CLARKS SUMMIT — It didn’t take long for Dalton LaCoe to excel as a powerlifter.
The Ransom Township resident transformed from a novice to a world champion in six months.
“During my junior year of high school at Abington Heights, powerlifting coach Claude Welcome saw me at the field house while I was training for other sports,” LaCoe said. “He informed me of an upcoming powerlifting meet in March and encouraged me to lift with the team, and train for the competition.
“I ended up doing pretty well and I stuck with it.”
From there, LaCoe qualified for the 2013 United States Powerlifting Junior National Championship in Killeen, Texas in June of that year and placed first to make the United States Sub-Junior World Team.
LaCoe then won the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) Sub-Junior World Championship in August 2013 in the 116-lb weight class. He originally finished second in the competition, but was later awarded first place when Gumendra Shewdas, of Guyana, was disqualified for failing a drug test.
He also claimed world titles at the IPF World Junior Championship in June 2014 in Hungary, the IPF Raw Classic Junior World Championship in June 2015 in Finland and the IPF World Junior Championship in August 2015 in the Czech Republic.
“I was ecstatic just to get second place in my first world competition, when I found out I won first it was even better,” LaCoe said. “I can’t even describe the feeling when I won in Hungary and was able to stand at the top of the podium.”
LaCoe, a 2014 graduate, was recognized at Abington Heights prior to a boys varsity basketball game for his accomplishments on Feb. 2.
“It was very nice and heartwarming in a way to have my high school recognize all my accomplishments,” he said.
According to LaCoe, the support from his family and friends has been vital to help with travel expenses in order to compete in tournaments.
“My family has been a huge influence on me and has helped with fundraisers,” he said. “Without them, it would be almost impossible to go on some of the trips. I can’t thank them enough for all their help.”
LaCoe credits Welcome for helping him develop into a world-class powerlifter in a very short time.
“He encourages everybody and keeps the atmosphere fun,” LaCoe said. “He’s been in the sport way longer than I’ve been alive. I’m almost an amateur compared to his level. He can critique you and make you a great powerlifter, and he’s done that with many of the athletes he’s coached. What he’s done in the last couple years with my technique and form has made my lifts go up significantly.”
Clarks Summit resident Steve Mann, a former national champion lifter, has also lent his support and expertise to LaCoe over the years.
“Steve has helped me since the beginning,” LaCoe said. “He’s critiqued my lifts and coached me at my first national meet. From there, we’ve been friends and keep in touch.”
Leading up to a big lift, LaCoe, 20, tries his best to stay composed before focusing on the task.
“For the most part, I just try to relax,” he said. “It’s very hard to do when you’re going for a record lift, but whenever Claude is there with me, he’ll make some jokes and try to keep me loose. Right before I go out for the lift, he psyches me up a little bit. It’s nerve-wracking but once I get out on the platform it all goes away and I just have to remember my technique and everything he’s taught me.”
While LaCoe has enjoyed traveling to many locations across the country and world, the trip to Finland stands out as most memorable.
“It was probably my favorite event just for that fact that my grandparents, my aunt, uncle and mother all went with me,” he said. “The environment at the meet was outstanding. I did well and had a lot of fun at that tournament. It was relaxing to have my family with me, it almost made it feel like I was lifting back home.”
LaCoe, a sophomore at the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas in New Milford, will compete in the USA Powerlifting Collegiate National Championship, April 14-17, in Providence, Rhode Island.
Despite his recent string of success, he’s constantly focused on setting new marks with his lifts.
“You have to keep giving yourself goals,” LaCoe said. “If you hit one goal, you have to improve and hit another one. It gives you motivation to keep training hard to remain successful.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.