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Football injury leads to weightlifting glory for IUP student

09/11/2012
Cody Benjamin
Staff Writer

IUP may very well have its next headlining athlete, because Matt Sohmer is on campus and making an impact.

A first-year student, Sohmer is a transfer from Becker College in Massachusetts. A career-ending injury during his time on the football field as a lineman diminished his hopes of playing on the gridiron. He’s just another student-athlete limited by physical ailments, except, of course, that he now holds three gold medals from the Junior Olympics.

Admitting in various interviews that some players use football as a game for themselves rather than their team, Sohmer turned to weightlifting following repeated knee injuries and has turned what initially appeared as a casual interest into a clear-cut passion. Increased training at a number of facilities, as well as regular workouts to redefine his technique, preceded multiple appearances atpowerlifting contests, as well as a trip to the Junior Olympics.

According to the Farmingsdale Observer,Sohmer began dabbling in weightlifting in sixth grade, but has recently intensified his training. Mike Hungerford, an assistant coach forSohmer’s high school football team, praised theIUP athlete for his accomplishments in an article for the Observer.

“I am not surprised; Matt was an extremely dedicated participant in our weight room program,” Hungerford said. “He was a contributing member of our team while he was here. Matt was well-respected by his teammates for his work ethic on the field and in the weight room.”

A YouTube hit because of his powerliftingperformances, Sohmer has broken all United States teen records for his achievements, particularly because of his age and weight. A record-holder in three different federations, including the Amateur Athletic Union, he captured a trio of gold medals at the Junior Olympics in Houston this year and set a new world record with a squat of 761 pounds. According to Sohmer, he came close to reaching the 800-pound mark on his final attempt.

The current record-holder for a deadlift of 711 pounds, Sohmer explained his dedication to weightlifting to the Observer.

“99 percent of Americans cannot lift their own body weight,” he said, after debunking inevitable skepticism regarding possible performance-enhancing drug usage. “I’m that 1 percent that can do so much more than that. I take more pride in this because so many less people can do this than play college football.”

Sohmer, who has expressed interest in starting a powerlifting club at IUP, is scheduled to participate in the AAU Powerlifting World Championships in October. With an anticipated competition of more than 10-15 countries, he still expects to win in his group. Of course, a victory at the championships would add to an already potent resume and perhaps introduce even more opportunities for the teen phenom. Regardless of his performance, however,Sohmer has already established an impressive athletic reputation for himself and taken substantial steps in his personal journey.

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