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Powerlifting professional provides program at LHS

It’s not every day an athlete gets to learn from one of the best in their sport, but that is exactly what Lennox High School powerlifting athletes are getting the opportunity to do.

After volunteering to help out with the LHS football team this past fall, Jona Leo now finds himself leading a group of student-athletes in a powerlifting program.

Leo, who grew up on a cattle ranch outside of Dannebrog, NE, was drawn to powerlifting purely for strength training for sports performance, but he quickly realized that competing was a great way to keep training interesting.

“I was a four-time Nebraska High School Powerlifting State Champion, but I remained focused on football and track. After finishing up football and track careers at Northwestern College, I needed another competitive avenue, and powerlifting seemed like a good fit at the time,” said Leo. “I competed in all three disciplines, squat, bench, and deadlift, from 2002 to 2010 when I decided to specialize in the bench press. I was nationally ranked in ‘powerlifting’ but found more success when competing only in bench press.”

Leo is modest when it comes to his success in powerlifting, but his accolades are amazing. A few of his career highlights include being a four-time International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Bench Press Champion, claiming the title in 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019; a three-time IPF World Bench Press Silver Medalist in 2014, 2015, 2017; a five-time IPF World Record Holder; a nine-time USA Powerlifting National Team Member where he was one of eight selected to represent the United States in the World Championships; a six-time USA Powerlifting National Bench Press Champion; a six-time USA Powerlifting South Dakota State Champion and a six-time American record holder.

Not only has Leo excelled in the sport personally, he also boasts a strong coaching resume helping others in the sport as well. In 2018 Leo was the USA Powerlifting National Bench Press Team Assistant Coach. He also coached 14 different athletes representing USA, Britain, and Australian Nationals Teams. He has coached four IPF World Champions, 16 National Champions, and 53 SD State Champions. In 2008 Leo was named Volunteer of the Year at McCrossan Boys Ranch where he started and developed a powerlifting program for the boys.

And now the LHS student-athletes are lucky enough to be learning from him as well. How did the idea come about?

“To be truly honest, it just happened,” said Leo. “This past fall, I volunteered to help with the High School football team and got to know many student-athletes. Soon enough, some of the boys started discussing forming a powerlifting team in the off-season, and things evolved,” he said. “Coach Luze has played a huge part in helping this get off the ground. The primary objective is to make off-season training more exciting and competitive. These competitions allow everyone to see how our physical strength matches up to the other schools in the conference.”

Luze is excited to have Leo on board in the program.

“Coach Leo has done an amazing job with these young men and we are very excited to grow the program even more next year,” said Luze.

Luze and Leo are not the only ones instrumental in the program. Leo said Scott Meyer has also been valuable, giving of his time to help the student-athletes at the meets.

“I actually trained Meyer so he knows what I am looking for and that is helpful,” said Leo.

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