A Powell native is making a name for himself in the world of competitive powerlifting, placing first in his class at the 2018 USPA National Powerlifting Championships in Las Vegas last weekend.
Jakob Bowers, a 2014 graduate of Powell High School, competed in the 90 kilograms (198 pounds) weight class in the “classic raw” division — meaning he was allowed to wear knee wraps instead of knee sleeves in competition. The theory on knee wraps v. knee sleeves goes that wraps allow for more compression, creating more spring when down in the squat position.
Events included squats, bench press and deadlift, in that order. Each competitor was given three attempts in each event, with the highest lift counted toward the final score. The championships were held in the course of a single day, making for an intense competition. Bowers topped out at 557 pounds for squats, 347 pounds on bench and 628 pounds on deadlift. Calling the deadlift his best event, Bowers said his performance in that event was what won him the title.
“The deadlift is kind of what it came down to,” he said. “I was second going into deadlifts, and the guy that was ahead of me only deadlifted like 580 pounds, so I was able to jump ahead of him.”
“They had 90 competitors separated onto two platforms, so I didn’t even really know who I was in competition with,” Bowers added. In his weight class, “some were on the other platform, and some were on with me,” he said. “We were all mixed in with the 100 kgs and 80 kgs as well, so I was just trying to lift more weight than the guy in front of me.”
Going into the competition, Bowers’ goal was to hit certain numbers and do the best he could, rather than concerning himself with winning or losing. That he won was just icing on the cake.
“I got a giant medal that probably weighs 5 pounds,” Bowers said, laughing. “I also got bragging rights, I guess, which is cool. I didn’t even think I was going to place, so that’s good enough for me.”
Bowers was the only lifter from Wyoming competing at nationals, which made for some humorous moments.
“People would look and say, ‘Who’s this little kid from Wyoming?’” he recalled. “A lot of people gave me weird looks when I told them that’s where I’m from. They were like, ‘Wow, alright.’ It was quite the event.”
Bowers has been powerlifting competitively for about two years, discovering the sport while doing his undergraduate work at the University of Wyoming. He graduated from UW in the spring, and is off to medical school at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, in the fall.
While looking for a gym buddy at UW, Bowers met Ethan Smith.
“We just kind of bonded through that and eventually became best friends,” Bowers said. “There’s actually a powerlifting team here [at UW] called Northman Power. They sort of recruited Ethan [Smith] and I because we were lifting a lot of weight.”
Bowers and Smith joined the team, and began toying with the idea of actually competing. In the very first competition they entered, “He [Smith] competed in the 110 kg and I competed in the 90, and we both won that competition,” Bowers said. “It was awesome. So we just kept going with that, and I actually ended up qualifying for nationals last December at a competition in Denver, Colorado. So once I qualified for nationals, I thought, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go, see how I do.’”
Bowers’ win at nationals qualified him for Worlds this fall.
“There’s potential later on this year to be competing in Vegas, or in Russia,” he said.
Given the the option, Bowers said he’d prefer the latter.
“I think that would be an awesome trip,” he said.
As for those interested in getting into powerlifting — be it as a competitor or just to get in shape — Bowers said he’d highly recommend the activity, especially because of the community that goes along with it.
“You can walk into your first competition, and everybody will just take you under their wing,” he said. “They’ll give you tips and tricks, things that work to help you out. They’ll offer advice. It’s like the mafia, honestly — once you’re in, everyone welcomes you and you’re just part of the family.”
Bowers competed in football, swimming and track in high school, and said he never felt the level of camaraderie as he does with powerlifting.
“There were great teams [in high school] but nothing like this,” he said. “It’s completely different than anything else I’ve done. I highly recommend it to anybody, even if they want to try it once just to see how they stack up. They’ll meet great people.”