Team Evolution strikes gold in Vegas

Local weightlifting club wins multiple world titles at WBDL World Championships

Approximately one year ago, Team Evolution weight lifting head coach Shaun Straka attended the World Association of Bench Pressers and Deadlifters World Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada to see what the competition was all about.

After watching a team from Hawaii win the team title, something caught his eye.

“At the end of the competition I saw this humongous trophy in the corner and I asked ‘What the heck is that?’ And someone said it was the team trophy,” Straka said. “I wanted that trophy. I might not be competing anymore, but I’m still competitive. The goal going down there this year was to get that trophy.”

In that moment Straka knew he would be bringing his team to the WABDL World Championships for the first time with the intent of winning that team title, and he wanted his future competition to know it.

“I watched them hand it out to the Hawaiian team and I walked up to them and said, ‘Hey, don’t get too comfortable with that trophy because it’s mine next year,’” said Straka, whose Team Evolution program has multiple WIAA state champions and Junior Olympic gold medalists in various disciplines to its credit.

But one thing Team Evolution didn’t have was a weight lifting team world championship, so Straka and his pupils trained for the past year with the goal in mind of cementing themselves as the best in the world.

The WABDL World Championships took place at Bally’s Hotel & Casino on Tuesday and ended on Sunday, with teams from across the United States and other countries competing in the international event.

By the time it was all over, and to use a bad Vegas pun, Team Evolution hit the jackpot. The Grays Harbor-based club won a total of 17 medals — 15 of those being of the gold variety — and shattered 14 world records across multiple age and weight divisions.

Topping the list was Nate Ivey, who competed in the 12-13 boys category and swept every honor possible. Ivey’s deadlift mark of 363 pounds, his bench press of 205.7 and overall points of 568.7 established new world records. He was named Outstanding Male Athlete for all three categories.

Not to be outdone was Mataya Straka, who won three gold medals and earned an Outstanding Female Athlete award for her world record of 319.5 points in the 12-13 girls deadlift. She also posted world records in the bench press (148) and total points (467.5).

Older sister Tyara Straka took home three gold medals in the 14-15 girls division, earning world-record marks in the bench press (220) and points (594.7)

Gen Sawyer also earned three gold medals and set world records in the bench press (132.2) and total points (352.2) in the 17-18 girls class.

In the boys 14-15 division, Trey Anderson won two golds, setting a bench-press world record (132.2) in the process.

Though their athletes proved they belonged among the world’s best, they didn’t run away with the title, as the defending champion Hawaiian team were neck-and-neck with Team Evolution, a few mere points separating the two.

Team points are tabulated using a formula that divides the total number of team points by the number of athletes that team has competing, so larger teams aren’t able to flood the competition with athletes in hopes of winning a title.

It came down to Team Evolution’s Iris Singleton, who won gold and set world records in both the bench press (110) and total points (335) in the girls 12-13 division. Singleton also broke a world record in the deadlift with a mark of 225 pounds, but was tied by a fellow competitor, who won gold because she weighed in a half-pound lighter than Singleton, which caused consternation at the podium.

“There had been so much controversy over the Ira Singleton deadlift and I had been called to the podium so many times to discuss it and argue about it when they called my name again I was rolling my eyes and thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I have to go back up there again to argue about this,’” Shaun Straka said. “And then they announced that Team Evolution are the team world champions and it was like, ‘Whoa, we did it!’ The kids went nuts and everyone went running up (to the podium).”

Straka went on to add that it was his athletes that rose to meet the challenge and become world champs.

“The kids’ performances blew my mind. Five of the six kids met or exceeded anything I thought possible. They flat out came with it and we hit our marks really well,” he said. “And as a coach in an individual sport, you think on a perfect day everyone is going to (hit their best marks) and it’s pretty rare when everyone does. It was awesome. They blew my expectations out of the water.”

As for what a world title says about his program, Straka acknowledged its impact.

“We’re evolving. We’re getting better and this sets the tone for what we’re doing,” he said. “That trophy speaks for itself and the hard work these kids have put in this last year. It’s amazing.”

It goes to show that there is more than one way to leave Las Vegas with a pile of gold.