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Spotlight shines on linemen at Hog Olympics

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Teams compete in tire tosses, bench presses

By Michael Hicks

By Craig Harper
For the Courier

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Talk about hog heaven: five-man teams competing in a truck push, tug-o-war, tire-flip relay, tire toss, 150-pound bench press repetitions and a dummy-carry relay.

It doesn’t get any better for offensive and defensive linemen. The guys who often toil in anonymity had their day in the scorching sun at the Hog Olympics on July 11 at Heritage High School.

Unlike their skill-player counterparts, summer competitions are few and far between for the grunts.

“There are a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments and those kinds of things for skilled kids during the summer,” said Dakota Ridge coach Ron Woitalewicz. “To have the linemen, who often are really unappreciated by people other than their teammates and coaches, it’s a great chance for them to come out and compete.”

Chatfield offensive line coach  Michael Gordon agreed.

“It’s a bonding thing. When I played, it used to be you just spent your summer in the weight room. This gives them something to compete in,” Gordon said.

Chatfield, Dakota Ridge and Littleton — the Lions won the Englewood version in June — were three of 16 teams. Chatfield, which also competed in the Danny Dietz Memorial Fitness Challenge (DDMFC) in June, finished fourth behind Heritage, Mountain Range and Pomona. Dakota Ridge, small in body size compared to most, took ninth while Littleton was 16th after struggling in the truck push, the final event.

Three of the Chargers — Matt Gaiter, Maurice Barley and Nick Sanchez — participated in the DDMFC, which featured rapid-fire U.S. Navy SEALs training regimens.

“That was a lot harder” than the Hog Olympics, said Gaiter, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior who was a Super 6 League first-team defensive lineman, while trying to catch his breath following the truck push. “We’re better with that.”

Still, “I think we did all right today,” Gaiter added. “We’d have liked to do a lot better, but it wasn’t bad. We won the bench press, which I didn’t think would be out strongest event. I think we did well in the tug-o-war (third place) and the tire-flip relay.”

Despite a size disadvantage — its three starting offensive linemen in the event weighed 190, 195 and 225 pounds — and missing Brock Howe, an all-Plains League defensive lineman who was attending a wrestling camp, 4A Dakota Ridge held its own, perhaps boosted by the biggest cheering section, some 40-plus teammates.

“In a competition like, this we’re not expected to win many things,” said Brandon Braun, a 6-1, 215-pound defensive lineman. “But we can prove that even though we’re small we have the capability to compete with these 300-pound linemen, these big guys, the 6-4 scholarship kind of guys. We had some struggles. We weren’t winning in the tug-o-war. We’d been doing well all day but weren’t doing that great in the tug-o-war. But we pulled together, talked through and ended up winning our last two.”

Littleton placed sixth in the tug-o-war, the next-to-last event, but ran out of gas in the truck push, about a 100-yard trek with a slight incline. 

“It just destroyed us,” said Aron Pino, a two-way, second-team all-Plains League pick as a sophomore.