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Season Preview: 2023-24 Concordia Powerlifting

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 14, 2023 in Men's Lifting Sports, Women's Lifting Sports

Head Coach: Freddie Myles (2nd season)
2023 National Qualifiers: Dax Davis, Kenzie Houser, Rylee Ladd, Emma Singer.
2024 National Championships: April 14-17 in Atlanta, Ga.


The 2022-23 season laid the foundation for lifting sports at Concordia University. Head Coach Freddie Myles and the powerlifting and weightlifting programs now look forward to year two with an expanded and more experienced roster. For powerlifting in particular, the roster has expanded to 21 student-athletes while the wealth of freshmen from a year ago now have a year under their belts. Three of the four Bulldogs who competed at the 2023 national championships return for the 2023-24 campaign.

Myles led the powerlifters into four competitions during the initial 2022-23 season. History was made last September when 11 Bulldogs represented the program at the Warrior Collegiate Open in Fremont, Neb. Four Concordia athletes eventually made their way to the 2023 USA Powerlifting Collegiate Nationals in Arlington, Texas, this past April.

“I was really pleased how the kids did,” Myles said of year one. “We had athletes in both programs make it to the national championships. We saw lots of individual improvement. All of them were freshmen and now this year we have a good group of sophomores. As we continue to get more upperclassmen, we’ll continue to have better leadership. I’m excited for that. I was really proud of how our kids did for the first year with both programs.”

It's important to make clear that powerlifting and weightlifting are two distinctions within Concordia Lifting Sports. Powerlifting tests competitors in three movements: squat, deadlift and bench press. As Myles explains, powerlifting is about “maximum strength.” For the Bulldogs, they expect themselves to be physically stronger than they were a year ago.

The roster of 21 is made up of four juniors, seven sophomores and 10 freshmen. In other words, it’s still a relatively youthful bunch of Bulldogs. The returning national qualifiers include Dax Davis (67.5kg), Kenzie Houser (67.5kg) and Rylee Ladd (56kg). Even before the first official competition of the 2023-24 season, there are eight Concordia athletes qualified for the 2024 national championships. That list includes Davis, Houser and Ladd, in addition to Jack Hedke (110kg), Hunter Powers (75kg), Garrett Reimche (75kg), Abigail Velten (67.5kg) and Jacob Wagoner (75kg).

Houser competed at 60kg at last season’s national championships. A native of Riverton, Kan., Houser transferred to Concordia via Fort Scott Community College. She says she turned to powerlifting after getting burnt out on softball. Houser became a state place finisher in Kansas during her high school career. She senses there’s growth taking place as the program moves from year one to year two.

“I think this year there’s new chemistry,” Houser said. “Even the newcomers came in and we all fit in great. You wouldn’t be able to go in and pick out the old-timers versus the newcomers. It’s more of a family feel this year. Everybody works together well and the encouragement across the board is great.”

Expectations are also growing. The number of women on the roster has increased significantly. Added Houser, “The girls’ team, I feel like we can get top three at a few meets, which is exciting. We only had four girls last year. I’m looking to come in and hopefully sweep a couple of meets and place top 10 at nationals. We want to prove to everybody that Concordia is here to compete. It’s not just a small school just getting started up. We’re ready to go.”

Another Kansas native (Marysville), Hedke transitioned from the Bulldog wrestling program to powerlifting. Hedke competes in the largest weight class and is now in a sport where he can fully maximize his physical strength. He had never participated in competitive lifting until making this switch in the middle of his college career.

One of the aspects of the sport Hedke has already come to appreciate is the way that Myles runs the program. Said Hedke, “He’s a great guy. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in my life. He’s super calm and doesn’t get worked up. He’s very dynamic. If you have questions, he’ll be able to sit down and explain it to you very easily without you feeling overwhelmed. He’s very flexible with workouts. If you’re wanting to do something different, he’s very open to changing to what you like better. He wants to please everybody, and he does a great job with that.”

Hedke echoes some of the comments made by Houser. This program is prepared to make a major jump. Added Hedke, “From my point of view, it’s nationals. A lot of us want to qualify – some of us already have. It’s not overshooting it to think that almost everybody on the team will qualify for nationals. We could go from taking four or five people last year to maybe taking the whole team. It would be a big step to show we’re here to compete.”

The only departing athlete who experienced nationals last season is Emma Singer, who also competed in shooting sports at Concordia. The Bulldogs know they will take at least eight athletes to Atlanta, Ga., in the spring of 2024. The USA Collegiate Powerlifting National Championships moves from Texas to Georgia for ’24.

“Last year we had four athletes make nationals,” Myles said. “I’m hoping to have maybe even four times that amount make nationals this year, based on how training is going and the really talented kids that have come in. The athletes that were here last year have improved a lot. I foresee having 12 or more kids make nationals. We’ll see on October 7 (at the UNL Husker Strong Collegiate Meet) how everyone does. They’ll have another chance to qualify on the Nov. 18-19 weekend.”

Athletes within the program have lauded Myles for his calming influence and for his expertise on how to build people up, both in terms of strength and power and from a character perspective. Myles’ staff also includes assistant Chevy Stout, who was officially promoted to a full-time position in April. Myles and Stout are constantly measuring individual improvement and pushing their athletes to new heights.

From a recruiting perspective, the program continues to gain ground. As Myles says, “It’s been good. I think people are excited for the growth of both sports collegiately. It’s becoming more and more popular. Recruits like our academic offerings – that’s made it easier. A lot of kids are looking for a small-town college experience. You can tell kids are quite interested and excited about the program.”

The 2023-24 Concordia Lifting Sports schedule can be found HERE.