Muscle Town: Powerlifters converged on Elk River again for state competition

Way to go, Dad! Scott Dowd gets congrats from daughter Jennifer (middle) and Leah Jenson after reaching his goal of a 405-pound bench, which he then raised to 415. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Scott Dowd of Rogers, who played linebacker for the Gophers from 1977-81, got back into the competition realm last year when he did his first power lifting meet.

The 53-year-old Dowd was back Saturday at The Gym in Elk River for the 2011 Minnesota Powerlifting Federation championships, along with 73 other lifters.

Brandon Braner, 5-7 and 345 pounds, benched 625 pounds.

“Nothing can replicate that,” Dowd said, meaning the excitement of D-I  football, “but this is about as close as you can get. I was so nervous I could not sleep at all last night. I love the competition.”

Tom Chipman’s face and neck muscles bulge during his successful dead lift.

After training diligently all year, Dowd had a gratigfying day in bench press, reaching his goal of 405 pounds, then topping it with 415.

“I had made 405 a couple times in practice so I knew I could do it,” said Dowd. He added: “It’s so different in a meet than in practice. Four-oh-five in a meet feels like 420, because you’ve got to hold it.”

Dowd was the lone super heavyweight masters contestant. That’s the one drawback, he said, a death of opponents in his age group. But he figures not many guys at 53 could lift 425 pounds, and that’s satisfaction enough. He plans to do about three events a year.

The 6-foot-4 Dowd played for the Gophers at 255 pounds, was 260 when he started a year and a half ago and is 300 from daily workouts and careful diet and nutrition.

Steve Olsen pushes 415 pounds in the bench press.

Dowd, whose wife, son and daughter were on hand, looks like a power lifting competitor except for one detail. He has no tattoo. “Tats” are big in the lifting culture. “I’m thinking about getting one from that ‘300’ movie,” Dowd said.


Once a year, mountains of muscle turn up in Elk River for this event, which The Gym has hosted for eight  years.

Aaron Dwinnell, who weighs 148, lifts 395.

Chris Giving, owner of The Gym, is the meet director, and a participant. “We had 74 lifters, and about 280 attendance, another awesome turnout,” said Giving.  “Guys from The Gym got most of the first places, again. And we’ve got some young kids who look good.” Giving has a back problem this year but was able compete in bench press, winning 165 masters with 260.


The youngsters he alluded to included Josh Patterson and Aaron Dwinnell. Patterson, 17, who’s not in sports at ERHS, took up power lifting a year ago,  did all three events, In his first meet, squatted 435, dead-lifted 405 and benched 205, in the 220 Teen, winning all three. Dwinnell, 20, won 148 Open bench with 235 and dead lift with 395, both PBs. Said the 5-foot-8, 148-pound plumber who attended St. Michael-Albertville and played soccer: “I do it to keep in shape, and I love the competition.”


Eric Vollmuth lets out a yelp during his dead lift.

Matt Talbot, 26, who is legally blind, raised his bench PB to 370 in winning 198 Open. A Bloomington native now living here, Talbot never had a sport until he started power lifting 2004-06. He stepped away a few years, and resumed last year. This was his sixth meet.

“You set a goal and push and push until you get there. It takes determination, focus and training.” said the 5-foot-8, 196-pounder, who tore a pec last year, rehabbed and came back strong. About competing, he said, “You always come out nervous, but when you get that first lift out of the way, it goes away. Then the adrenaline kick you get is so high.”


Josh Patterson, 17, competed in all 3 events in his first powerlifting meet, and did well.

Steve Olsen, a workout partner of Dowd’s along with Jim Warren, is another of the senior lifters, at age 49. He  got started a few years back to have something to share with son Corey, former Elk and Hamline football player. The 5-foot-10, 295-pound lifter had a good outing on Saturday with a 415 bench and 620 squat for first in Masters 2.


Brendan Braner, owner of Press Gym in Little Canada, had the mightiest bench press, 635 pounds, winning the pro class. Bremer, 25, who played high school football in Iowa, has a different body type, at 5-foot-7 and 345 pounds, a softer but obviously powerful physique. “I do about four meets a year,” he said. “This is the best meet I’ve had.” His goal? “The world record for raw bench is 714 pounds.”


Three guys from The Gym who earned trophies are (from right) Matt Talbot, Joe Schroeder, and The Gym owner Chris Giving.

Joe Schroeder, one of the top local lifters, limited himself to squat, and won 220 Open with an 805-pound lift  on his third and final try, a PB. “I do about three a year, and I just did a full meet in September,” said Schroeder. “I needed a break from the other (events).”


Tom Chipman, 41, of Minneapolis, played soccer, hockey and football at Minneapolis Southwest, started lifting in his late 30’s for fitness, and has competed for two years. “I do about five a year,” said Chipman, who won 198 Masters in all three events. “It keeps me in shape, how that I’m in my 40’s,” said Chipman, who does title abstracts.  Does he do any other workouts? “Just walking through all those government centers,” he grinned.