Sylvania student earns weightlifting scholarship at Northern Michigan University

by Steven Bieber

Another school year has come to an end, which means students have to decide their future. For some, this can be difficult but for one student the road ahead is quite clear.

Will Heller is a graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School. He plans to study sports science or accounting at Northern Michigan University where he will be part of the competitive weightlifting team. Heller started lifting weights when he was part of the football team at St. Francis. He started the last few years as guard and played defensive tackle. His football career began when he was 8 years old.

To pursue weightlifting, Heller declined 13 offers to play football at Division Three and AI schools. Northern Michigan was the only college he considered attending. The appeal of  Northern Michigan, in addition to a  scholarship he will receive, is the fact that the NMU  team earned back-to-back collegiate national weightlifting championships.

While at Northern Michigan, Heller will participate in two different lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. Heller explained how those lifts work. “The snatch is one fluid motion from floor to lock-out above the head. The clean and jerk, however, is in two motions, the first from floor to front rack, over the shoulders and then to lock out about the head.”

He also explained how the competitions work. “The weight on the bar goes up or stays the same for each attempt. It starts off with each lifter getting three attempts at the snatch, then they get three attempts at the clean and jerk. Your combined score of those two lifts determines how you place.”

Heller has been doing competitive weightlifting for 12 months, and with this comes a well-disciplined diet. He described the work that he must put in to stay healthy.

“It’s five meals a day typically, sometimes it’s only four on the days I don’t lift, sometimes it’s six meals. Wake up, eat bacon and toast, get my carbs in. Getting carbs and protein are two of the highlights of the diet. It is typically around 5,000 calories a day, four meals before I train once, two meals after I train.”

One lesson Heller learned helped put him in the right mindset for his diet. “The big thing I learned was, I can’t eat to enjoy eating. I have to eat because I need the energy. I think once people look at eating as you need to eat to get energy, it’s a whole different approach and it makes it a lot easier to eat more.”

Although it is hard work Heller says he finds joy in his training. “I wake up every morning and this is what I look forward to. I find deep enjoyment in weightlifting, even when I was doing this during football season. Then I still lifted four or five times a week. It was my favorite thing to do. I love getting under a bar, squatting, pressing, pulling. Anything I can do under a bar is fun to me, this is what I love doing.”

Finally, Heller offered advice to people who are lifting or pursuing other sports. “Get out there and try. Try weightlifting, try different sports, try cross fit, it’s a blast. Not only does it teach you a lot about the sport it teaches you a lot about life and about yourself. When you fail, find out what you did wrong and how to come back committed. I think those lessons learned in weightlifting and sports have a big carryover to life, to being a father, a coworker,  a good person. You learn a lot about yourself in weightlifting, how to better yourself.”

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