Two Henderson powerlifters walked away from the United States Powerlifting Association Drug Tested Nationals with gold medals.
Bruce Thomas won first place in the dead lift competition in the 220 pound Master 5 division, which is for competitors aged 60-64 years old. Thomas, 60, deadlifted 540 pounds, or 245 kilograms.
David Petrie also took home a first in deadlift, his in the 220 pound Master 6 division for competitors 65-69 years old. Petrie, 68, deadlifted 402 pounds, or 182.5 kilograms.
A third Henderson powerlifter, Anthony Burrus, competed in the 34 years and younger open division. He didn’t bring home a medal but lifted some eye-popping numbers: a 545-pound squat, a 341-pound bench press and a 600-pound deadlift.
The event, held in Las Vegas July 10-14, hosted more than 800 lifters from around the country.
The three athletes comprise a group of lifters who train at the JFK Center and compete in national powerlifting events, according to Thomas, who is probably the most decorated powerlifter to ever come out of Henderson, though he’d never tell you that.
Thomas has been lifting for about 30 years and took his cue from another Henderson powerlifting legend, Paul White, when he was running the JFK Center, which is what Thomas does now.
Back then, the weight room at the JFK Center was set up in a locker room, where Thomas remembers, an old bench press, an old squat rack and deadlift platform, an old leg curl and extension machine. “It was old,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he began to train in that old locker room gym, and White noticed him and then convinced him to start lifting competitively.
“Once you lift in one, you won’t stop,” Thomas said.
Now, the lifters train in a newer room, built in 2000. It’s more modern, with several benches, squat racks, treadmills, rubber flooring and much more equipment.
Thomas trains Petrie and Burrus, and both laugh about his steady style—he doesn’t raise his voice, but instead raises a finger followed by an explanation of what went wrong or how to improve. Then there’s also a signature expression.
“When he looks at me like that, I know I need to do two more reps,” Petrie said.
Petrie, retired from Dana Corp., also worked for nine years at the Henderson Police Department. He’s always been in a gym, either teaching karate or kickboxing or self-defense classes.
When he started lifting at the JFK Center, Thomas helped him, and the “next thing I know” he was competing in a competition. That was about two years ago.
In the most recent competition in Las Vegas, Petrie’s dead lift of 402 pounds would have been a national record for his age and weight class, but there wasn’t a pre-lift declaration that he was attempting a record, which doesn’t allow it to be recorded as such. Still, Petrie lifted it and considers himself the record-holder, albeit unofficial.
Burrus started working out with Thomas about 10 years ago. He said he noticed that Thomas kept pushing him to go up in weight on his squats, and bit by bit he was getting stronger. Burrus thought to himself, “This is a lot like training.” Then, about six years ago, he found himself in a competition.
Thomas’ lifting has taken him all over the U.S. and even to Belgium. In addition to his national medals, he’s a five-time world champion. His best dead lift is 633 pounds.
The three lifters only compete in drug-free or drug-tested competitions.
“We try to do things the right way,” Thomas said.
After taking a couple weeks off after the Las Vegas meet in July, they are back in the gym training for the next big competition, which will be a meet put on by the Natural Athlete Strength Association in December in Illinois.
Both Thomas and Petrie said they don’t have any plans to stop lifting. And Burrus, the youngster of the three at 35, looks to the others for motivation and inspiration.
“Hopefully, I’ll be like Bruce,” he said. “I’ll be 60, or 68 like David, and still be lifting.”