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North Platte weightlifter to represent Team USA at youth world championships in Saudi Arabia
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North Platte weightlifter to represent Team USA at youth world championships in Saudi Arabia

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When Matthew Musselman dropped his bar on an attempted jerk during his workout Friday, he sat down and looked up at his coach, Jason Jensen of Enzo Athletic Performance, for some advice on what went wrong.

The amount of reps had finally caught up to the weightlifter.

It was a busy hourlong session full of various movements, and Musselman made sure his bar featured enough weight to make things challenging. But that’s how his training usually goes.

“It was heavy almost every day,” Musselman said. “I would feel like almost passing out when I was done working out. Just grinding and grinding and trying to work.”

First came the hang squat snatches. Three or four sets of three reps, and don’t let the bar drop until you were done.

Then came the clean and jerks. Again, three or four sets of three reps. Bring the bar in the clean position, then jerk the bar above your head. Again, don’t let the bar drop until you were done or absolutely have to.

All these workouts are tough, and for good reason. Musselman is heading to Saudi Arabia to represent Team USA in the 102-kilogram weight class at the 2021 IWF Youth World Championships from Oct. 3 to Oct. 12.

“I’m super excited about it, and I’m super excited to represent America in a world competition,” he said.

He qualified after competing at the national competition a few weeks ago. Musselman was in the last group to go, so he had the advantage of knowing what weight he needed to hit in his lifts to earn that spot. Jensen said both of those weights were new personal bests.

“I did all the calculations, and we knew exactly the number he had to hit to make the team,” Jensen said. “We put it on the bar and he hit it.”

Musselman said he clean and jerks around 149 kilograms, or about 330 pounds, and he snatches around 127 kilograms, or about 280 pounds. Jensen said Musselman hit a pair of personal bests, 10 kilograms above his best clean and jerk and four kilograms above his previous best snatch attempt at the national competition to earn his spot at the world championship.

“At the time, that’s basically capped out with what he could have lifted,” Jensen said. “So now we have the next three months to work on some weaknesses and really hammer down, and hopefully we can go to Saudi Arabia and hit some more PRs then.”

Musselman’s weightlifting is just a part of his busy work schedule. He said he begins the day by heading to North Platte High School around 6:15 a.m. for summer weights, then does football or wrestling training.

As a team leader for the football team, Musselman is also a part of team meetings. He was at the high school Thursday from 6:15 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. Then, he goes home to shower and heads to Enzo Athletic Performance for his weightlifting training.

“There are a lot of days where I want to hide in my room and not do it, but I have a very good support group of my parents and coaches and the administrative staff that really pushed me to be the best for myself,” Musselman said.

Jensen, who works with many athletes from local high schools, says he tailors his workouts to complement the workouts of the high school. For example, if they squatted at the high school that day, his workouts won’t include squats.

“I’m not going to contradict what they already did by doing more of it,” Jensen said.

Musselman’s workouts vary from day to day, but they remain just as tough. He said the workouts are actually harder now that he qualified because he’s in a different level of competition than he’s used to.

“We had a moment of realization,” Musselman said. “Is this what a world-class athlete would be lifting right now? And if it’s not, then go harder.”

Musselman is coming off a big sophomore campaign. He was a part of the North Platte football team that won its first playoff game since 2004. He also reached state in his first year wrestling.

The trip to Saudi Arabia is in the middle of football season, and Musselman said they aren’t sure if they’re going to go the full two weeks of the competition because he doesn’t want to miss too much of the season.

“We’re trying to miss a minimal amount of games because I don’t want to do that to my team and my coach because they’ve been so supportive of me doing what I’ve been doing,” Musselman said. “They’ve done a great job of helping me along.”

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