With a mirror in front of him, and surrounded by the encouraging shouts of strangers, senior James Dinaso strains under 500 pounds as he attempts the daunting task of setting a personal best.
The weight easily doubles his 5-foot-10-inch, 225-pound frame.
Suddenly, the weights lurch downward. He stares forward and begins a head-on attack. His knees begin to bend as he lowers toward the gym floor. His legs begin to tremble as he plants his heels firmly on the ground and he drives his body up. The bystanders’ cheers grow louder as he heaves the weight higher. Slowly, the weight sinks lower and falls, and a spotter is forced to help lift the weight back onto the rack.
For much of his life, Dinaso has been in the weight room, training to improve his own personal records in the sport of power-lifting. Now he helps train others at Knox College after he and junior Aldo Portillo co-founded the Powerlifting Club, which helps members develop new lifting skills and create personal goals.
The club size varies, but on competition days a small group travel to local competitions to compete in power-lifting, which consists of only three lifts: squat, bench and deadlift.
Dinaso said that he wanted to create the club because he had a true passion for lifting and, after a while, he discovered that other students did as well. Now that his final football season is over, he can turn all of his attention to lifting.
“Sometimes I’ll see him working out and just smile, because even I don’t know what he’s doing,” said Adam Ries, an assistant lifting coach and a member of the Knox football coaching staff. “But he’s one of the most dedicated guys I’ve ever met, he doesn’t care what people think about him, and I respect that.”
Of all the extracurricular activities at Knox, lifting is the one that makes Dinaso feel most comfortable. For Dinaso, being strong and pushing yourself to be stronger is fun and cathartic.
“It helps relieve stress from school and personal life and it is also beneficial to improve my body,” he said. “Outside of my own personal lifting, I think my greatest accomplishment would be seeing other people feeling comfortable enough to ask me for advice about lifting and how they can do things to help them get stronger or in better shape.”
Junior Mandy Rivera, an ex-trainee who worked with Dinaso for multiple sessions, said she was pushed to the limit by Dinaso. “My favorite part was seeing the results, and he can be an asshole sometimes, but he does get results,” she said of Dinaso’s honest and blunt approach.
Fellow power-lifting member Lucas Cruz considers himself a naturally strong athlete and still has to constantly work in the weight room. “I put in a decent amount of time to lifting and getting stronger, but Dino is a total meathead,” said Cruz. “He is kind of addicted, after most home football games he gets changed in the locker room then goes and works out.”
Within a year the club’s size and popularity has grown, but not to what Dinaso expected, so he’s scheduled an annual meeting in the Spring Term to attract more students. He is also confident that the power-lifting club will be successful for years to come, and that the school has the ability to really grow this program substantially due to the new renovation of the fitness center, and the large interest in the club. Dinaso hopes to eventually be sponsored by nationally recognized organizations, such as United States of America Power-lifting (USAPL) and compete on a national stage.
He believes that what he accomplishes in the weight room will prepare him for life lessons for the future.
“Each failure is a lesson, and in lifting you fail a lot,” he said.