For the 5-foot-11, 255-pound Pooser, it was the most thrilling — and scariest — moment of his life.
The victory earned him a spot to go to the world championships in Szczyrk, Poland, which begin Aug. 28. He won by squatting 627 pounds, benching 402 and dead-lifting 617.
With room for only nine men and eight women, Pooser had to meet three criteria to assure himself a spot on the American team. He needed to win nationals by beating his only challenger in his division, Louisiana teen Garrett Chandler. He also had to surpass his powerlifting totals from last year’s national championship, and his total score from the three lifts combined had to meet a certain international criteria, a number that varies each year.
Pooser got a check-mark in all three areas.
“(The world championships) are going to be very competitive,” said Preston Pooser, Hunter’s father and coach. “His lifts are right there with the winners over there. They are very close. I think it’s going to be a pretty good meet. There are going to be competitors from Russia, Germany, Poland — and Canada has a strong team.”
While winning the national championship will be a life-long memory for Hunter Pooser, it wasn’t without its stressful moments.
Pooser was evenly-matched with Chandler going into the dead-lift — the final event of the competition — and both knew that one poor lift could be costly.
Slightly ahead of Chandler in points, Pooser failed to dead-lift 623 pounds. Then, when Chandler decided to go for the win by lifting the same weight, he also came up short.
“He missed, and that’s how I won,” Pooser said. “It was scary watching him try to bring it up halfway. It was the longest 10 seconds of my life.”
Having played football when he was younger, Pooser was a frequent visitor to the weight room by the time he was 10 years old. Three years later, Pooser was persuaded to give powerlifting competitions a shot by a friend of his father’s, and he entered his first weightlifting tournament seven days before his 14th birthday just to see if he liked it.
After breaking a Southern Powerlifting Federation record at his inaugural event — squatting and dead-lifting a combined 905 — Pooser said he loved it.
“The adrenaline rush was pretty cool,” Pooser said. “Going there, you get to watch men lift heavy things, and it was amazing. It makes you feel good, and it brings up your self esteem a lot.”
A former center for the Woodstock football team, Pooser gave up football last season to concentrate on powerlifting full-time. He trains with the North Georgia Barbell Club of Kennesaw an average of three days of week.
Each day, Pooser focuses on one specific lift. He’ll max out by doing 10 sets of limited reps on the squat, bench or dead-lift while doing fewer sets and multiple reps on other auxiliary lifts that train the same muscles.
In his four years of competitive powerlifting, Pooser said he has had only one injury, though it was only a minor one when he pulled a pectoral muscle a month ago while deadlifting.