AROUND TOWN: Huntley H.S. students set powerlifting records

Justin Herbert and Dominic Swanson set Amateur American Powerlifting Federation records in the Illinois Raw Power Challenge on Dec. 9 in Willowbrook.

Herbert, a senior at Huntley, benched 281 pounds, had a deadlift of 468 and a squat of 391 for a total of 1,140 to set the records in the age 16-17, 275-pound division. Swanson, a freshman at Huntley, had lifts of 347 in the squat, 225 in the deadlift and benched 225 for a total of 913 in his record-setting performance in the age 13-15, 220-pound division.

Herbert and Swanson hold the records for the individual events and the total in the three lifts. It was Herbert’s first time competing in powerlifting.

Swanson has been training since he was 9, but Herbert just began in September. Herbert was looking to get some more distance in his shot and discus throws for the spring track and field season, not to compete in powerlifting competitions.

Both train out of a facility put together by Gary Swanson, Dominic’s father, at his home in Union. After building a large garage adjacent to his house, Gary Swanson purchased the equipment from a local Powerhouse Gym that had closed.

Gary Swanson works with kids who are interested in improving their performance in sports and possibly competing in powerlifting, but he does not charge for his services or facility.

Herbert said the difference between when he started a few months ago and now are tremendous.

“I was only benching 185. Now I’m up to 215 (in training),” Herbert said. “I’ve already seen a 6-foot jump in my shot put.”

Getting interested in powerlifting was a natural progression after spending time in Swanson’s gym.

“As I saw my numbers going up, I got really interested,” Herbert said.

Dominic Swanson won the event in Willowbrook a year ago as an eighth-grader. This year he stepped up his expectations for what he wanted to accomplish after a total lift of 726 pounds in 2011.

Dominic plays football for Huntley and will join Herbert on the track team. Herbert and Dominic train four nights a week for two to three hours a night.

“My goal was to hit 200 pounds over what I hit last year,” Dominic Swanson said.

Gary Swanson said that was a big jump in results for a year. He credits the success to a unique training regimen he uses and hard work.

“I’m realistic about what these kids can do at this age,” Gary Swanson said. “There’s a lot more thought in this than walking in a gym and lifting some weights. It’s a natural growth and they work hard at it. It’s hard work.”

The powerlifting training also provides both mental and physical benefits in other sports.

“It builds confidence,” Gary Swanson said. “When your confidence level rises, you’re more likely to excel in other sports.”

• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at


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