Lifting gives Susol way to weigh in with competition

November 08, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Mark Susol has had a competitive fire inside him since his playing days at Francis Scott Key High in the mid-1980s.

Back then, he was an all-league linebacker and a regular at the state wrestling championships. He continued playing football for two years at Western Maryland College before transferring to UMBC, where he got an undergraduate degree in physics.

At 25, his football days are over, but his competitive ways have remained so he turned to something he had been doing all the while -- weightlifting.

"I played sports all through high school and then in college and just missed the competitive atmosphere," the Taneytown resident said.

"All along, I was lifting weights so I took it up on my own. It's given me a chance to get back into competitive sports."

The 6-foot, 237-pounder started lifting just a year ago and already has qualified for a national competition -- the American Open Weightlifting Championships -- slated for San Anselmo, Calif., Dec. 5.

To qualify for the national event, a competitor has to come up with a combined total of 242.5 kilograms (533.5 pounds) in the snatch event and clean-and-jerk events in a sanctioned meet.

Susol did that in the Big Apple Open in Queens, N.Y., in September -- finishing with the needed 242.5 kilograms -- and then improved on that in the Gettysburg Open last month with a combined total of 252.5 kilograms.

"The local meets like the Gettysburg one and the Big Apple have four or five high-caliber lifters with the rest just usually starting out. Right now, I'm in the middle," Susol said.

"Now I'm stepping up to the national level and expecting to see top-level competition. My attitude going in is to have a good day, gain the experience and try to better my own records."

Leo Totten, who has competed and now coaches at the national level, has helped train Susol at Francis Scott Key.

"He's come along real well and improved his total 10 kilograms -- that's a real nice jump," Totten said, who teaches and coaches volleyball at Key.

"If he can stay focused, he has the physical strength to do it. He has a busy schedule, but still manages to get to Key or train at UMBC. He's come along pretty quickly in a year."

Susol is in a graduate program at UMBC studying applied physics. He's often in the training room at 6:45 in the morning to get his lifting in before a day of classes, teaching and studying. In all, he usually spends 10 hours a week in training.

"I just make weight training a part of my day. And it's 6:45 a.m. to get it in," he said.

His ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympic Games and said that's at the "end of the tunnel." To qualify for the Olympic Trials, he'll need a combined total of 340 kilograms or 748 pounds.

"The true test in weightlifting comes when the improvements start leveling off and get a little tougher -- that's when you have to stick it out," Totten said. "He's a real dedicated person and is really after it."

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