We here at Ultimate Advantage and the Army Powerlifting Team send our heartfelt prayers and thoughts to Josh Leone his wife Michelle and their 2 beautiful daughters. Josh was badly injured in a terrorist bombing in the Middle East while serving our country. Josh is a West Point graduate and former Army Powerlifting Team Captain. He is one heck of a lifter and friend of mine and my family and I are heart sick over the news we received. We wish him well and pray for a full and speedy recovery.
W all should be thankful for the brave men and women like Josh who answer the call of duty and volunteer to risk life and limb to preserve our great country and our cherished freedom. I think many times the media can desensitize us all to the fact that every story and headline that involves the Middle East crisis is attached to a real son, daughter, Father, Mother, brother or sister. Sometimes it seems as though they are just statistics, yet they are not. They are real people like my friend Josh with families and friends who care greatly about them.
I am currently in my tenth year as Head Coach for the Army Powerlifting Team at West Point and have had many Cadets pass through my team during my tenure there. Each day when I enter through the gates I understand this is a very special place and these are not regular college kids. I am lucky to be able to do this with these extraordinary young men and women.
Very few people get to experience what this team has and I am grateful to be part of it. I try to do my best to teach each one of these athletes' things that will not only make them better powerlifters but teach them things they can take with them and use in life as well.
In this sport you spend a great deal of time together and I become attached to each and every athlete. Some more than others (like Leone) but all are special to me and each one has a place in my heart and each takes memory's with them and leaves many behind that go along with their time spent with me.
Josh is no exception. I have one particular memory I think is one of my all time favorite moments at West Point and it involves Josh and I would like to share it with you.
We were in Miami for the Collegiate Powerlifting Championships and Leone had been trying to deadlift 600 pounds for the better part of 18 months. He had gotten it in practice a few times but in 4 or 5 meets he just couldn't seem to pull it off. He was down to his final deadlift of the meet and the last lift of his collegiate career and last attempt as part of the Army Powerlifting Team that he had put so much of his life into the last 4 years.
I was well aware and so was he that there was only one chance left to get that monkey off his back. I can remember talking about it and saying "do you want 575 or 580 and be sure to get it and get a medal or do you want to take a chance"? If he missed he could be out of All-American medal contention. We decided to go for it one last time.
I had gone out and told the announcer (Robert Keller) the situation and asked if he could pump the crowd. It's funny in this sport you get to know your opponents through the years. There is fierce competition but there is respect. Each lifter and coach knows how difficult this sport is and how much each athlete puts in to get to that level. So many in attendances knew Josh had missed it a few times before.
As the time drew closer I did my best to pump him up and as the Head Ref called out "bar is loaded" Rob Keller had done his part and the crowd was cheering loudly for Josh. It was a moment I can still see clearly. Josh standing in front of me and me telling him this is it. Both of us charged with so much emotion that we both had tears streaming down our cheeks. It was time he turned himself around and I gave him a huge slap across the back of the neck and he went charging to the lifting platform. This was it now or never.
He did his little Leone pre-deadlift ritual and bent down to lift the bar as the announcer urged the crowd on to get behind him. Josh got it 7/8 of the way up and it stopped dead. As the crowd screamed wildly and I held my breath and was saying please, please, please for what seemed like forever.
Josh was shaking with all his might but the bar didn't move. The crowd was now screaming at a fever pitch. Then all of a sudden bang! He drove his head up a little more and the bar went up to a lock out position. He got it! It was a good lift! The team and I were jumping like crazy. Josh stood there with 600 pounds in his hands and he turned his head toward me and smiled a gigantic smile. He then put the bar down and put his hands on his hips in a superman pose and stood there a few moments soaking in the victory. No more monkey on his back.
Everybody in the arena was now on their feet and going wild for him giving him a standing ovation. Opponents and coaches, spectators and officials were all smiling and cheering. It was his time. It seemed for sure when the bar stopped that it was gonna be another miss but Josh pulled it out. I can still picture it clearly to this day. What a way to close out a great collegiate career. I couldn't have written better then the way it played out.
I just would like to say thanks to Josh and all the enlisted men and women. It is people like you that make this country great. Thank You and may God bless you all.