Gillingham leads group of area lifters to IPF championship in Russia

For competitive powerlifters, the ultimate goal is to compete against the world’s best.

And for the first time ever, it will be man versus weight without any technologically-advanced clothing to help them.

Four area powerlifters will get their chance to show what they can do without the gear on the international stage when they travel to Suzdal, Russia in a few short days to compete in the inaugural International Powerlifting Federation’s Raw Classics Powerlifting World Championships.

And they couldn’t be more excited.

“This is something that I’ve been waiting for all the years I’ve been lifting. Personally, I’m happy as heck that I was able to stick around to see this come true,” Brad Gillingham said. “Classic means you can wear a belt, a pair if wrist wraps and you can wear neoprene knee sleeves. What you’re lifting, you’re lifting. There are no gimmicks to it or anything.”

Gillingham and his brothers, Wade and Karl, own Jackal’s Gym, and are well known in strength sports for their abilities.

Brad Gillingham has two IPF titles and 11 world championship appearances under his belt, and the gym will be sending its largest contingent to an international championship when he and three other lifters travel to Russia. It’s an amazing feat considering there are only eight junior team members, and three of them train right in Marshall.

“Nationally there are eight men on the Junior World team and three of them are coming from the Marshall area,” Gillingham said. “Three of the eight lift at our little gym.”

Gillingham will be joined by fellow Minneota native Sam Derynck, Marshall native Luke Klein and Southwest Minnesota State University grad Tony Schwebach in Russia.

“I’m really excited for those guys,” Gillingham said. “I have to remember I have to lift yet on Sunday because I’m really fired up for those guys.”

The fact that such a large percentage of the lifters representing the U.S. come from one gym hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention – or been a big surprise.

“I think it just shows how our consistent training methods over time and dedication have really produced solid results,” Schwebach said.

“The Gillingham’s are awesome at what they do, and I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for Brad. None of us would be,” Derynck added. “He helps us out so much. It’s awesome that he takes time out of his training to help us out. He enjoys working with the young guys too.”

Added Klein, “We’ve always been on the Brad Gillingham Eight-Week Program. That’s the best program in the world. There was no need to change that.”

The road to Suzdal started last summer at the USAPL Raw Nationals competition where Klein won the 125-plus kilogram title and the other three took second place in their respective weight classes.

And they couldn’t be more excited to compete at the international level.

“I found out on a Sunday night and got on the phone right away with Brad,” Derynck said. “I was super pumped. It was awesome. I couldn’t sleep.”

“I was surprised because it was only after my second meet ever,” Klein said.

Added Schwebach, “I was really excited. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to be able to go with three of my good friends is great.”

Not only are they excited about their chances to compete, but to also represent the United States.

“This is the world championship,” Gillingham said. “You are going to put on your USA warm-ups and if you win, you hear the Star Spangled Banner.”

While Gillingham has lifted in competitions around the globe, for the remaining Jackal’s Gym competitors, this will be the first competition – and trip abroad – for them.

“This is going to be a new experience,” Derynck said. “It’s my first time out of the country actually.”

“This will be my first time (out of the country),” Schwebach said. “I just got my passport in December so it will be a new experience. Traveling with Brad will make it a lot easier because he’s been over (so many times).”

“The farthest I’ve been away from Marshall was probably the National meet (in Texas).” Klein said. “I went to Canada when I was a kid, but I’ve never been outside the country besides that.”

With the competition rapidly approaching, the lifters are finishing up their cycles to be ready to lift in the competition. But because the event is spread out over several days, their game plans vary slightly.

“We all lifted pretty heavy (Monday) night,” Gillingham said. “Sam is about done because he’ll lift Wednesday. Tony and Luke will be Saturday, I will be Sunday. My last week is a little different than Sam’s.”

While Gillingham is also competing, he’s almost more excited about being able to help the younger lifters.

“You have a US team coach. We have a female this year and she’s from Minnesota, too. The coaches know that I train these guys,” Gillingham said. “The head coach will turn in the numbers and have the final decisions, but I’ll have a big say in what we do.

“With the way it’s laid out I’ll be able to help Sam and Tony. Luke I will, but probably not as much hands-on as Sam and Tony because I’ll lift Sunday morning.”

Though there is the team aspect, each lifter is going in with certain goals in mind. For the three younger lifters, it’s all about competing well and finishing strong.

“I always want to go nine-for-nine first, make all of my lifts. If I can get a personal record in there, that’s always good too,” Klein said. “Medaling or placing is always good, but completing all the lifts is my main goal usually.”

“I would like to place top five in the overall,” Schwebach said. “I would also like to medal in the dead lift.”

“Going in, I want to place in the top five,” said Derynck. “Brad and I have been looking at my numbers I’ve been putting up in the gym and it shows I have a good chance of placing top three and medaling. That would be pretty awesome to get top three.”

For Gillingham, the goal is to do more than place. It’s to come out on top in the first-ever raw international championship.

“I really want to win. I’m in a spot where I’m ranked No. 1 right now and I’m hoping I can hold on to it,” Gillingham said. “It won’t be easy. I don’t have many of these left at an open level. I have a chance to win another open world championship.

NOTE:?The inaugural International Powerlifting Federation’s Raw Classics Powerlifting World Championships can be viewed live online at