Berry, Johnson, Shifflet show importance of weightlifting

By Kevin Colley -

Instant gratification.

It’s a constant phrase that’s thrown out in this world today, because in today’s society, individuals want to see positive growth at a faster pace than ever before.

However, when a program has between 50 to 95 players on its roster, it can be a hard sell to get each of your players to buy in and create that positive growth.

That is, of course, if one doesn’t have positive leadership with which to work with.

The West Senators’ and Wheelersburg Pirates’ football programs, however, do not have such a problem — because the leaders at the top of their programs are as strong in their work ethic off of the field as they are with their play on the football field.

That was proven at the 2018 State Powerlifting Meets that took place earlier this spring in Kenton as West’s Josh Berry and Wheelersburg’s Mason Johnson each won state championships, with Berry, who competed up a class in the 175-pound weight division, winning the Division I through IV state title by accumulating a combined lift total of 1,205 pounds and Johnson taking home the Division V through VIII state crown by notching a mark of 1,030 pounds in the 155-pound weight division. Sid Shifflet made his own mark by adding in a lift of 1,175 pounds in the Division I through IV 210-pound weight division to finish fifth as both programs showed where their on-the-field success came from — via their work in the weight room — in early March.

For all three student-athletes, the totals accumulated in the weight room brought joy, and relief, to each of their minds and hearts.

“It’s been a long time goal of mine since my older brother (John) won it his junior year, also,” Berry said. “It’s kind of ironic that we did it under the same coach in the same class.”

“It feels pretty good,” Shifflet said. “It’s something that we’ve been working for a long time, and we finally got to do it.”

“It was a relief,” Johnson said. “A lot of hard work and time has been put in, not only by me, but by my teammates and my coaches.”

However, the results that the trio have put together are no surprise to West head football coach Ben Johnson or Wheelersburg head football coach Rob Woodward.

“They are the leaders,” Johnson said of Berry and Shifflet. “Everybody’s looking to them. They set the example. They go above and beyond, and lead by example.”

“Mason’s done an outstanding job of just finding a niche,” Woodward said. “He’s really found a way to utilize his talents and contribute to our football program. He’s pound-for-pound, one of the strongest guys that’s ever been in our weight room.”

And with their work in the weight room, it’s no surprise that the pair contributed in a heavy fashion for two successful programs.

Berry and Shifflet, who started in every game that they played in during the 2017 season, were dependable threats who could be relied on in a pinch.

Before suffering a season ending injury to his collarbone, Berry was well on his way to an All-State campaign as the junior racked up 538 total yards and four touchdowns on offense and made 63 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery, while Shifflet, who played the entire duration of the year, caught three passes for 23 yards and two touchdowns while notching two sacks and a fumble recovery. Each was a critical component to arguably the most improved football team in Southeast Ohio as West went from 3-7 in 2016 to 10-2 last season.

“Both of those guys are huge, key components that we have coming back in 2018,” Johnson said. “Both of them are very versatile. They can play just about any position out on the football field, and are willing to, for the team. Their work ethic is evident with the results that they’ve obtained in the weight room.”

While Johnson didn’t get the same amount of repetitions that Berry or Shifflet did, the defensive lineman, despite his 5-9 stature, made a critical impact for the Pirates in 2017. Johnson, who could arguably be referred to as the personification of what Wheelersburg football is all about, obtained 14 tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hurry for the Division V State Champions.

“He’s got a motor,” Woodward said. “He’s got a quickness and explosiveness about him.”

“It’s not much different,” Johnson said of the challenge that faced him. “With every competition, I’ve been taught to give it my all, and that’s all I can do, no matter who I’m up against.”

Their success, however, didn’t come by accident. And that was proven at this spring’s state powerlifting meets — in a big way.

Competing up a weight class, Berry put together lifts of 445 in the squat, 315 in the bench press, and 445 in the dead lift en route to obtaining a mark of 1,205 pounds to win the 175-pound weight class in the 2018 Division I through IV State Powerlifting Meet, while Johnson added a 330-pound squat, a 295-pound bench, and a 405-pound deadlift to claim top billing in the 155-pound weight class as part of the 2018 Division V through Division VII State Powerlifting Meet with his 1,030 pounds total.

As for Shifflet, the senior-to-be collected a massive 470-pound squat, a 265-pound bench, and a 440-pound deadlift to obtain a mark of 1,175 pounds in the Division I through IV State Powerlifting Meet to finish fifth in the 210-pound weight class.

However, if the end had been down in his actual class, Shifflet would’ve been a state champion in the aforementioned class by a 15-pound margin, which would’ve given Scioto County three state champions in one day.

“I really didn’t think that I was going to do that good when I went up there, because I was in a higher weight class, and there were some strong kids there,” Shifflet said. “However, it turned out pretty good. It’s a really cool feeling to be one of the strongest kids in the state.”

“It felt pretty good,” Berry said. “It was one of my long time goals and one of my greatest accomplishments.”

As for Johnson, his numbers aren’t just sick from a weightlifting standpoint, but from a speed and agility standpoint, as well. In addition to lifting over 1,000 points at the state meet, Johnson has recorded a ridiculous nine feet, six inch broad jump and holds an insane 32 inch vertical to boot.

“His numbers from a weightlifting standpoint are outstanding by itself, but his speed and agility testing is even better,” Woodward said. “When you’re very explosive like that, all of those numbers go together, and what comes out on the field is a direct result of what has come about in the weight room. Mason works very hard, and has utilized the success that he’s had in the weight room on the football field.”

“As a defensive lineman at my size, a lot of my time is spent working on being explosive and being the first man off of the line,” Johnson said. “That’s how I’m able to jump like I do.”

But when some student-athletes do have exceptional God-given ability that is natural, the consensus knows that the fame doesn’t come without the sweat.

“We take our required month off after the season is over, and after that, we’re working 11 months out of the year,” Johnson said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much work that takes from the coaches, the kids, and everybody involved. It’s not just about showing up, either, but that’s the first step — being there every day. However, when you’re there, it’s about the effort that you put in.”

“(Weightlifting and conditioning) is something that we spend an extensive amount of our time working on in the offseason,” Woodward said. “We keep a lot of charts, record boards, and records from players in the past. We’re always trying to improve and take another step up in both speed and agility. As a coach, I’m always reevaluating where we are as a team and where we are as a foundational piece. Our physical play has to be built through our strength and conditioning.”

And that’s something that three of the best representatives of the West and Wheelersburg football programs know all too well.

“It just proves that hard work does pay off,” Shifflet said. “I love working out as it is, but weightlifting translates very well to football.”

“I agree with Sid wholeheartedly,” Berry said. “Seeing the payoff just makes you want to work harder, and weightlifting is fun as it is on its own. It’s addicting. I really like it.”

“Representing Wheelersburg is a huge honor,” Johnson said. “When I was younger, I would look up to the big names of Wheelersburg. I’ve always wanted to leave an impression on my town and be one of those names.”

By Kevin Colley

Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT

Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT