BENTON, Ark. — While the high school weightlifting state meet is more so a football offseason event than it is a sport, Benton has become a force at it.

In this past weekend’s annual meet at Lake Hamilton, the Panther placed first in class 7A/6A for the fifth straight year and finished first overall for the fourth straight year. The team’s ten lifters across different weight classes racked up 5245 pounds between power clean and bench press, 300 more than second-place Haskell Harmony Grove.

“We take a lot of proud in that,” head football coach Brad Harris said. “We hang banners in our weight room to have some pride in coming in here… We use the state weight meet as a chance to win a state championship and the guys have really bought into it.” 

Four Panthers placed top-3 in their weight class this year, Jake Herbner winning the 181 group. Earning 2nd place finishes were Peyton McNeely, Nick Wright, and Chase Harding. Six other lifters contributed to Benton’s title over 30 other schools: Walker Hicks, Parker Glaze, Julius Stinson, Triston Ray, Mesiah Holloway, and Anthony Armstrong.

“If you’re scared of 315 pounds on the bar you’re going to be scared of a 315 pound O-lineman,” Herbner said.” If we’re not scared of it here then we’re not scared to compete out on the field and we’re not scared of anybody bigger than us.”

“I love having weight meets because it really keeps us competitive,” Wright said. “A lot of people had to cut weight to go, gain weight for some. Whenever everyone comes together and fills their role so the whole team can win it’s amazing.”

“We started out at Benton in 7th grade working in the weight room,” Harding said. “We’ve built up since then, working out every week, almost every day. They put us to the test and we come through.”

While the team strives to take home gold in the spring, Benton’s goal at the state meet and every day hitting the weights is to prepare for the football season.

“The weight room builds some toughness, we have to learn to push through,” Coach Harris said. “Being a 6A team that opens up with Bryant and plays a really tough schedule, we have to be really physically strong. As far as being able to compete on the field, but also being able to withstand injuries. I think that’s what makes us a better football team.”