlos Macias, and Mark Jones from Stagg, Yousef Baste, Tom Locke, Dylan Schick, Jeremy Johnson, Luke Devito, Ryan Johnson, and Eric Mitchell from Sandburg, Jaden Holgado and David Rivera from Romeoville, and Connor Blake, Jake Collins, and Mark Tor from Lockport.

400lbs + squats were recorded by Schick (430lbs), Macias, Tor, and Maurice Bradshaw from Romeoville (405lbs), Blake (410lbs), Johnson (470lbs), Collins and Mitchell (455lbs), and Tyler Harris from Romeoville (425lbs). The heaviest squat for the men was 475lbs, recorded by Sandburg lifters Devito and Johnson.

When the meet moved on to the bench press, several of the women recorded lifts of 100lbs or heavier including Mraz, Maglaya, Courtney Ryan from Lockport, Granada, Rahn, Meschino, Lara McCormick from Sandburg, Lucia Enriquez from Stagg, Alyssa Ramos and Evelyn Ramos, Lagunas, Steenvoorden, Tulemat, and Panek. The heaviest bench press among the women, 125lbs, was recorded by both Granada from Stagg and Sandburg’s Panek.

Among the men, a bodyweight bench press was recorded by Alyafai, Baste, Quiroz, Holgado, Andrew Molek, Sydney Sheldon, Miggy Co from Romeoville; Locke, Naem Samhan and Mark Jones from Stagg, Rivera, Michael Eberhardt and Joe Egan from Marist; Schick, Moussa, Macias, Blake, Niko Mastoras from Lockport, Johnson, Tor, Devito, Johnson, Mitchell, Wesam Alzoubi, Nick Morsovillo, and AJ Macek from Sandburg.

Breaking the 300lbs plateau was Schick and Mitchell (315lbs), and Devito (320lbs). The biggest bench press of the meet was a massive 350lbs effort by Connor Blake from Lockport. Astoundingly, Blake weighed in at less than 180lbs, bench pressing nearly double his bodyweight!

The final event of a powerlifting meet is the deadlift. A test of sheer will that showcases brute strength, the deadlift often generates the greatest excitement among spectators. The ladies definitely showed up and several massive pulls were recorded included double-body efforts by Caitlin Cassello and Lily Ritchie of Lockport, both Maglayas and Edrada of Romeoville, and Mraz, Tartar, and Linda Guardarrama from Sandburg.

Gretchen Steenvoorden from Sandburg pulled the heaviest deadlift of the meet with 325lbs on her final attempt.

For the men, several competitors joined the Quarter Ton Club on the deadlift. Maurice Bradshaw from Romeoville (505lbs), Luke Devito from Carl Sandburg and Mark Tor from Lockport (500lbs) all lifted at least 500lbs. The heaviest deadlift on the day was 555lbs, recorded by both Jeremy Johnson from Sandburg and Jake Collins from Lake Park.


After the lifting was completed, it was time to bring out the awards for the top performers in each division. In powerlifting, a lifter’s total (the heaviest successful squat, bench press, and deadlift) is factored with the lifter’s bodyweight to create a coefficient score to determine positions on the podium. For example, if two lifters in the same division end up with the same total, the lighter of the two lifters would win the podium position because the coefficient score would be higher.

Individual Podium Results:

DivisionPodium Placing
Female 105lbsCaitlin Cassello/LTHS
Adryanna Burts/LTHS
Female 114lbsMia Maglaya/RHS
Sylvia Czyz/AAS
Female 123lbsAva Maglaya/RHS
Emma Mraz/CSHS
Maya Edrada/RHS
Female 132lbsKarolina Granada/AAS
Nicole Tartar/CSHS
Alissa Kitchens/RHS
Female 148lbsSkyler Rahn/LTHS
Lara McCormick/CSHS
Mia Meschino/RHS
Female 165lbsAlyssa Ramos/LTHS
Emalee Potocki/LTHS
Lucia Enriquez/AAS
Female 181lbsHanhadie Tulemat/AAS
Evelyn Ramos/CSHS
Alicia Ramos/CSHS
Female 198lbsVictoria Panek/CSHS
Natalie Lagunas/CSHS
Skyler Wojcik/LTHS
Female 198+lbsGretchen Steenvoorden/CSHS
DivisionPodium Placing
Male 123lbsOwen Earll/AAS
Zacharia Alyafai/AAS
Male 148lbsYousef Baste/CSHS
Richard Quiroz/AAS
Jaden Holgado/RHS
Male 165lbsSydney Sheldon/RHS
Tom Locke/CSHS
Naem Samhan/AAS
Male 181lbsDylan Schick/CSHS
Baraa Moussa/AAS
Carlos Macias/AAS
Male 198lbsJeremy Johnson/CSHS
Mark Jones/AAS
Joe Egan/MHS
Male 220lbsLuke Devito/CSHS
Ryan Johnson/CSHS
TJ Hosey/RHS
Male 242lbsEric Mitchell/CSHS
Louis Evora/MHS
Jacob Pacheco/MHS
Male 275lbsWesam Alzoubi/CSHS
Cam Weigel/CSHS
Matt Kuban/AAS
Male SHWTyler Harris/RHS
Charles Haddad/CSHS
Refael Sanchez/AAS

In the men’s team scoring, the Sandburg lifters took first place followed by Stagg and Romeoville. In the women’s team competition, the Sandburg team also took first place, nosing out Lockport in 2nd Place and Stagg in 3rd Place. The combined team rankings, including both men’s and women’s teams resulted in CSHS winning 1st Place, Stagg in 2nd Place, and Romeoville in 3rd Place.

Record Setters

There were also several IHSPLA records that were broken at the meet.

In the Women’s 114lbs Division, Romeoville’s Mia Maglaya pulled a massive 305lbs deadlift, well over 2x her bodyweight.

In the Women’s 123lbs Division, Carl Sandburg’s Emma Mraz and Romeoville’s Ava Maglaya now share the squat record at 230lbs.

Rounding out the women was Victoria Panek in the 198lbs Division. Her 250lbs squat, 160lbs bench press, and 695 total are all new IHSPLA records.

Finally, Connor Blake’s (LTHS) incredible 350lbs bench press set a new standard for the IHSPLA Men’s 181lbs Division.

It was a great day with lots of competition and camaraderie. The IHSPLA will next be in action on Saturday, March 19th at the Warrior Regional at McHenry County High School.

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