Nick Golden doesn't like to be the center of attention. But because everyone has been clamoring for a front-row seat to watch him at powerlifting meets, he might as well give them a show.
The Argyle senior set a Natural Athlete Strength Association national high school record in the 181-pound weight class with a 600.76-pound deadlift on Dec. 16 in Mount Pleasant. He initially broke the record with a 578-pound lift on his second attempt. He bested that mark one lift later.
"It's the one goal I've always wanted," Golden said. "Now I want more. My new goal is 650."
Golden is establishing himself as quite the sensation in a sport that traditionally hasn't been a big deal at Argyle. Powerlifting is a club sport and is not sanctioned by the University Interscholastic League as mainstream sports such as football, basketball, or even baseball are. It never has had a huge following at Argyle, though the school had two individual lifters (Casey Grounds in 2006 and Liz Fenley in 2009) win state powerlifting titles.
Golden could be the third to claim the state's top prize.
"He has a chance," Argyle powerlifting coach David Muns said. "On deadlift, we can put whatever weight we want to on there, and Nick is going to pull it. He's a heck of a deadlifter."
And Golden also is a masterful showman - despite his quiet nature.
Before every lift, Golden can be seen standing roughly 20 to 30 feet away from the lifting platform with his back to the bar.
With laser focus, he stands quietly with one song set in a repeat loop playing on his headphones. A coach will then tap him on the shoulder, and Golden will throw his headphones down, turn and sprint to the bar and lift without hesitation.
"That whole process takes about four seconds," Golden said with a laugh. "Powerlifting is more mental than physical, and you can get caught up in things like, 'I can't do this weight. I can't do this weight.' So I just run up to the bar without giving any thought to it. There are no mental blocks."
Golden typically has a sizable crowd watching by his third attempt.
"In the powerlifting world, he is a sensation," Muns said. "We were at a meet last year in Gainesville, and he got moved to another gym as part of the 165-pound weight class. Next thing I know, there are 75 kids following him. I was confused at first, and then someone said that they had to see that Golden kid do the deadlift.
"I have people come in and say, 'You know, I think I'm stronger than Nick Golden.' Well, that was put to bed every single time. They go nuts. It's fun to watch."
Golden credits a large part of what he's been able to accomplish to Argyle football coach Todd Rodgers, who didn't stand in Golden's way when he chose to quit football after his junior year to pursue powerlifting full-time.
As a freshman, Golden was deadlifting 415 pounds. He reached 555 by his junior year but knew it would take more hard work to put himself in the state title conversation.
"[Muns] wasn't so sure coach Rodgers would allow me to quit football since that sport is so big here in Argyle. But Rodgers let me run with it," Golden said. "When I'm out there, it's just me and the bar. It has taken a lot of hard work and effort, but now I want to go after that state title."
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.