Gulfport dominates high school powerlifting in Mississippi. Here’s how the Admirals do it

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But in Logan Fallo’s case, it only took about one year.

Fallo took over the Gulfport powerlifting program ahead of the 2016 season and walked into a room with only two athletes on the roster. Eight years later, the Admirals have brought home seven state championships, including a third consecutive this month, and have a roster size that has increased to over 60 students.

According to Fallo — a former football player and strength coach by trade — the recipe to success is as simple as treating his players as if they were his own kids.

“You find the kids and you love them,” Fallo told the Sun Herald. “When you love them and care for them, they’ll give you anything and they’ll run through a brick wall.”

He has his tenants. It’s important to Fallo his kids never lift what they can’t do. Discipline and pride in the work is a must.

But above all else, it’s a family atmosphere coupled with intense intrasquad competition that has bred a dynasty at GHS.

“Coach Fallo is really professional, he knows what he’s doing,” senior captain Taylor Ladner said. “Everybody trusts him, 100 percent. He’s more than a coach ... almost like a parent figure. We just look up to him.”

Making an era their own

The upper-class leaders have been enjoying their own unique stretch of success lately. Fallo’s run of four consecutive years with a state title was ended in 2020 by the canceled season due to COVID.

Gulfport finished as runner-ups to D’Iberville the following year by a thin margin due to an athlete missing a weight mark ahead of the championship meet.

It was pivotal moment for the Admirals.

“After that year we knew nothing like that would ever happen again,” Ladner said. “We gave it our all for the next three seasons and got on top of everybody, making sure everyone was proper weight and strength training properly.”

Gulfport got its revenge in 2022, rallying around an injury to then-sophomore Clayton Wartenbee and topping D’Iberville despite a state-record performance from Warriors standout Colton DeShazo.

It was an inflection point for the Admirals and one that put the program back on its powerhouse path.

“That definitely fueled a lot of people’s motivation,” junior Hudson Williams said of the team’s rivalry with DHS sparking his first state championship with the team. “Trying to get back on top meant so much more.”

And the Admirals have stayed on top. Sean McGill, Davis Ormes, Sean Garcia, Brody Switzer and Williams all won their weight class to lift GHS to its most recent title.

Wartenbee also won his weight class, finish his career in a strong manner two years after the injury.

“He came back his junior year and tied with his teammate, he took a loss by 0.4 ounces because it was the best thing for the team,” Fallo said. “Then this year, he came back and nobody even came close to him. He came back and had a really special year.”

Bright future ahead

Gulfport won its title after graduating six of the 12 athletes who competed on the 2023 squad. This season, it only loses three.

The returning numbers and the rapidly growing popularity the team has in the hallways has set the program up for continued success.

“I think it looks cool, like, winning the state championship so many years in a row,” Williams said. “You see a bunch of jacked kids walking around, everybody wants to be a part of that.”

It’s becoming a popular extra season for multi-sport athletes, too. The program includes players who star on the soccer, baseball and football teams.

“I think every kid that comes in and does powerlifting is one of the top people on their teams in other sports,” Ladner said. “Their just natural leaders and natural dogs in their sports that they play.”

Fallo was also able to field a full girls team at state this year for the first time, too. The Lady Admirals finished third and had an opportunity to place second, but Fallo stuck to his goal of ensuring each competing athlete reached the podium.

The girls showing up and debuting as strongly as they did benefited the boys, as well, according to Ladner.

Both programs are in a healthy position under Fallo and primed to continue the school’s run atop the sport.

“I really believe they’re going to keep the dynasty going,” Ladner said.