Lifting with a purpose: how local weightlifting club takes competition to national level

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Steve Engbrecht, in addition to a pair of young weightlifters, had an idea. 

The idea was a heavy one, no pun intended. The idea, of course, revolved around weightlifting. But not just weightlifting as an activity. On top of building strength from a workout regime, the trio additionally wished to participate in weightlifting competitions at the local, regional and state levels. 

The Norseman Barbell Club is a local weightlifting club located in Devils Lake.

And so, the idea evolved even further. Given his history with the weights dating back to his time as a teenager, Engbrecht, now 60, saw the opportunity to train those interested in the same goal. 

And so, the idea of the Norseman Barbell Club came to fruition. The club, located in Devils Lake, has grown to more than half a dozen eager weightlifters willing to do the work necessary to succeed on the national stage. 

“Well, personally, I enjoy watching them succeed,” Engbrecht said. “They are not lifting to be the best in the state. They are lifting to compete at the national level, and I have one who could conceivably, within the next year, be at the international level. So, they are competing on a national stage, and the kids are just having fun.” 

James Tice, 19, started getting into the weights when he was eight. After starting to lift for sports at 12 and meeting Engbrecht at 14, Tice instantly went to work on training for Olympic weightlifting. 

Almost immediately, Tice was hooked. 

“I started training for Olympic weightlifting because it was easy to find competition, and it translated to sports better than your traditional powerlifting,” Tice said. 

A typical Norseman Barbell Club training session starts at 5:00 p.m. CDT. Lake Region Fitness (also located in Devils Lake) is one particular venue of choice for the club. After warmups, club participants will partake in the “lifts of the day.” This exercise includes the four weightlifting mainstays: snatch, squat, deadlift and clean and jerk. Once you factor in assistant lifts – where the main lift is broken down into intricate parts – a typical session lasts more than two hours. 

Each session builds off of the other, and for a good reason. After all, club participants are looking to take part in national events. The club has collectively taken part in trips to Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, just to name a couple. Future events include a trip to Las Vegas for the 2022 USA Weightlifting National Championships Week (June 25-July 3). 

No idea, however, doesn’t come without a few hurdles to cross over. The first one comes in funding. The club collects necessary finances through various avenues, including GoFundMe posts and food sales. 

The second hurdle doesn’t revolve around funding but instead through simple life itself. Given that many members are still in high school or just out of it, time management – whether through school athletic activities or work on the side – is another factor to consider. 

But not to worry. Madyn Parker, 16, understands this notion all too well. As an upcoming senior at Devils Lake High School, Parker sees the juggling of time as a way to improve on prioritization.

“It’s a lot of time management, knowing what you want to prioritize,” Parker said. “It’s kind of up to you. I mean, I’m not really in any big sports like track or anything, so it just depends on the athlete.” 

Regardless of what it might take, each member has seen growth and drive to compete and succeed in national events. However, obtaining results on the stage isn’t the only goal. Instead, an additional goal in building familial bonds also persists through each session and meeting. 

The Norseman Barbell Club will look to continue building up any weightlifter eager to take the next step.

For Tice, this resonates in more ways than one. As someone who has fought through seasonal depression and several deaths to family relatives and a close friend over the last year, Tice has seen the club as an opportunity to build his relationship with Steve and his fellow teammates.

“Love,” Tice said. “For me, I have known Steve for so long. We have been really close, and like, we are always bouncing off [of] each other [and] asking each other questions. We are always there for each other, whether it is in the gym or personal stuff. He came to my house for Thanksgiving. That’s how close we are.” 

While Tice plans on attending Lindenwood University, Parker wishes to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when her high school career ends. To Parker, her participation in the club has helped her become a better athlete and individual ready to take the following life step. 

“I would describe it as eye-opening,” Parker said. “Like I said, I am not in many activities, sports-wise. And, when I came here, it just really taught me accountability and responsibility. You just let yourself kind of grow and see how much muscle you can build and how much better you can become as a person. It’s cool to see.” 

Even as members come and go, Engbrecht will continue to train those willing to put in the work to succeed nationally. As president of the Weightlifting State Organization (WSO) for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, Engbrecht will look to provide a way for his weightlifters to get exposure to Olympic weightlifting through USA Weightlifting. 

To Engbrecht, it all revolves back to commitment. 

“Self-confidence increases,” Engbrecht said. “Their commitment [and] their dedication to a goal increase because we go all year long, 12 months out of the year. So, they are there at the gym five days a week, and they don’t miss. They are dedicated to their sport. And some of them play other sports, but they still come in. They might have a high school sport that lasts until 5:00 p.m. [CDT], and then, they’ll make it to the gym.” 

Over time, the power of a few individuals has since evolved to include a collection of weightlifters that have experience at the national level. 

Sometimes, an idea is all it takes. 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.