Weightlifting his way to the top

Tommy Eschbach’s journey to four state records


Cathy Eschbach

Lifting a state record in the deadlift event, sophomore Tommy Eschbach pulls 360 lbs to his hips. Behind him, a competition official ensures that Eschbach’s form is synonymous with powerlifting regulations. “I tried my best and I got results, so I know that if I work hard enough I can compete in a national competition and maybe even get a record,” Eschbach said.

By Achyuta Ambal, Parkway West High School

Knees shaking, legs aching and arms straining, sophomore Tommy Eschbach lifts 360 lbs up to his hips into a deadlift. The only thoughts running through his head are telling him to push himself to the max. With a final jerk, he locks into a standing position. Eschbach holds on until he hears the word from the referee: “DOWN.” With an exhale and a rush of relief, Eschbach has broken a state record.

The deadlift, an event where you lift a bar from the floor to your hips, was just one of four different records Eschbach broke that day. Eschbach also broke a record for the bench event, lifting 182 lbs, the squat event, lifting 292 lbs, a record for the deadlift event lifting 360 lbs and a record for his total lifted score at 834 lbs.

“I was excited and kind of light headed [when I broke the records]. I didn’t exactly know where I was for 10 minutes [after] but it was still definitely so exciting,” Eschbach said.

Eschbach’s training is not limited to training with his coach, he also uses his basement as his training grounds. Equipped with all the weight he needs, the main progression in his growth happens when he is by himself. 

“I need to be strict with my training, and make sure I’m not cheating myself. I know that to do well, consistency is key, and in order to reach my goals, I have to do well on my own,” Eschbach said.

Eschbach says his family has supported him since he started the sport a year ago. His sister, senior Grace Eschbach, loves that he found a hobby that he enjoys.

“I don’t think it is typical for a busy teenager to find a new, random hobby, and then become really good at it. I feel proud of him for doing so because it shows that he has serious determination and drive which is really admirable,” Grace said.

Eschbach’s coach and powerlifter David Gentilini, helps Eschbach motivate himself through his competition lifts. Though according to Eschbach coaching and motivation in weightlifting is mainly up to the lifter, Gentilini teaches Eschbach the basics of form and diet.

Achyuta Ambal

“It’s really on you to get yourself over those mental hurdles, but at [competitions], my coach helps give me mental cues on my form which helps me [get over the hurdles]. It makes the lift feel so much better,” Eschbach said.

Eschbach will continue to participate in powerlifting. He hopes to compete at the USA Powerlifting National Championships — the highest level of powerlifting at his weight class.

“[My motivation] is the same as I think anyone else who competes in a sport. I enjoy it and I want to reach my full potential. Even though I have a long way to go, I’m going to keep on working,” Eschbach said.

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on December 15, 2021.