Cooper Wage

Holmen High School graduate Cooper Wage was recently inducted into the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association Hall of Fame.

By the time people are named to a hall of fame, their best work often is behind them. That’s not the case with Holmen native Cooper Wage.

The 2005 graduate of Holmen High School recently was inducted into the Wisconsin High School Powerlifting Association Hall of Fame, a member of the third class of inductees. But even as Wage is being honored for his considerable powerlifting accomplishments in high school, Wage is pushing himself to reach even greater heights, er, weights.

In mid-May, Wage plans to take part in a national meet in San Antonio, Texas, where he is shooting for 750 pounds in both the bench press and deadlift and 900 pounds in the squat, and so far his training has him on track to do that.

“My numbers have been coming along,” he said. “I’m just going for personal records at this point and hoping to place top five. The open division is very competitive right now.”

Wage’s powerlifting odyssey began in his freshman year at Holmen. He’d always been among the bigger and stronger kids in his class, and he was doing some weight training for football when he encountered Chris Alitz and Justin Bilskemper, whom he described as “two behemoth individuals.”

They encouraged him to try the powerlifting program, and he credits their encouragement, along with trainers Rick Shaaf, Kevin Knuepple and Tim McFarland with helping him on his road to success.

As a junior, Wage won the high school state championship, setting a new squat record, and he placed third in the national meet that year, setting a national squat record.

His senior year, Wage kicked it up a notch, finishing second at nationals and setting state and national records for squat and bench press. His 705-pound squat and 385-pound bench press still stand as state high school records, and his 749.5-pound squat at nationals is still the mark to beat among high school students in his weight class.

As a college freshman at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Wage placed second in the Sub-Junior World Powerlifting Championship event in Fort Wayne, Indiana, setting world records in squat and bench press.

Wage said he felt blessed and honored to be inducted into the WHSPA Hall of Fame, but at the same time he downplayed the accomplishment a bit. “I just really like to lift weights, and I’m fairly good at it,” he said.

He’s probably as excited about his first year of coaching powerlifting at La Crosse Central High School, working alongside his longtime friend and fellow HHS grad Ryan Bott. “Man, it is a whole other ball game on the other side,” Wage said.

The Central powerlifting program just started last year with a total of eight lifters. This year, he said, Central had 20 lifters eight of them qualifying for state and two freshmen girls making it to the JV national tournament.

“That was pretty cool to see that,” he said.

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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