Scappoose's Michael Herbst has only "just started" to set records in Olympic weightlifting

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Michael Herbst demonstrates the clean and jerk, in which he set the state record on May 3 for his age and weight.Scappoose senior Michael Herbst might be one of the hardest working athletes in the building. He's certainly one of the strongest, but Herbst doesn't compete in any of the major sports. He used to play baseball and football and track, but thanks to strength and conditioning coach Joe Nowlin, Herbst has found a new passion.

In his first-ever sanctioned lifting meet on May 3, Herbst set three state records in his weight class and age group at the War Games Olympic weightlifting meet at Sherwood High School.

Herbst competes in the 62 kg. junior class, and set state records of 82 kg. in the snatch, 106 kg. in the clean and jerk and 188 kg. for overall total, breaking records that had stood for the last 14 years.

And for Herbst, who broke a vertebrae in his back in seventh grade, it's a natural fit. He developed a condition called Spondylolysis – or a pars defect – in his lower back due to tumbling and trampoline work in his younger days. By the time middle and high school rolled around, the pain from the defect became great enough that contact sports were now out of the question.

“It was really painful,” remembered Herbst. “I didn't do sports in my eighth grade year.”

Herbst said he has had to become more and more aware of the fragile nature of his back, and he hasn't returned to football for fear that a violent collision or contact from an unexpected angle would cause him to re-injure his lower back.

Now, weight lifting is more than a pastime. The additional training, though there is a small chance of injury if not using proper form, only serves to strengthen Herbst's back.

While Herbst spends some time with squats and on the bench, the majority of his training is focused on variations of the two lifts he'll need to master for competitions: the snatch and the clean and jerk.

The first, and the more difficult of the two, requires the lifter to take the weights from the ground and raise them above their head in one motion. The second allows the lifter to get back into a squatting position after switching the hands from the top of the bar to the bottom.

It's not an easy regiment, and though Herbst was one of the youngest and lightest to enter the competition on May 3, he has something important in his corner.

The competitions, including the state championships on June 8, are open to anyone regardless of age and are split into four divisions. Herbst competes in the junior class, which has ages from 15 to 20 years old, and because the heavier lifters have an advantage, a system called the Sinclair coefficient balances things out.

At Sherwood, his actual total was 188 pounds. His Sinclair total was 275, good for fourth among the 22 entries.

Add in that Herbst has only been actively training for the Olympic competitions for the last four months, and it becomes more obvious why he wants to pursue a college scholarship after taking a year to work on general education. He began taking the advanced sports training class a few years ago, and though he is no longer enrolled, he continues to come in after school to train with Nowlin as many as five days a week.

As far as his records, Herbst doesn't think they'll stand for long.

“I plan on making it much, much larger this year,” he said. “And I've only just started.”

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