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Boys powerlifting: The 'strongest kid' didn't come from any of the five heaviest weight divisions

Apr. 13—RIO RANCHO — In track and field, it's the 100-meter dash champion.

The powerlifting equivalent would be the individual who lifts the most combined pounds in the new sport's three events: squat, bench press, deadlift.

Someone like Jeremiah Johnson of Clovis would, logically, be the person you'd look at as the right fit here.

And the Class 5A super heavyweight, who'll be playing football at Eastern New Mexico, had a huge meet Saturday at the Rio Rancho Events Center as New Mexico held its first State Powerlifting Championships as a sanctioned sport.

Johnson lifted 1,390 pounds, and he won his weight division.

But ... if your ambition were to locate the strongest dude in this giant room, you had to look elsewhere. In fact, you would not have found him in ANY of the five heaviest weight divisions.

Eldorado's Kevin Cuomo competed in the 198-pound division. And the Eagles junior proved to be this:

"The strongest kid in the state," Eldorado coach Weylin Proctor said.

Cuomo set a state record in his weight class with his performances in the squat and bench press, and by the time he finished with the deadlift, where he had 545 pounds, he had registered a total 1,435 pounds. His margin of victory (265 pounds) was by far the most impressive of any of the 12 individual state champions in Class 5A.

And nobody in any of the three classifications surpassed 1,400 total pounds. Johnson was the next closest at 1,390.

"I wanted to be the first to total 1,500," Cuomo said. A rival coach described Cuomo as the best pound-for-pound lifter in the state.

"I guess I would agree," a sheepish Cuomo said.

Cuomo played defensive end for the Eldorado football team. He'll be moving to linebacker next season.

"He's a freak," Eldorado football coach Charlie Dotson said.

Cleveland (Class 5A), Lovington (4A) and Albuquerque's Oak Grove Classical Academy (1A-3A) were crowned state powerlifting champions on Saturday.

The Storm's 47 points included three first-place finishes: Emmanuel Shepard (132), Ben Linfoot (220) and Samuel Madrid (308).

"Coming out, showing out this year, it's been great," Linfoot said. "It was hard fought, but it was well deserved. We earned it."

Sandia, with 28 points, and Rio Rancho, with 24, also won trophies.

"This year was a big goal for these seniors to win it all," Storm coach Steven Steele said. "First year as a sport, I'm proud of these guys."

Sandia had two state champions in Devin Weitz (148) and Ethan Montoya (165). There are 12 weight divisions. As it related to Cuomo, beyond his weight, there is 220, 242, 275, 308 and super heavyweight.

Jose Ontiveros of Rio Rancho, who recorded 1,365 pounds at 275, the third-highest total in 5A. Gio Velasquez of Manzano (114) and Theodore Lechman of Volcano Vista (181) also captured first-place medals.

Lovington defended its 2023 championship, scoring 49 points. The Wildcats had a single state champion (Tarango Rubio at 220), and six second-place finishes. Teams score points with athletes who place in the top five. The team runner-up was Española Valley (38), which had three champions. Deming (22) was third.

Amiri Mumba of Highland was a 4A state champion at 181 pounds. He won a state wrestling title in this building in February.

Oak Grove won a tight battle with Hatch Valley to win the 1A-3A title; each scored 24 points but the Owls had the tiebreaker. Senior Noah Rush of Oak Grove (220 pounds) was one of the most impressive lifters; his total of 1,280 pounds was the second-highest of anyone in 1A-3A, second only to Robertson's Orlando Romero (1,340 at 275 pounds).

Rush's dead lift got everyone's attention: 565 pounds. But he, like Eldorado's Cuomo, was not entirely satisfied with his deadlift.

"Actually not," he said. "Which is what I'm sad about." He has gone as high as 615, he said.

But Oak Grove won as a group, which Rush said thrilled he and his teammates.

"It was fantastic," he said. "It was a really fun thing to be a part of."

Joel Stapleton of Oak Grove won state for the Owls at 198 pounds. Legacy Academy of Albuquerque also had two state champions — Adrian Lopez at 123 and Corbin Barrera at 148.