"The intensity level is great," said senior powerlifter John "Big Wisconsin" Hackman, an All-American at 242 pounds last year and a favorite to win the national title this year. Hackman who owns the military squat and dead lift records at 242 would like to set a national records this year as well . "That just gets everyone going and, once we get going, That's it- it's on! We all feed off each other in that room."
Looking for a Commander-in-Chief's Trophy at West Point? Then come to the place where Army lifts, the place they call "The House." Army has seven straight wins against service academy rivals Air Force and Navy.
"And we are not losing this year," Army coach Rick Scarpulla said.
In dismantling Navy and Air Force at the Military Championships in Annapolis last year, Army took first or second place in 11 of 14 weight classes. The only classes the Black Knights didn't finish first or second in were the ones that they had no lifters in.
Army powerlifting is one of the most successful and respected teams. Scarpulla, who has 20-plus years of powerlifting and coaching experience is the coach who brings it all together. In a sport that has become highly competitive, Army has become a national powerhouse. "We take a lot of pride in what we do," Hackman said. "We finished third in nationals last year and thought we should have won it. But that has given us a new focus and now we are going to go out there and kick butt."
Army has finished third at the last two national championships, blowing away schools like LSU, A&M and Penn State along the way. The Black Knights were represented by 10 top 5 finishers last year. Army, lost 10 lifters from last year, including three top All-Americans.
However, besides Hackman, the Black Knights return a strong core of big-time lifters. Dustin "Gangsta" Pope (123 pounds) is a stud and national champion along with John "Soprano" Piccione (148 pounds) Mike "Mac" McKenna who are also All-Americans.
"A lot of our lifters brought home hardware last year, we'll be OK" Scarpulla, points out. Army has some spots to fill this year, but Scarpulla expects the Black Knights to be competing for a national championship again.
"You might want to call it a rebuilding year but our lifters a really tough," Scarpulla said. "We have every intention of remaining a national powerhouse and competing for a national championship. Yeah, when the dust settles we'll be right there" Let's hope so. National's are in Baton Rouge this year, home to one of Army's biggest rivals, LSU.But first in a few weeks they must face Navy and Air Force in Colorado for the CIC Trophy. We'll keep an eye on these guys throughout the year.