Army Powerlifters lead the way

Songs by AC/DC and Metallica blare from the small room tucked inside Arvin gymnasium's annex. The sounds of weights slamming together reverberate in the midst of the pumping speakers and loud music. Cadets cheer each other on after every lift. It's on! The Army powerlifting team is working out.

Working out hard. This is all the proud squad knows. Army powerlifting is one of the most successful and respected teams at West Point. "I'm extremely proud," says Army coach Rick Scarpulla. "We are one of the best teams in the nation on any level, performance, togetherness, dedication."

Scarpulla, a certified SPARQ (Speed Power Agility Reaction Quickness) trainer with 20-plus years of powerlifting experience, is the architect of Army's revival. It isn't a varsity sport, recognized as a competitive club sport, but important people have noticed what the ultra-intense Scarpulla and his team is doing. Scarpulla has received a letter from West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, telling him the team is an inspiration to the Academy. When Scarpulla took over in 2003, the team ranked 11th in the nation.

He's lead his team to two third-place national finishes. Last year, 40 percent of Scarpulla's team earned All-American status.

"Rick is the best coach I've ever had," says Army senior captain Steve Hueckel. "I've never had a coach get into it as much as him. He is intense is always right behind you. Growing up (in Columbus, Ohio), I always wanted to play football for Ohio State. If I had Rick as a coach in high school, I think I could have." Hueckel, a 220-pounder, is one of several talented lifters. He squats 600 pounds. Lisa Dugan, a 132-pound national champion, is headed to the World Powerlifting Championships in Nice, France next week. Dustin Pope, a 123-pounder, squats 350 pounds. Trey Gardner holds the 198-pound collegiate record with a 490-pound bench press. "Big" John Hackman, who is at 242 pounds, hopes to squat 700 pounds this year.

Army has benefited even more from the cutting-edge SPARQ program, which Scarpulla has introduced to the team. SPARQ drills not only make athletes stronger, but faster and more flexible. He has run SPARQ clinics at some of the best Division I football programs in the country, from Georgia Tech to TCU, working with the top coaches. The Army football team has adapted many of the SPARQ training methods.

"SPARQ will help any athletes tremendously," Scarpulla says. "I think that any team that doesn't use it is doing itself an injustice. It's just a great program with so many benefits." Scarpulla, who has his own website - - has even bigger plans for Army. He and his team talk about winning a national championship one day. Judging by the intensity of the workouts at Arvin, anything seems possible. Top Stories