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West senior goes from boxing to bull riding to powerlifting

By Julie Garcia
March 3, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2014 at 9:03 p.m.

John Ramirez, 18, a senior, practices the dead lift in the weight room of Victoria West High School.

Take the numbers 250, 350, 415, 123 and figure out what they have in common.

It's not a question of what but who the numbers have in common.

John Ramirez, senior at Victoria West, can bench press 250 pounds, squat 350 pounds and dead lift 415 pounds.

Ramirez, an 18-year-old former boxer and bull rider, competes in the 123-pound weight class for West's powerlifting team.

He will compete in the Texas High School Powerlifting Association Region 5 championships on Saturday along with teammates Modesto Martinez, Matthew Ramirez and Caleb Marek.

With this being his first year powerlifting, Ramirez has shown a natural ability on the floor, said West powerlifting coach Courtney Boyce.

The novice lifted the regional qualifying weight of 950 pounds early in the season.

Ramirez said that he's gone up about 60 to 70 pounds in the last three weeks.

"I'm always shooting for bigger numbers," he said. "My max was 315 pounds in the dead lift when I started; I stayed from 330 to 350 for a while."

Finally, he just loaded the bar with plates and lifted. He said it felt easy - it was 365 pounds.

"The dead lift is all about confidence - you can't lift the weight discouraged," Ramirez said.

Boyce said that Ramirez's dedication to the dead lift is a testament to the kind of athlete he is.

"He comes and does his workout; he's detailed about what he's doing, and if he has a weakness, he focuses on it," Boyce said. "He works on it on his own time - he has good technique and good form."

Unorthodox training

Ramirez is no stranger to competition or being courageous.

He started boxing in fifth grade, which is how he learned the body discipline required to make weight.

"I learned a lot about competing and losing and winning," he said.

Boxing taught him how to train hard and gave him the dedication to keep a certain body type, which he said is the foundation for powerlifting.

After stepping away from boxing as a freshman, he decided to join a different kind of sport altogether: bull riding.

"You're never not scared riding bulls, but you just have to learn to have more courage," he said. "I got stepped on a few times and was hooked."

Bull riding lasted about a year, until he dislocated his shoulder. He underwent surgery to repair the damage and realized rodeo wasn't for him.

To regain strength after his surgery, Ramirez started lifting weights last summer. He started powerlifting at the suggestion of a friend.

"A lot of mental toughness goes into powerlifting," he said. "It doesn't feel good, but it toughens your mind."

Doing what it takes

At Ramirez's last meet, he missed his weight class.

Competing in the 132-pound weight class, Ramirez took fourth place.

Since the meet was held at West, Ramirez said he didn't have the extra time beforehand to go through his routine.

"I drink Gatorade and chew gum and spit it out," he said. "I didn't have the time to spit enough."

Competing in the higher weight class was helpful because he was able to lift on the same scale as stronger athletes, which will help him take more chances at the next meet, he said.

Spitting doesn't help him in the long-term, which he said he does by eating right and doing 10 minutes of high-intensity cardio after each workout.

"The way I think, I can't do something and be all right - I expect to be the best," he said. "When I started to compete, I wanted to win and go all-out and give everything I could."

"He's in great shape; when you come into powerlifting, it's about putting on muscle mass and maintaining weight," Boyce said. "John definitely has that connection with boxing - it's an extremely healthy habit."

Being body conscious is a strength for Ramirez, Boyce said.

"He knows his body really well and takes good care of it," he said.

New challenges

Ramirez enlisted in the Marines two weeks ago. Pending an X-ray of his shoulder, he is confident that he will be heading to boot camp this summer.

Eventually wanting to get a degree in criminal justice - his brother is a police officer - Ramirez wants to embody the type of Marine who has integrity, honor, respect and honesty.

Boyce said that Ramirez comes across as quiet but has a great personality.

"How he is in the weight room and his qualifying for regionals and hopes to qualify for state and placing is also a crossover in what he does in his everyday life," Boyce said. "He's a good student; he's very mindful and respectful of others."

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