'What's my true potential': Andrew Wawersik breaking state powerlifting records

Andrew prepares for his next set as the timer on his phone goes off Fri., Nov. 29, at Morey Courts in Mount Pleasant.

Andrew Wawersik walks around Central Michigan's campus in an orange and blue winter coat, appearing as any other student would on the way to classes. In many ways, he's like everyone else.

But what sets Wawersik apart is that he competes as a powerlifter for USA Powerlifting.

Wawersik has been powerlifting for four years, beginning as a senior at Shepherd High School. He continued the sport while studying physical education and health at CMU in Mount Pleasant, a college town less than 10 miles from where he grew up.

A child-like curiosity is at the forefront of Wawersik's inspiration. 

"You know how little kids are super curious, well I guess I never lost that," Wawersik said. "I want to see what my true potential looks like, and I want to see how far I can push myself."

He began powerlifting as a way to get in shape before joining the Marines. After taking second place at a regional meet, his first-ever meet, Wawersik fell in love with the sport and has not stopped.

Wawersik has competed in many events since then, usually at his weight class of 74kg (163lbs), and holds two state records. The thrill of competing and winning a meet is what has driven him to continue to compete. After completing his senior season in high school, Wawersik wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to compete until he found USA Powerlifting (USAPL).

“I didn’t really even know that it was an option after high school,” Wawersik said. “I never really looked into it, but now there’s a lot of different federations, the USAPL, which is the one I compete in; we have a chapter in every state.”

As a physical education and health double-major, Wawersik hopes to be a high school teacher once he graduates. His duties as a teacher would hopefully include coaching the powerlifting team or club at his school as well. That doesn’t change the plan he’s had since his first USAPL meet: compete for at least 10 years.

“That would take me to the age of 30,” Wawersik said. “Once I hit that age, I’ll reevaluate where I’m at and go from there.”

Competing for Wawersik means on average three meets per year, a pace he has been able to maintain since he began lifting for USAPL, except for the year he tore his meniscus, which caused him to sit out about four months.

The typical meet begins at 7 a.m. with weigh-ins which end at 8:30 a.m., a rules meeting happens after that and then the competition starts usually around 9 a.m. For Wawersik and the 39 other powerlifters competing the days are long, usually ending around 5 p.m. Sometimes meets won’t end until later than that depending on the trophy presentation. 

Most meets are what is considered a “full power” competition, meaning each lifter has three opportunities at each of the traditional powerlifting lifts, squat, bench press and deadlift. Wawersik’s record for each exercise is 197.5 kg (435 lbs) squat, 112.5 kg (248 lbs) bench press and his deadlift personal record is 252.5 kg (556 lbs).

As of now, Wawersik is still in a recovery period from his last meet in December and will continue for the next few weeks. Once he is ready to intensify his training, he hopes that dropping his training days from five times per week to three will allow him more recovery time as well as time to be a student.

Despite his success for roughly four years, Wawersik said the training gets harder the more experience he gains. 

“Your first year isn’t terribly difficult,” Wawersik said. “But then you lose what we call 'beginner gains,' which is just you learning how to use your body more efficiently. After that first year, you really have to work for things from there to make your strength go up.”

After Wawersik’s first year, he plateaued for approximately four months, during that time he broke down each part of his self-created training plan to improve and breakthrough rough patches. His training plan is derived from personal experience, discussion with other lifters and online research.

Through all the wins, personal records, losses, injuries and plateaus Wawersik leans on his family and their strong Catholic faith. He wears a metal cross necklace every day, including during training and meets. He said inspires him to keep pushing.

“If I’m having a rough day, I can just feel that metal pressed against my chest and it makes me feel a little bit better,” Wawersik said. “It’s just something to keep me going.”