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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on October 19th, 2010, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 11, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 11, Issue 32

The family that lifts together ...

The 'First Family of Weightlifting' breaks world records and turns heads

By JEREMY THOMAS


Family affair
Between dad Kenny, mom Mary, and son Clay, the Tawzer family of Los Alamos holds more than 20 world, American, and California powerlifting records.
PHOTO BY JEREMY THOMAS
In competitive weightlifting, rarely do three world champions hail from the same hometown, much less the same home. But that’s exactly what makes Los Alamos’s Tawzer family so unique.

Between dad Kenny, mom Mary, and son Clay, the “First Family of Powerlifting” holds more than 20 national, state, and world records in the bench press and deadlift events. Mom and Dad are six-time World champions; 27-year-old Clay is a four-time champ.

As a family, the Tawzers qualified for two Worlds in 2010. On Oct. 9, they took part in the Amateur Athletic Union’s World Powerlifting Championships in Las Vegas, competing against nearly 500 lifters from all over the world, from countries including Iran, the Ukraine, and Finland.

Mary won top honors in the bench press and deadlift for her age group, while Kenny bench pressed 429.9 pounds to win the night’s Most Outstanding Lifter award in his division.

A retired Guadalupe police officer and former professional rodeo rider, 58-year-old Kenny and son Clay got into lifting “purely by accident” in 2006, after Kenny found out he was at risk of a stroke. His doctor wanted him to start taking high blood pressure pills; instead, he took up lifting.

Bench pressing at home until they outgrew the weights, father and son took their passion to Gold’s Gym, now known as Santa Maria Athletic Club. They had no idea their marks were record-worthy until trainers pointed the fact out to them, encouraging father and son to sign up for powerlifting competitions.


Rack ’em
With dad Kenny spotting, Clay Tawzer readies to press 595 pounds at the Santa Maria Athletic Club on Oct. 18. Clay successfully made the lift, just shy of his personal best of 625 pounds.
PHOTO BY JEREMY THOMAS
Kenny and Clay’s first Worlds appearance in 2006 was a disaster. Unfamiliar with the rules, they failed to properly complete their lifts; they’d gotten the bug, however, and quickly turned to learning the correct techniques and competing regularly.

Mary attended her first meet the following year, to watch her husband and son. By the time she left, she’d signed herself up, and returned three months later to win both the trick-curl and deadlift events on her first try.

“I was hooked from then on,” she said. “I just kept going.”

 The Tawzers returned to the Worlds in 2007, winning every event they entered. Today, Mary holds at least 15 world records in different organizations, reaching personal bests of 165 pounds in the bench press and 286 pounds in the deadlift.

They compete in several large meets each year, thanks to the support of sponsors: the Santa Maria Athletic Club, Stonegate, Outlaw Sports Nutrition, Frazee Paints, Tawzer Painting, and the Union Hotel in Los Alamos. They lift three days a week, for about an hour and a half each day.

The sport keeps the family close, and it’s addicting; but on stage, it stops being fun and gets serious.

“Once your feet hit that platform, you turn into a different person,” Kenny said. “You’re handling a lot of weight, and if you mess up, you could kill yourself.”

Kenny said his blood pressure “shoots up,” and it’s not uncommon for him to turn purple.

“I get mad,” Kenny said. “My adrenaline’s pumping. I get under the bar, and all I think about is ‘locking up.’”

According to Kenny, the spotters aren’t always on top of things. The Tawzers have witnessed lifters fall over backwards, drop weights on themselves; one competitor even suffered a heart attack while making a lift.


Lock and load
Kenny Tawzer, 58, bench presses 545 pounds in preparation for the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters (WABDL) Championships. The event takes place in Las Vegas in November, and Kenny is planning to lift 500 pounds in the competition.
PHOTO BY JEREMY THOMAS
“There’s a lot of variables there,” Clay said. “If you lean too far forward, you could fall and have the weight land on the back of your neck. If you get too far on your heels, you could fall backwards. If you go for too much, you can come down and fold like an accordion.”

 Clay once suffered a “momentary muscular failure” during a press and dropped 500 pounds on his chest. Fortunately, he’d taken a deep breath, cushioning the blow, and got away with just a pulled pectoral muscle.

Kenny hasn’t been quite so lucky. He once dropped 500 pounds during a bench press—breaking three ribs. And in 2009 at the California State Championships, he came down ill. He lifted anyway and qualified, going to the doctor the next day. Unbeknownst to him, he’d developed gangrene in his gall bladder, requiring emergency surgery.

Just months later, Kenny was back at a meet in New York, where a Russian competitor asked him what he was doing lifting so soon after surgery.

“I came here to win,” Kenny replied. And he did.

The Tawzers don’t subscribe to a particular diet, and lift completely drug-free. They prefer competing in the AAU, where all lifters are tested for drugs. If lifters fail, they’re kicked out for five years and stripped of any awards.

So what’s the Tawzers’ secret to powerlifting success?

“A strong back and a weak mind,” Kenny said with a chuckle. Son Clay agreed, explaining his best technique is simply clearing his head.

“Before I’ve even got up on the platform, I’ve seen that bar lift off my chest two or three times, so I know it’s going to go up,” Clay said. “Then I just start thinking of a song that gets my adrenaline rushing. I go through my progressions, set up and lift. I black out and go into automatic mode.”


Use your knees!
The Tawzer family is taking donations for their third weightlifting meet, scheduled for May 2011 at the Santa Maria Athletic Club. The competition will honor the Air Force, local soldiers killed in action, and fallen police officers. The event is scheduled to include a color guard, a memorial ceremony, and a special bench press for police and military. Donations can be sent to Tawzer Power Lifting, P.O. Box 154, Los Alamos, CA. All funds will go toward trophies, T-shirts, and medals for veterans.
At the most recent AAU Worlds, Clay finished second; not bad, considering he didn’t get much time to practice due to his commitments with the semipro San Luis Obispo Panthers football team, where he plays as a defensive lineman.

 “When you play football, if you do something wrong, you let the team down,” Clay said. “In this sport, if you do something wrong, you messed yourself up. The only way you can really lose is to let yourself down.”

As a Junior lifter—a class for those younger than 23—Clay set six world records. Since then, he’s moved up to the more competitive Open Class, with a goal of someday bench pressing 1,000 pounds. He’s currently at 625 now.

“I’ve got a little ways to go,” Clay said. “I think it’s a doable goal.”

The Tawzers will be heading back to Vegas in November for the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters (WABDL) Championships. Kenny said he’s saving his best for the event, where he’s promised to bench 500 pounds. The lift would give him new world, American, and state records.

“It’s what you put into it that you get out of it,” he said. “You just hang in there and keep working at it. If you work hard enough at something, it’ll happen.”

Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas has a hard enough time lifting a finger. He can be contacted at jthomas@santamariasun.com.




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