Dickinson Gators senior powerlifter Matt Longoria, now a two-time state champion in his sport after a strong showing at this season’s state meet in Abilene, is a true example of how drive and determination can overcome any obstacle standing in the way of being the best.
“The meets are fun, and it’s great to have goals and accomplish more,” Longoria said.
Longoria has mosaic Down syndrome, which affects a person’s mental and physical development, as well as Legg-Perthes Disease, which caused his right leg to be shorter than his left leg.
“You would never know from just talking to Matt that Matt had a condition,” Dickinson head powerlifting coach Earl Ricicar said. “He’s a great young man and a very hard worker. The proof is in the pudding. He’s been successful.
“He’s been able to lift with it and overcome and adapt to it,” Ricicar added. “He has great form, and when it comes time to lift, he turns the lights on. His discipline is immaculate, and he did not miss a lift attempt at state. He was nine-for-nine.”
This latest state championship marks the second year in a row that Longoria has brought home gold.
Longoria won his first state championship last year, representing the Alvin Yellowjackets. Competing in the 123-pound weight class, Longoria bench pressed 125 pounds, breaking the state record in that weight class — a record that was set in 2012 by a competitor representing what would become his future home, Dickinson.
Moving into Dickinson this past school year, Longoria picked back up right where he left off. Longoria won the regional championship — setting a new regional meet record with 330 pounds in the bench press and was named small platform best lifter — on his way to this year’s state meet.
There, Longoria claimed his second state gold medal with a deadlift of 370 pounds, a squat of 455 pounds, and he broke his own state record in the bench press with a lift of 335 pounds.
“And he probably had another 15 pounds in him,” Ricicar said. “To win it two years in a row, that’s a great achievement, because that normally doesn’t happen.”
Nothing — not the bright lights of the state meet, not the change in judges, not the long road trip to the site of the meet in Abilene — seemed to phase Longoria, Ricicar said.
“I’ll listen to music so I stay focused to have my technique better,” Longoria said.
Ricicar gave a lot of credit to his new assistant powerlifting coach Joel DeLaPaz for Longoria’s success.
“When he came over, I told coach DeLaPaz, ‘that’s your guy, and I’m not going to interfere because you’ve done such a great job with him,’” Ricicar said.
DeLaPaz has been at Longoria’s side coaching him since his freshman year at Alvin, and came over with him to Dickinson for his senior year this year.
“When I was a sophomore, is when I started feeling better and my techniques were getting better,” Longoria said.
Beyond high school competition, Longoria has competed as a member of Team USA in international events, which has taken him to places like Lithuania, South Africa and, coming up soon, Japan.
“Lithuania was really beautiful,” Longoria said. “All the buildings were really close together, and it was like a maze. It was a good experience to have.”
In his weight class, Longoria has been named USA Powerlifting’s national bench press champion twice, achieved a No. 1 world ranking, and medaled in two International Powerlifting Federation world competitions — first place in 2018 in South Africa and fourth place in 2017 in Lithuania.
Longoria said one of his top goals is to one day bench press 500 pounds as he continues competing in powerlifting events, and he said he is looking forward to his upcoming event next month in Tokyo.