Dramatic duel for elite Winter Springs and Windermere weightlifters ended in stunning fashion

Two-time state champ Andres Giron won’t be able to make it a three-peat in next week’s FHSAA Class 3A boys weightlifting championship meet.

In a stunning turn of events, the Windermere High School senior failed to make a successful clean-and-jerk lift at last week’s Region 2 meet and bombed out of title contention.

Giron, Florida’s weightlifter of the year as a junior, lost it all because he made a daring all-or-nothing bid to top Orlando area rival Kody Taylor of Winter Springs at the regional level. Taylor exceeded Giron’s lifts for the 183-pound weight class in regular season and district meets, setting the stage for what was expected to be a dramatic matchup between state favorites who developed a friendship as they kept track of each other’s performances.

Taylor took the regional lead by lifting a career-best 260 pounds in the Snatch phase, 5 pounds better than Giron managed.

In his attempt to trump Taylor, Giron asked for a massive 330 pounds to be placed on the bar for his go-in clean-and-jerk lift. His hope was to make that on his first attempt and then pump 340 and 350 on his two final lifts to pave the way for victories in the Olympic style and Traditional titles.

It didn’t happen.

Giron tried 330 three times. Three times he lifted the bar from the floor to his shoulders but was unable to hoist the weight over his head to complete the jerk technique.

“I felt confident going with 330 after smoking 315 in the back room in warmups,” Giron said in a phone interview several days after the meet at Freedom High School. “My thinking was ‘Go big or I might go home’. Unfortunately, not everything went as planned.”

Windermere weightlifter Andres Giron seeks FHSAA championship and citizenship

It was Taylor’s turn to dominate. He powered up 300, 315 and 330 on his three clean-and-jerk lifts and finished with a 330 bench press. Taylor claimed region titles with a 660 total in the Traditional competition (bench and clean and jerk) and 590 in the Olympic style (snatch and clean and jerk). Both are the best for 3A this season.

As Giron stepped onto the platform and reached down to grasp the bar for his third and final clean-and jerk-attempt with a hushed crowd of teammates, coaches, lifters and spectators looking on, Taylor could be heard saying, “Come on Andres. … You got this.”

When Giron failed, he walked — head down — off the platform and out the gymnasium door at Freedom.

“I feel so bad. He’s always been my bud and competitor,” Taylor said moments later. “He’s a senior and he’s worked so hard.”

Giron’s achievements during the past three seasons, including placing in national meets, spurred Taylor.

“I watched crazy lifts Andres was posting [on social media]. It gave me major motivation to get stronger.”

A year ago Giron swept state titles in the 169 weight class, totaling 660 in Traditional and 580 in Olympic. Taylor, in the same weight division, took third in both with totals of 620 and 525.

While Giron struggled with hamstring and shoulder injuries this season, Taylor overcame October tendinitis in both knees to excel.

“I’m all the way back. I feel 100% now,” Taylor said.

Giron hopes Taylor takes home the state titles.

“It was two of the best in the sport going at it,” Giron said of the region meet. “I respect Kody entirely as an athlete and as a friend. I’m just rooting for him now. If all goes well, he will be the state champ for sure.”

Giron is moving on. His application to UCF was accepted and he plans to commute for college and continue to train in weightlifting while studying engineering.

Meanwhile, Taylor’s qualifying totals are 50 pounds better than any other state qualifier in his weight class. A Winter Springs teammate, Luke Deal, was second in Olympic qualifying with a 540 region mark.

Taylor hopes to go at least 10 pounds higher for all three lifts at the April 19 state meet at RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

“Winning at state would be amazing,” Taylor said. “It’s been my goal.”

Varsity content editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at