Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn
Braden River High senior Isaiah Cress is honest about his favorite aspect of weightlifting.
"I like the way it makes me look," Cress said with a laugh.
Adding muscle might be a plus, but Cress has also become enamored with the sport itself. Cress initially tried weightlifting as a freshman, to prepare himself for his sophomore football season. But Cress, now a senior, stuck with the sport even though his high school football days are now done.
He takes pleasure in the work, getting his clean-and-jerk technique right and making sure he always finishes his reps with authority in case he runs into some stingy judges. In other words, it's the little things that carry Cress along, and it's the little things that have him competing at the state weightlifting meet April 23-24 in St. Cloud.
Cress won the 183-pound division of Braden River's regional meet April 12, lifting a total of 570 pounds (280 on the bench press, 290 on the clean-and-jerk). He was the only Pirate to win his division, though one other came close — senior Shane Moran tied with Palmetto's Myles Ormsby with 580 pounds in the 2019-pound division, losing by bodyweight. This year was Cress' first time even reaching the regional stage, but his 570 score is tied for the best in his weight class in Class 3A with Boone High's Jordan McKinley. He credits Pirates Coach Richard Lansky with helping him refine his technique and change his diet.
"I'm eating a lot more fish," Cress said. "I try to cut out pizza and things like that. I eat fruits, vegetables and fish. It's a lean diet. It's lowered my body fat for sure."
Cress said Lansky taught him to breathe when he feels he is struggling during the bench press, then push back. Lansky said Cress and the rest of the Pirates have been putting in extra hours to get the results they want, arriving early to practice, leaving late and even doing entire extra sessions on Saturdays. Lansky said he's always known Cress was strong, but this year he's put everything together.
"The clean-and-jerk is a test of speed, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and timing," Lansky said. "It's a synergistic movement involving every muscle in the body. They're all working together. And as you get that base strength that they have been developing, you apply that strength with the technique. And that's when things can really take off.
"The more you do it, the better you get, and he [Cress] has made great strides this year. "
At a training session April 15, Cress took things at a gradual pace. He lifted dumbbells while chatting with teammates Matt Manning and Jojo Carter. He stared at himself in a mirror, focused, while doing resistance band workouts. At one point, he noted how his forearms were getting sore — then pushed through the soreness to do some pectoral workouts. Cress never stopped until his whole routine was done.
Even though his results so far have been strong, Cress is not setting any expectations for the state meet.
"I don't have a specific goal in mind," Cress said. "I just want to lift as much as I can lift. You don't know how much that is until you're in the moment."
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