Some dreams don’t happen in high school when an athlete wants it to happen. Sometimes life circumstances dictate that you move on with life and win in other areas of your life until you can compete again.
Sometimes it takes 20 years until a former athlete finds their sweet spot in athletics and life. Still, nobody expects a former high school athlete to become a champion at anything in their mid-30s. One man showed what dedication, desire and never quitting can accomplish no matter what life throws at you. Andrew Manzanares discovered a passion for powerlifting and coaching.
Disappointment and death
Manzanares is a 1997 Goddard grad and former football player. He ended up watching his senior season go by the wayside as he broke his ankle. As the former offensive and defensive lineman, many a night he wished and hoped he could be on the field of play with his friends and Goodard football brothers, Keith Dunlap, Billy Cobos, Mo Espinoza and Richard Hernandez while they played a tough schedule going against the likes of Carlsbad, Clovis, Hobbs and arch-rival Roswell.
Life threw Manzanares a curveball when he broke his ankle, but life really knocked him down when his rock, his father, Toby, ended up dying of renal cancer in August ‘97 at the age of 41. Manzanares was raised to stick by his family and he sacrificed his personal goals in life to help support his mom, Denise, and brother, Joe, who was two years younger.
“My dad had always prepared us for life,” Manzanares said, “to become men. When he died, it opened my eyes a lot more. My mom is the heart and soul of our family — she kept us three together. She was working and trying to make sure me and my brother (Andrew and Joe) had everything we needed. It made me open my eyes.”
Manzanares started working out at Alton’s Power Block Gym when co-owners Alton and Betsy Shields asked him to train with Bill Adams early in the morning for a competition in Albuquerque on April 29, 2008. Little did Manzanares know that by helping Adams get ready for the tournament, he would be helping himself get ready to compete in the same tournament.
Manzanares played and coached under the legendary Goddard coach Sam Jernigan. One of the things he felt Jernigan passed on to him was a love of football. With Jernigan, he learned the weight room and the ability to be strong playing in the trenches because that’s what Goddard football was about: pulling ties, lifting after practice and hard work. That’s what Goddard football was built on — hard work.
“Playing for coach Jernigan taught me a lot of life lessons,” Manzanares said. “We learned the game of football and we learned how to become young men in the community. I learned a lot from the game of football. Being a part of those coaches made me want to become a coach as well.”
He coached at Goddard from 2000-04 and at Roswell under head coach Barey Chambers from 2006-08 and Gateway Christian from 2012-13.
With a desire to get back in shape, Manzanares felt the urge to start lifting again in 2005 and fell in love with the sport of powerlifting in 2007. When Manzanares started lifting, his goal was to be on the wall at Alton’s Power Block Gym for the bench press for 300 pounds. After each competition, he changed his goal to a higher and higher weight until he wanted to be one of the first persons to lift 600 pounds.
His training partners, Joe Oldfield and Lucas Moreno, helped him set the weight. Before he lifts, Manzanares zones everything out of his mind and listens to music and he tells himself it is lightweight when he is walking to the platform. Moreno sets the weight and doesn’t tell Manzanares what the weight is set at. They do all this by training through workouts.
“I liked the sport,” Manzanares said. “I thank the Alton’s Power Block Gym for getting me involved in the sport. I played sports my whole life, but powerlifting is a totally different sport.”
Manzanares found another way to compete and win — he took up the sport of powerlifting and won his first event benching 386 pounds. He continued with the sport and in 2013, he entered the Oklahoma tournament on Sept. 15, 2013, and set the bench press record of 628 pounds to become the 2013 National Athletic Strength Association (NASA ) Athlete of the Year.
“I was thinking once I took it out of the rack,” Manzanares said, “it felt kind of heavy and then the blood started flowing through. The adrenaline took over and I was listening to Lucas and Marissa (Moreno) tell me to stay tight and let it work. I just blew it up and I was hoping I got all white lights. I felt pumped and excited once the lift was good.”
For Manzanares, lifting is something that he can do by himself after being involved in so many team sports he has played all of his life. He likes that he can set individual goals, which he did by lifting 628 pounds. He believes lifting in sports is a necessity if an athlete is going to compete successfully against their competition.
Manzanares wants to compete as long as he is healthy and can. His workout routine is at 4 a.m. five days a week and on the weekend at 6 a.m. To lift heavy, he trains with heavy weights every workout — some days he will alternate speed workouts and heavy workouts.
“I would tell athletes to stay healthy,” Manzanares said. “A lot of athletes need to find the weight room. I was never shown the weight room until I got to Goddard. I think it is essential for every athlete to find the weight room to get stronger and become the best they can be in their sport.”