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What the power lifter lacks in height, he makes up in might.



Published: Tue, September 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



What the power lifter lacks in height, he makes up in might.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LOWELLVILLE -- At 5 feet 41/2 inches tall and 165 pounds, Bill Wharry is no giant. Even so, he has a lot more in common with Hulk Hogan than he does the Little Green Sprout.

His friends and neighbors call him the strongest man in the world.

Wharry, a 17-year-old senior at Lowellville High School, set a world weight-lifting record at the World Natural Powerlifting Championship in Lancaster, Pa., in August. He bench pressed 345 pounds, the most ever for a 165-pound power lifter competing in the teen division.

"You get three tries," Wharry said. "I dropped the first one, so I didn't increase the weight. I went for 345 again." After lifting that, he said, "I went for 365, but I dropped it."

Shaping up

The most Wharry has bench pressed is 390 pounds. He began lifting as a high school freshman. "It was for football," he said; everyone on the team lifted weights to get in shape.

That first year, Wharry said, "I maxed out lifting 190 pounds. I was surprised. I didn't know I could get anywhere near that."

His coach and teammates were surprised too.

"If someone that young can do their body weight, that is extremely good, and that was a lot over his body weight," recalled John Protopapa, Lowellville High School's head football coach.

At the time, Wharry weighed between 125 and 130 pounds.

"We knew right then that he was one of the strongest kids on the team," Protopapa said.

"I'll tell you how strong he is," Protopapa continued, "last year he broke his face mask three times while he was blocking." It's unusual for one face mask to break on the team, the coach said, "Billy did it three times -- it's the power he has."

Wharry is a starter on his team, playing defensive tackle and fullback positions.

Weight-lifting future

Because he isn't as big as many of the players -- his coach said the kid who plays next to him is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 270 pounds -- Wharry's future is unlikely to include big-league football. "I think his real future is in weight lifting, maybe even in the Olympics," Protopapa said.

Eric Rudiak, owner of Sunsation Fitness & amp; Tanning, the Campbell gym where Wharry works out, also sees a bright future in weight lifting for the teenager.

Nine regulars at Sunsation hold world or national titles in weight lifting, and two are paid spokesmen and models for supplement companies.

"Strong guys come here to get stronger," Rudiak said. High school football players from Lowellville, Campbell, Struthers and Hubbard also frequent the gym.

Rudiak said that once football season is over, Wharry will begin focusing on weight lifting and may enter other competitions.

He was the only player on his team to compete in the national weight-lifting meet in Austintown in July and the only teenager from the area to advance to the world competition.

This was the first time Wharry competed in a weight-lifting meet. "I just never bothered with it before, but I'll probably do it from now on," he said.

Proving himself

Although he holds a world weight-lifting title, not all of Wharry's friends and acquaintances believed he can lift as much as he does. On occasion, he's had to prove it.

The most unusual thing anyone's ever asked him to lift, the high school senior said, chuckling, was a kitchen stove.

"My friend's parents were getting a new stove," he said, "and they said, 'Since you're the strongest man in the world, you might as well help us.'"

Wharry's 16-year-old brother, Brian, also plays football and lifts weights. He's building a reputation as a strong man, too.

kubik@vindy.com




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