From almost the first moment that Springstead senior Austin Lee Stock walked into the Eagle weight room he dreamed big.
Stock indicated to his mentor Mike Garofano that he had a singular purpose: a state gold medal.
Four years passed, but in his 19th and final meet – and in his only trip to the FHSAA Finals in Osceola County – the Spring Hill-born-and-raised Stock nearly completed a magical perfect season, en route to being named Hernando Today Lifter of the Year.
Prior to the 5-foot-10, 186-pound Stock entering the cozy Kissimmee Civic Center on April 26, Stock along with his teammate, junior Geoff Boettjer, and Hernando senior David Goodwin shared similar visions.
Why not? Each had captured all seven meets they’d competed in during the season.
The only lifter with any previous state experience, Goodwin, arrived seeded 13th in the Class 1A competition at 139 pounds. He departed placing 11th in the stout 18-member field.
Boettjer, who arrived seeded 13th at 129 in 2A, tallied his best-ever effort but finished 13th.
The fourth-seeded Stock quickly realized that the “gun show” he walked into was unforgiving. Nobody cared an iota about his 13 victories in 18 previous meets.
The oldest of four children to Jamison McAllister and Staci Moss responded with not only his best-ever day, but the finest-ever total in a state performance by any Springstead lifter in four decades.
Despite the intense pressure within the building, Stock successfully hoisted 5-of-6 attempts (three in the bench press and three in the clean-and-jerk). He failed on only his third bench press.
Yet, that one missed opportunity resulted in Orange Park’s Andrew Ratica edging him out for the gold medal, 680-675.
Despite departing Osceola County with a silver medal – extending Springstead’s school-record of eight seasons with at least one placer – Stock came within five pounds of his ultimate dream of reaching the top of the podium.
In a season where Stock defeated 61-of-62 opponents, area coaches honored the Eagle as the unanimous choice for Lifter of the Year.
“Stock had a tremendous senior year. Since Day 1 in the weight room, he kept saying he’d win states. He came within five pounds of his dream this year,” insisted Garofano. “What I liked most? He had tremendous technique. It’s funny but by changing his technique prior to states, his totals went way up.
“Had he weighed in 2/10ths a pound less, he may have dictated the tempo at states. Coming in 1/10th of a pound more than Ratica made a huge difference in strategy.
“The biggest difference was he was all bought in,” added Garofano of his three-year starter. “He ate right and properly conditioned his body. After football, he came in with a goal in mind and just about got there. … He was definitely a leader in our weight room. His work ethic is something positive for our younger lifters to see.”
“With Stock there wasn’t a question of who the county’s best lifter was,” detailed Weeki Wachee’s fourth-year mentor Mark Lee. “To me, he was fun to watch. It’s great to see his intensity and his drive on the platform. I told our guys, this is the guy you’d better watch; he had such great technique.”
“Stock was part of the program for four years. He put in a lot of time behind the scenes,” described former Central mentor turned Hernando coach Mike Einspahr. “He forces the other kids in that weight class to do better.”
“Stock was always focused; you could see it in his eyes,” noted Central’s first-year coach Chris Sands. “He had his eyes on the prize the whole time.”
“I told our kids that the kids that are doing their lifts correctly will have success. The better the technique, the better the chance of finishing higher,” emphasized NCT’s first-year coach Justin Worden. “To me, Stock’s technique was his greatest strength.”
The 18-year-old Stock was taken aback by the announcement.
“Earning Lifter of the Year is awesome,” he said. “It feels really good that people paid attention and gave me the credit. Even though the season is over, I’ll continue to work out.”
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Stock traced his athletic roots to playing flag football at 5 at the Hernando County Family YMCA in Spring Hill.
He recalled playing for the “Y” for two years before progressing to tackle football, alternating between fullback and linebacker for the Screaming Eagles for two seasons.
At Powell Middle School, Stock was mostly a “fifth-quarter guy” in sixth- and seventh-grade. As an eighth-grader he started at linebacker for the Panthers.
Upon matriculating to Springstead, Stock played football for three seasons, wrestled for two campaigns and was a four-year member of the weightlifting team.
Individual success began to surface during his only season of varsity wrestling under Sal Basile.
He placed fourth in the 2A-District 7 Tourney in Springstead at 182 before being eliminated after a 2-2 run in the rugged regional tournament at St. Cloud. In his varsity debut, Stock finished 24-19 overall with nine pins.
Three months later, Stock captured his first-ever Hernando County championship in weightlifting at 183.
The regular-season curtains came down after a fourth-place finish during the 2A-4 Meet at Springstead.
Last summer Stock made a critical decision to return to gridiron after not playing as a junior.
As a starting inside linebacker he contributed 75 tackles, including five tackles behind the line, to help bolster the Eagles’ run to a repeat district championship.
Instead of opting to return to the wrestling mats, Stock chose to concentrate his efforts in the weight room – a move that proved fruitful.
When asked about his favorite sport, the stocky-built Stock chose two.
Individually, he said he picked weightlifting because to be good, he had to put the time into it.
On his greatest improvements in the weight room, “My mindset changed,” he said. “I worked a lot harder this year. I was in the gym as much as I could. When there was no school, I’d work out at the YMCA.”
His preferred team sport is football.
“In eighth grade I was chubby and I wasn’t very strong,” recalled Stock. “I just wanted to be the best. I thought I could go for it and also enjoy it.
“I always liked playing defense because you could hit people,” added Stock. “I had a lot of fun during my senior year.”
On settling on a silver medal in his final athletic endeavor, “Sure, looking back I could’ve changed a couple things, but I don’t have any regrets,” said Stock. “I know I pushed myself. I was really self-motivated.”
Stock, who carries a 2.70 grade point average, calls U.S. History his favorite class.
He’ll attend Pasco-Hernando State College and hopes to transfer to Florida State University. He envisions a career in a law enforcement working homicide cases, or maybe working in fish and game.
For the past 2½ years, Stock has worked at the local YMCA as a personal trainer.
“I like helping people. They’re trying to help themselves,” noted Stock. “I can’t help but try to get them to reach their goals.”
Before commencement exercises on June 5, Stock paused a moment for a card of thanks.
“I have to thank Coach Garofano. He really knows his stuff,” declared Stock. “I wouldn’t have gotten where I’m at without him. He’s both a coach and a friend.”
On any eighth-grader headed to Springstead’s weight room, “I’d advise anyone that in this sport you can’t take days off,” insisted Stock. “You have to make sacrifices to reach your goals. Sometimes that means going to the gym instead of going to a party with your friends.
“I just want to be remembered as a hard worker, who got to go where I wanted,” detailed Stock of his legacy. “If I’m remembered as a hard worker in the weight room – that’s enough.”
By the numbers: Springstead’s Austin Stock in 2014
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
OPPONENT WGT BEN C&J TOT PL
Hernando 183 315 225 540 1st
Weeki Wachee tri-meet 183 325 225 550 1st
Sunlake tri-meet 199 325 245 570 1st
NCT 183 320 225 545 1st
Springstead tri-meet 183 335 250 585 1st
County meet 199 340 245 585 1st
2A-3 meet 199 375 255 630 1st
2A state meet 199 385 290 675* 2nd
* Denotes school record at states.