Every successful story begins somewhere, and for the Kuhns family, it began when Don Kuhns was in eighth grade.
“I was in eighth grade and at 5-foot-10 and 143 pounds, I decided I wanted to make improvements,” he said. “My mom’s best friend in high school married a weightlifter and I sought him out and he wrote a program for me.
“Then when I was in high school I joined the Allentown ‘Y’ and got to know Bob ‘Cowboy’ Bartholomew and Jeff Moyer. Bartholomew won the world championships and was part of the 1968 US Olympic team in Mexico. Moyer was also a national champion and a member of the 1967 Pan American Games team. Then in 1973 I came into contact with Fred Glass, who probably threw 1,000 people in powerlifting.
Influenced by Bartholomew, Moyer and Glass, Kuhns took up weightlifting, initially for health reasons to gain strength. Then he moved on to competition.
Years later, Don introduced his son, Mike, who was born with dwarfism, to a sport he has long been passionate about.
“I was Glenn Noack’s assistant coach for the Whitehall High women’s tennis team in 1995,” Don Kuhns recalls. “Glenn came three times a week at 6 a.m. to lift. When he left home at 7 a.m., he always said something to Mike, who was having breakfast before school. Glenn would also say that Mike should join us.
Noack, also an assistant men’s basketball coach with Jerry Radocha, asked Mike Kuhns to be the equipment manager for the Zephyrs men’s basketball team.
“I was in sixth grade and became the manager of this team that had Jerry Lloyd, Dan Koppen, Andy Sedora and I really looked up to those guys,” Mike Kuhns said. “I wasn’t going to play basketball in my size, but being with these guys made me think about starting to train, perform and compete. I had tried every playground sport, but being only 4ft 5in i wasn’t very good at them i told my dad about it and was upset because i couldn’t play football, basketball or baseball with guys. I said ‘I stink of all this stuff.’ My dad said I wasn’t cut out for these sports.
“When he said that, I got really pissed off and shouted ‘What am I made for?’ He said you were made for power. You will be able to lift weights.
This is where it all began. Mike Kuhns took his dad’s suggestion and took it to a world class level. Today, at 36, Mike Kuhns is well known in the world of powerlifting.
He is a four-time United States National Powerlifting Champion, two-time International Powerlifting Federation World Champion, a five-time member of Team USA at the World Championships, and a four-time winner in the 132-pound class of the USAPL. Pennsylvania State Championships, and also a four-time winner of the Top Athlete award. In April at York, he set the all-time, all-federation, raw (no wrap) and drug-tested record for the squat in the 142-pound class when he did 552.2 pounds, more than quadrupling his body weight.
But his 70-year-old father also continued to compete at a high level.
In April, at the 100% Raw Powerlifting Masters National Championships, Don Kuhns had a complete sweep by setting four American records in the 70-74 age group, 230-pound class. He had a 413-pound squat, a 270-pound bench press, and a 468-pound deadlift for a total of 1,151 pounds.
The family will go for more championships and records this weekend at the USA Powerlifting State Championships at Wind Creek Casino. Competition begins Saturday with the women’s and men’s lightweight divisions, and continues Sunday.
Both Kuhns are thrilled to have this event in their own backyard after having to travel across the state over the years. According to Don Kuhns, there will be 120 lifters and many of them will be competing for the first time.
“What anyone might expect to see at this competition if they are unfamiliar with powerlifting is a group of competitors who are the product of months and months of discipline and training , especially those who end up winning their divisions or setting records,” Mike Kuhns said. “No one involved makes a living from powerlifting. Everyone has a job unless they’re like trust fund babies or something. A lot of people there have families and responsibilities so they dedicated and sacrificed themselves for those brief moments on the platform giving their best, their best to be the strongest and the better that day.
Mike Kuhns said powerlifting is something anyone can do.
“If you go to a professional football game, it’s great and impressive, but nobody can really expect to play for the Eagles next year,” he said. “But in powerlifting, it’s quite accessible to a wider variety of people.”
He said that while powerlifting is an individual sport, there is also a lot of camaraderie.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “While you’re up there on the platform killing yourself to be stronger than your competitors and beat them, they’re right there on the side of the platform cheering you on. The camaraderie is there but they realize you sacrificed as much as I did to be there. So you can respect the time and effort invested. There is a lot of mutual respect between divisions, age groups and classes because everyone has worked so hard to make it happen.
Don Kuhns said he and his son are strict about attending raw events.
“We believe that strength and health go hand in hand,” said senior Kuhns. “Steroids and other performance enhancers are not part of our vocabulary. Nothing against people who do that. It is their body, their calling. But for us drug testing is the way to go and the USAPL is drug tested. In fact, Mike was tested five times in 11 months. This could be another record that Mike has set. On Saturday Mike is aiming for another American record squat and on Sunday I am aiming for another record in the 70-74 age group in the 200 pound class.
The two are happy to share their passion and experiences together as they strive to be the best
“It’s just great to do this together,” said Mike Kuhns. “It’s our thing. We’ve put a lot of time and commitment and everything into what’s really a hobby. He doesn’t pay the bills. If anything, it costs money to do it. Many fathers and sons can get together and enjoy racing or playing poker or whatever, but I’m lucky that the hobby my dad and I share is one that has such great benefits. for health. To be competitive, it takes dedication, discipline and sacrifice. Individuals competing individually may have a case where the rest of their family may not understand what they are doing and think it is weird. My dad and I support each other and we’re in the trenches competing. So there is a link. I love when we train together and when we share the platform in competition.
The two train at Competitive Edge on the east side of Allentown. Eric Kratz is the owner and coaches many aspiring weightlifters.
“When my daughter was young, I used to play doubles tennis with her in some USTA events and it was really fun,” Don Kuhns said. “I was sad to see that end. But now for 25 years I’ve been doing this with Mike and it’s been fantastic and I would love to do another five years or more. I told my wife I was going to quit when I was 60, then I was 65 and now I’m 70. Mike will be 40 in just over three years and he could become a Masters and we could compete together in the Masters world. Championships I don’t know if it’s been done before, but it’s something to aim for.
Meanwhile, they’ll be enjoying this weekend together, competing and pushing each other to be the best they can be.
“I know I’m very proud of Mike and he’s proud of me and it’s something we love to do together and do it to the best of our abilities,” Don Kuhns said. “It was a great race and I hope it can continue.”
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