On the surface of weightlifting, everything looks calm but in the back, there are so many games being played. That is what 22-year-old Stanislaus State student Brennan Koeller said after becoming a weightlifting national champion this past Friday.
The United States Weightlifting University Nationals and Under 25 Championship took place at the O'Connell Center at University of Florida with only one representative per college. Koeller was that representative for Stanislaus and he took advantage of his opportunity by proving that the small schools could compete with the giants after he took gold and silver in two divisions.
In the U-25, Koeller managed to strike gold in the clean and jerk, snatch and overall while he also captured silver in the University Nationals in the snatch, clean and jerk and total.
“I’ve gotten so many texts, snaps, calls, messages and I have the best support system I couldn't be happier,” said Koeller after winning. “My parents, obviously, had to put up with me needing specific ounces of this or that and I apologized and they were troopers through the whole thing.”
Aside from a strict diet that allowed him to cut weight, Koeller also thanked and praised many friends aside from family and most notably his coach Jesus “Chuy” Medina.
“My weightlifting coach Chuy and Brandon Soria have helped me so much,” said Koeller. “And my friend Jose helped a lot through this cut since he was doing a show as well and with moral support Nick Herrera and my best friend pitcher at Stanislaus Jordan Kron.”
The moral support and help from friends was key to his mindset, but in the end, it was the effort that Koeller put in that made him unique and coach Medina knew it too.
It's what made him achieve what he did at Nationals.
Koeller hails from Manteca, having graduated from East Union High in 2013 where he played football. It was during his senior year that he really took an interest in CrossFit and weightlifting.
“I started in the fall of 2013, a little here and there thanks to Cody Lee who first opened the high school gym to a group of us,” said Koeller. “I knew that the clean and jerk and snatch were important then but didn't start full time weightlifting till April 2014... the first meet that turned me.”
Since then, Koeller has become quite a prospect in weightlifting.
“First of all, Olympic weightlifting is an individual sport,” said Medina. “It's really sort of a lonely sport and it takes a lot of mental fortitude. I had people wanting me to transition… it’s a lot of squatting and lot of lifting and a lot of fails and it takes thick skin to get over that.”
This was not Koeller’s first year competing at Nationals, but it was his best result after taking bronze last year and fourth in 2015.
Koeller competed in the 62-kilogram weight class, which is 136.687 pounds.
“Everything is in kilos because it’s an international sport,” said Koeller.
During Friday's competition, Koeller opened with the snatch at 98 kilos (216 pounds) and jumped to 101 (222 pounds) before finally attempting 106 kilos (233.69 pounds), however, he missed it which gave him silver at the University Nationals division.
Koeller followed with the clean and jerk, successfully attempting 121 kilos (266.759), followed by 124 kilos (273.373) and finishing with 127 kilos (279.987).
“It's just three attempts and you build weight,” said Koeller. “Everyone is in weight classes together, but some specifically there for under 25 and some specifically for college and I signed up for both because you get that option.”
The option gave Koeller the opportunity to place in both if his scores were good enough. They were as he took home six medals total (three gold and three silver).
“Right now, Brennan is going to be moving up a weight class,” said Medina. “He is meant to be 69 kilos, which is about a 15-pound jump and will put on mass and can put up some ridiculous numbers at that weight.”
The next step for Koeller is some time off from weightlifting as he pursues a master's degree.
“I am majoring in liberal studies with focus on special education, I eventually want to teach special ed and will enter the credential program then plan on getting masters as well,” Koeller added.
Koeller also qualified for the Senior Nationals Weightlifting Championship.