Supersetting the bar

Nini Panner, Reporter

When eighth-grader David Satloff entered the gym for his first ever powerlifting competition, he felt the pressure.  He could feel the stares of the judges and hear the yells from the crowd. Now in only his first year of powerlifting, David is on the path to become one of the top powerlifters in his age group.

Competitive powerlifting consists of three attempts at a competitors’ maximum weight on three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. Whoever has the highest total weight in the three events wins. 

What started in 2020 as a quarantine hobby became a full-time sport for David. While his baseball season was on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions, David decided to test out the weight lifting machines in his basement to maintain his strength. Soon after, he discovered his current passion for competitive powerlifting.

“The equipment that we had soon became inadequate and we bought a lot more equipment and more equipment and then eventually David outgrew that,” father Rob Satloff said. “On his own… he searched for and found the one youth powerlifting coach in the area and reached out to him.”

David reached out to Jonathan Jurewicz, the owner of 495 Strength and Performance Gym in Bethesda, MD. He now trains with him five times a week, which is a total of seven and a half hours with Jurewicz.

“The main goal for us is to basically have… a teenager-only training center that’ll allow kids to be the highest excellent athletes,” Jurewicz said. “What really makes it special is that you can come in here and just be like, I want to compete, but end up being part of that team.”

The team has become a very important part of the sport for David. The team of powerlifters he trains with supports him throughout his training and competing. 

“I personally love it. I’m by far the youngest powerlifter on our team and for basically five days a week I’m with other high schoolers, and it’s pretty awesome,” David said. 

This year, David qualified for the USA Powerlifting High School Nationals in Chicago at the mere age of 14. The path to qualifying for national championships was unusual for David because there were so few competitions in his area. Jurewicz noted that powerlifting doesn’t offer many chances to compete in general, as there are typically only four meets a year in the Washington D.C. metro area. The number of competitions was even more limited during COVID-19 when David completed the bulk of his competitions. 

The USA Powerlifting organization convenes the national competition every year. To qualify, a powerlifter must reach the total weight standard for their weight group in an official competition from the past year. Due to the limited number of competitions, David’s first qualifying meet was his only competition before making it to the national championships. 

“The first time I competed, it was probably the scariest moment of my life,” David said.

Despite his nerves, David lifted personal bests in several events. Jurewicz believes that the reason for David’s success is his self-motivated ambition for powerlifting and overall self-improvement. 

“When David sets his mind to something, woe to that thing. He will accomplish it,” Rob said. “He will just work at it and work at it and work at it until he masters it…the sky is the limit [for David].”