Castereno is hoping his final HS lifts lead to a state medal

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

Justin Castereno leaves today for the short trip to Abilene to compete in the Texas High School Powerlifting Association (THSPA) state championships, where the Sweetwater High School senior will be competing in the 242-pound weight class.
For Castereno, this is his first trip to the state meet and he has spent the past 12 months getting ready for it after coming up short of that goal with a fifth-place regional finish as a junior.
He has dramatically improved since then, though, and is hoping to compete well enough to earn a top-five state medal when he lifts Saturday starting at 8:45 a.m. at Abilene’s Taylor County Expo Center in his final high school meet.
He didn’t start powerlifting until last year, but still did well enough to make it to regionals where he had a total lift of 1,310 pounds.
And he was inspired to go even further by the success of former teammate Chris Jackson, who graduated in 2018 after advancing to last year’s state meet in the 123-pound weight class, ending his high school career with a fifth-place Division II finish at Abilene.
Castereno won the 242-pound weight class at the Region I, Division II meet at Sundown High School two weeks ago with a total lift of 1,570 pounds — 260 more than his total lift a year ear-lier and tying the Region 1, D-II record that had been set in 2016. He comes to the state meet with the sixth best D-II total in the state but is within 80 pounds of the leader.
“He’s got a whole nother mindset this year,” said his SHS powerlifting coach Blake Spears. “He’s really bought in to what we do and cut a lot of weight. He works out twice a day for at least 2-3 hours. I think he wishes that he’d lifted all four years (of high school) now.
“It’s his last chance so I think he will do well and walk away with a medal.”
So far this year all he has won are first-place medals. Castereno’s personal bests are 615 in the squat, 390 in the bench press and 565 in the dead lift. His goals Saturday are a 630-pound squat, 405-pound bench press and 585-pound dead lift, and at least a fifth-place showing in Abilene, which would assure him of winning a state medal.
For Castereno, going to Abilene will be permanent soon. Last month he agreed to continue his high school career at the next level by signing a letter of intent to play football at Hardin-Simmons University. Before going there he plays his last high school football game shortly after graduation, as a member of the Blue team competing in an FCA all-star game. His SHS coach, Ben McGehee, is the head coach for the Blue team in the June 8 game at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.
Castereno must restore much of the weight he lost after football season ended in November, before playing for Hardin-Simmons.
Castereno was at about 265 pounds in November but lost close to 30 pounds in order to reach the 242 weight class level.
He has reached a big goal by going to the state powerlifting meet, he said, and having more time to work out with no offseason football has helped him out. Castereno’s “really motivated” for Saturday.
“But it will be nerve racking,” he added.