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This item originally appeared in the May 6, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.

By LUKE DEROUN

Associate Sports Editor

Saying the Louisiana Tech powerlifting program has become a national juggernaut would be an understatement.

The men's team captured their 11th consecutive national title and their 14th overall in 30 years, while the women finished in second place at the 2004 United States of America Powerlifting Collegiate Nationals held on April 23 through 25 in Omaha, Neb.

With wishes to further his education by pursuing a Ph.D. in sports administration, third-year coach Trey Cunningham resigned following the national meet, ending his Tech coaching career with three consecutive men's titles and two straight women's titles.

Former tech lifter and assistant to Cunningham, Emilio Saldierna, has been named the new head powerlifting coach and is proud of the team's showing in Omaha.

"I am very happy with the team's effort this year," Saldierna said. "We are an overall young group, and we had some of those young lifters really step up for us at the right time."

Tech had three first-place finishers in the men's division and three in the women's division.

The men were led by sophomore Josh Chovanec, who won his second straight title and set a collegiate nationals overall record of 2,032.8 pounds (total of three lifts -- squat, bench and dead lift). Chovanec's older brother P.J. is a former heavyweight powerlifting champion at Tech.

"Josh is a true asset to this team," Saldierna said. "He is part of a Tech powerlifting legacy and gets his leadership qualities from his brother."

Chovanec's final numbers went uncontested throughout the meet as Louisiana State's Steven McGlawchlin of the 181-pound weight class was his closest competitor with lifts that fell 178 pounds short of Chovanec's weight.

Joining Chovanec with a first-place finish was David Villafranca, who finished with a total of 1,164.8 pounds in the 132-pound weight class.

Mike Hafenbrack rounded out the men's first-place finishers with an overall mark of 1,176 pounds to win the 123-pound weight class.

In addition to winning his weight class, Hafenbrack's lifts topped all of those made in the weight class (132-pound) above him.

Joining the first-place finishers as major contributors to the national title were Jeremy Welch, Clint Edwards, Edwin Whitaker and Jared Cole.

Welch finished second in the 114-pound weight class, Edwards third in the 165-pound class, Whitaker second in the 181-pound class and Cole second in the 198-pound class.

Tech's women lifters finished the meet in a points tie with in-state rival Nicholls St., but fell to second place when a default judgment looked to second-place finishers to decide the national champion.

Tina Carder started strong with a first-place finish in the 105-pound weight class with a total of 733.6 pounds.

In the 181-pound weight class, Kimmie Everett gave the Tech women another first-place finish with an overall weight of 1,142.4 pounds.

Codi Grubbs, a junior and future assistant powerlifting coach, placed first in the 132-pound weight class with an overall lift of 873.6 pounds.

"This is the first time in ten years that we have not won the national championship," Grubbs said. "Now we know what second place feels like, and that gives us motivation for next year."

Other top-three finishers in the women's division included Leslie Kiletico, Ronny Melancon and Gracie Espericueta.

With the year's largest team event behind them, the Tech powerlifters continue to train for future meets.

Carder will compete in the Women's World meet in Cahors, France on June 3 through 5.

Tech will also send four lifters to South Africa in September for the Junior World competition.


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