What’s The Secret To Success?

Dedication to weight program at the heart of Lynx climb

Webster City senior-to-be Cooper Lawson (51) is the poster child for the school’s weight lifting program for its athletes. He is on the radar of major college coaches in both football and wrestling. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.

Webster City athletic director and head football coach Bob Howard uses this quote as motivation for all of the boys who participate in high school athletics. Participation is key and the programs need their athletes to commit and buy in.

And bought in they have.

The Lynx boys’ sports outshone every other school in the North Central Conference during the 2016-17 school year, as they dominated in almost every sport. The football team was the Class 3A District 2 champion and state runner-up, and the wrestling, basketball, golf and baseball teams all captured NCC championships. Coming off back-to-back state crowns in 2015 and 2016, the golfers added another state runner-up trophy to the school’s haul in May.

Their success, no doubt, has been from all of the hard work and dedication that these boys have put in the weight room, gym, practice room, course and diamond during the school year and over the summer.

Webster City senior-to-be Luke Rohmiller celebrates a victory on the wrestling mat last December. There’s no doubt that Rohmiller has spent a considerable amount of time in the weight room. He’s a three-year varsity contributor on the mat and is expected to contend for a starting spot on the football field this fall. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

“We train year round. Having multiple sport athletes creates a culture where kids want to keep improving and they want their team to keep improving because as everyone improves the team gets better,” said Howard. “Another big quality for teams is trust. If you’re playing next to a kid who has put in the same work you have, it’s a lot easier to trust them.”

Howard runs the strength and conditioning program for the boys in the summer. They strength train two days a week at 6:30 a.m., and they have speed training outdoors on the opposite days three times a week at 7:30 a.m.

Cooper Lawson will be a senior at WCHS this coming fall, and he participates in football, wrestling and soccer for the Lynx. He is a two-time all-state offensive lineman and was the 2016 2A state runner-up at 285 pounds at the state wrestling tournament. He has spent countless hours in the weight room for the sole purpose of becoming the best he can be.

“We have two different types of lifting,” said Lawson. “They are called purple and gold; gold is more intense and purple is a little lighter. You can push yourself as hard as you want; usually the more successful athletes push themselves harder.”

Howard runs the strength and conditioning sessions early in the mornings so the athletes aren’t working outside in the midday heat of the summer. Regardless, some mornings the weather conditions aren’t ideal whatsoever, which makes strapping on the cleats and breaking a sweat that much more exhausting for the athletes. Some mornings it could be raining, and other mornings are 90 degrees and humid. It’s all about how well you roll with the punches, and having the desire to be the best is what keeps the athletes committed.

Zane Williams (front) takes off for his leg of the 4x200-meter relay at the state track meet in May. He also competes in football and wrestling. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

Zane Williams will also be a senior at WCHS this fall, and he is a standout athlete for the football, wrestling and track teams. He was a part of the 4×200-meter relay that qualified for the state track meet in May and he was also a state qualifier in wrestling this past February. Williams has sweated four years in this program and is a firm believer that the hard work pays off.

“The program is going to be as hard as you make it,” says Williams. “If you put the pedal to the metal then you’re going to feel it the next couple of days. But if you dog it, it’s going to be easy.”

Dylan Steen is a junior at WCHS and is a four-sport athlete. He wakes up early every day and puts in his time and hard work along with the rest of his teammates. Steen — who participates in football, basketball, track and field, and baseball — has been a huge part of many of the victories the Lynx have had and just recently helped the baseball team get a taste of their own NCC title, the first for the school in 17 years.

When asked for his thoughts about the importance of weight lifting, Steen had this to say:

“Obviously weight lifting makes you stronger, but it also builds a culture around that sport. Your teammates are all working on a mission and that helps to build good team chemistry.”

WCHS sophomore Dylan Steen returns an interception during a football game last fall. Steen is a four-sport athlete for the Lynx. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

Howard says that the benefits from the strength and conditioning program are trifold. The high school puts a huge emphasis on weight training because it helps with injury prevention, it increases overall athletic performance, and it keeps athletes accountable and committed to their sport.

According to Howard, the main reason sports adopted a weight lifting program was to prevent injuries. When done properly, it can make your shoulder and knee joints stronger.

With today’s teenagers, that idea is being shoved to the side while weight lifting is becoming more tied to athletic enhancement.

“We want people to be faster and more explosive, which means they can jump higher, be quicker, and move laterally better. Everything that’s sports performance oriented starts with core strength and general strength,” said Howard.

Every weight program is different based on what sport is being focused on and who is in charge of the program. Webster City tries its best to cater the same to everyone who participates in sports.

“Our strength and conditioning program really hasn’t changed in 20 years,” said Howard. “Ours is tailored to multi-sport athletes training year round.”

Over his years at WCHS, Lawson has dedicated a lot of his time to continue to better himself at sports, just like all of the other male athletes.

“I think that all of the success we have had this past year was directly from all of the hard work a lot of us kids did in the offseason,” said Lawson. “We have a lot of opportunities in Webster City as student athletes to get better and when kids take advantage of them that’s when everything goes right.”

According to Howard, the foundation of having great teams is having everyone on the same page. It’s important that everyone is putting in the same effort and dedication. The peer pressure now, especially on the boys side, is huge. The seniors take it upon themselves to hold the younger athletes and themselves accountable.

“When you lift you get more power over your opponents. You’re stronger, faster and more flexible. I have high expectations for my teammates and I expect them to follow through,” said Williams. “I’ll give them a hard time for not showing up.”

Lawson, a Division I college prospect in football and wrestling, speculates that the strength and conditioning program has helped him get a lot bigger, faster and stronger. It’s noticeable, too.

“I think the speed and strength programs along with me getting more mature played a huge role in my performance,” said Lawson. “When the younger kids commit to the programs you can see them getting stronger and faster and it is really cool.”

The strength and conditioning programs also benefit the players mentally. According to Howard, athletes are also conditioning their minds. Speaking from the perspective of the head football coach, Howard states that there is no doubt in his mind the reason they went to the state final last fall was because his players were tough mentally.

“Those kids could control emotions; they focused. It’s the best group I’ve ever had at doing that. They really bought into it,” he said.

Howard stated that if athletes don’t train, then they will never know what might have been. But that probably won’t be on the minds of too many athletes when they look back at the 2016-2017 school year.

Once you get a taste of success, it becomes a craving. And these boys have worked and prepared themselves year round for another chance at it.