Lifting to new heights

Island powerlifter Kyle Rollins puts up big weight at New England Open and National meet.

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Islander Kyle Rollins is making a name for himself as a competition powerlifter after deadlifting 600 pounds at the annual Ryan Moore New England Open on Feb. 19, which takes place every year at Xaverian Brothers High School.

Currently a junior at the Tilton School in Tilton, N.H., Rollins originally started lifting weights in order to improve his performance on the football field when he played tackle and defensive end at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Rollins said it was powerlifting Coach Jeff Scheller who initially pushed him to move from strictly doing strength training for football to training and competing in ranked meets, and testing the limits of his own lifting abilities.

He started out in 2019 at Elite Sports and Fitness in Middleton, where he surprised himself by winning in his weight class at the USA Powerlifting sixth annual High School Elite Cup.

Although powerlifting and football are two very different sports, Rollins said they can also go hand in hand. Rollins is a star track player, and competes in the 100-meter dash.

He says his three sports are all related in that they involve explosive movements and short bursts of intense energy, rather than long spells of energy over extended periods of time.

“Once you start really getting down to the technique at the meet, you realize how different powerlifting is from every other sport,” Rollins said. “There is so much strategy and form involved with powerlifting.”

According to Rollins, it’s not enough to be strong — you have to put in the practice and work on proper form in order to really do your best when it comes time to compete.

In powerlifting, Rollins said, each competitor sets a goal for their lift, and they must achieve that goal or come away with nothing.

“You have to set your goal for each lift, but you can’t go down in weight after making an attempt at your target,” Rollins said.

If a competitor goes too heavy, Rollins said, they can be stuck in a tough situation and not make the lift.

For those looking to make the leap from casual lifting into competitive powerlifting, Rollins suggests starting out with a comfortable weight in order to set a baseline. But he said confidence is important, and self-doubt can be the same as self-sabotage. 

“When I went to my first meet, I figured I would be a lot weaker than everyone else, but I ended up taking first in my weight class,” Rollins said.

Overall, Rollins said, he has been to seven different competitions, and each time he finds new challenges and new accomplishments.

Rollins even tried to start a powerlifting club team at his school, but said he couldn’t find enough people to participate.

At his first national meet in Louisiana, Rollins said he knew he would have to give it his all to compete in a large pool of lifters.

“I knew going in that there wasn’t a clear shot to be the strongest in the room, like some of my other competitions. People travel from all around the world to compete in this event,” Rollins said.

But Rollins was confident in his abilities, and ended up finishing seventh in the country in his weight class. 

“I knew I had it in me, and I felt pretty strong going in,” Rollins said.

He also beat his previous state record of 584 pounds.

It had been his season goal to achieve a 600-pound deadlift, and Rollins said he was proud of his accomplishment.

This upcoming year, as he enters his senior year at Tilton, Rollins said he hopes to keep competing and working to beat his personal records.

“During football season, I might have to take a break from competing, but I will still be in the gym,” Rollins said.

Rollins is planning on studying business and finance, and said that lifting will always be a big part of his life.

“I am interested in personal training, and I think it might be cool to be a college football strength-training coach on the side,” Rollins said.

And Rollins said much of his motivation and determination comes from one of his best friends, Tristan Scheller. Tristan is also a competitive powerlifter, and came seventh in his weight class alongside Rollins. He also set personal bests at the New England Open, and came first in his weight class.

“Tristan was huge in getting me to pursue my powerlifting career,” Rollins said.

As of now, Rollins said he is excited to see where his powerlifting career takes him, and is feeling ready to get his hands back on a barbell.