Powerlifting came naturally to siblings Tommy and Jessica Perea, both multisport athletes at Manteca High.
Their father, Tom, introduced them to the sport, and it is paying immediate dividends. It took just one meet for Jessica, who graduated from MHS in the spring, to leave her mark in the 16-17-year-old, 165.2-pound juniors division where she is already a state record holder. Tommy, going into his junior year, won all four competitions he has entered since last October, set national records in the 16-17, 198.2-pound juniors division and qualified for the 2023 United States Powerlifting Association National Championships.
“I’ve just been working out since I was younger,” Tommy said, adding that his older brothers helped inspire him to start lifting weights at an early age. “My dad told me about it (powerlifting) and thought it would be a good idea for me to start competing in these.”
In October, he debuted in the United States Powerlifting Coalition NorCal Lift-Toberfest in Manteca. It was in the middle of the football season, but he had not been playing at that point being three weeks removed from knee surgery.
He won easily while setting a new state record in the in the 13-15, 198.2-pound juniors division bench press at 264.5 pounds.
Leading up to the event, the Pereas linked up with Kyle Alexander, a fellow Mantecan and accomplished powerlifter at the national and world levels. Tommy said he trains with Alexander every weekend. His dad also serves as his trainer.
“It has been really cool weightlifting with (Alexander) and learning from him,” Tommy said. “Whenever I walk in there, I look at all the medals he won over the years — there are so many, and I want to get to that point too in powerlifting.”
Tommy aged up to the next division for his next meet in February, and he took first place in the USPA Tru Fitness Open with a total lift of 970 pounds, combining his best marks in the bench, deadlift and squad.
In April, he dominated the USPC NorCal Spring Showcase, shattering USPC state and national records in the squad (368.1), bench (291), deadlift (407.8) and total (1,067).
Perea improved on those marks across the board — 385 squad, 309 bench, 451 deadlift, 1,145 total —earlier this month in the USPA Drug Tested Campbell Summer Smash, earning his berth to nationals.
It was at that same meet where his sister first competed as a powerlifter.
Jessica established new state records in her division in the bench (143), deadlift (286) and total (649) and took first place.
“Watching (Tommy) left me inspired,” Jessica said. “I noticed how there wasn’t a lot of girls my age at these competitions, so I knew I would be pretty good at it since I’ve been lifting a lot longer.
“I was really nervous for my first competition, but it seemed pretty easy since I’ve trained lot and had a lot of practice.”
Jessica played basketball and participated in track and field while in high school, lifting weights in the offseason. She’ll soon be attending Windward Community College in Hawaii and plans on searching for powerlifting gyms.
Tommy has a year to prepare for the 2023 USPA Nationals, which takes place in Las Vegas next July. Until then, he’ll play football, wrestle and run track for Manteca High. He’s a starting linebacker for the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion football team. Tommy prides himself in competing as an all-around athlete. He enjoys the 1-on-1 physical duels of wrestling, and in track he works on improving his burst as a sprinter.
His ultimate goal is to earn a Division-I football scholarship. If he does not play football at the next level, he can focus on powerlifting.
“Some of the best (football) players in college and the pros did a lot of sports in high school,” the younger Perea said. “It pushes me to be better in competitions. I like wrestling, too, because that’s a different kind of competition.
“Powerlifting is really different from other sports I do. At first, it was real nerve-wracking going up there and it’s just you and the judges, but once I got that hang of it’s been really good.”