Wyoming People: Cheyenne Teen Weightlifter Training For Olympics

16-year-old Vincent Gallizzi is setting a lofty goal for himself. While most high school sophomores are spending the summer mowing lawns to earn enough money for their first car, Vincent has his sights set higher. A gold medal.

JN
Jake Nichols

July 09, 20239 min read

Vincent Gallizzi trains for nationals last week.
Vincent Gallizzi trains for nationals last week. (Courtesy Photo)

Sixteen-year-old Vincent Gallizzi is setting a lofty goal for himself. While most high school sophomores are spending the summer mowing lawns to earn enough money for their first car, Vincent has his sights set higher.

A gold medal.

The Cheyenne teenager wants nothing more than to be standing on the podium at the next national or international competition. And he wants to do it in an antiquated sport that traces its roots to ancient Greece, a sport none of his friends play or know much about.

Vincent Gallizzi lifts weights.

In Gallizzi’s small circle, it’s just he, mom and dad. There’s no asking a friend, “How do you throw your curveball?” No classmates to offer advice on whether they think Vincent’s bar path has too much arc in it.

Not even his acquaintances at Gold’s Gym in Cheyenne are sure what he’s doing over there in the free weights area for two hours a day.

What Vincent does is not powerlifting or bench press or squats. It is Olympic weightlifting, an obscure discipline outmoded enough it’s been left out of the 2028 Olympics.

Go ahead, name one medalist in weightlifting. One competitor. From any era.

Lift Kid

It’s rare to find any teenage boy chasing a dream that doesn’t involve a ball or a girl. It’s rarer still to find a 16-year-old away from a screen and under a bar bent so precariously it looks like it might snap in two.

“He was always curious about it and wanting to learn,” said mom, Natasha. “At first, he played around with it, but as he got older he wanted to get stronger, better.

“So, I started programming for him. We never pushed him, but from the very beginning we wanted him to have the right technique and learn it safely.”

Vincent never had much of a chance to be anything other than a weightlifter. Not that his parents pushed it on him, but they both compete. At age 10, he tried it and it fell in love with the sport on the spot. 

“I really liked what they were doing. It was love at first sight. It’s super fun,” Vincent said. “You have to be as nimble as a gymnast with core like steel.”

Vincent’s love of weightlifting has taken him throughout the country to various national championships — the latest the USA Weightlifting Nationals in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last week.

Vincent Gallizzi with Jarod Fleming at a meet in 2017. Fleming is the the American record-holder in the snatch. He gave Vincent a signed medal and invaluable inspiration to continue working hard.
Vincent Gallizzi with Jarod Fleming at a meet in 2017. Fleming is the the American record-holder in the snatch. He gave Vincent a signed medal and invaluable inspiration to continue working hard. (Courtesy Photo)

Mind And Method

One of the first things any weightlifter finds out quickly is the sport is not necessarily all about strength. All the muscles in the world won't compensate for poor form or bad technique.

And the most important muscle in competitive weightlifting is the brain.

“This sport is becoming more mental than physical for me. If you are not prepared mentally, if you are thinking about something else or have doubts creep in, you are already at a disadvantage,” Vincent said. “It gets to be a real mental game at competitions.”

Vincent’s father, Marcus, agrees. Lifting weights has a lot to do with confidence.

“You don’t necessarily need big muscles. You have to have a strong core, big quads, strong back,” Marcus said. “The snatch and the clean-and-jerk are extremely technical lifts. Anything off can ruin a lift.

“And the mental aspects? It takes a lot of guts to drop underneath one-and-a-half-times your body weight.”

Heavy Lift

Vincent’s mother was a great choice for a starter coach. Imagine rather than hearing a refrain of “pick up your clothes,” it was more like, “Shoulders back, strong core.”

“My mom made sure she hammered in technique from an early age,” Marcus assured.

Natasha said Vincent has always had the motivation and the drive the sport demands. She made sure basic fundamentals that everything else would build on were correct.

“It’s been a blast teaching him. We try to teach and coach proper technique and help develop the ability to deal with mental stress and be able to relax,” she said. “He naturally has a ton of confidence and is very competitive.”

One of Vincent Gallizzi's earliest competitions at a local meet in 2017.
One of Vincent Gallizzi's earliest competitions at a local meet in 2017. (Courtesy Photo)

Growth Spurt

Mom as a coach works until it doesn’t. There comes a point in every man’s life where he needs to stand on his own. Vincent hit that mark a few months ago when he surpassed dad, who is a Top 10 lifter in his weight class and age group.

A growth spurt between eighth and ninth grades had Vincent constantly moving the goalposts as he kept crushing new challenges, heavier weights. He’s now 5-foot-8 and 161 pounds.

In just the past year, the burgeoning weightlifter has added 80 kg to his now personal best 216 kilos (combination weight of the two Olympic lifts: the clean and jerk and the snatch).

Mom got tapped out about four months ago as Vincent reached the point where everyone in the family agreed: to get to the elite level Vincent has his sights set on, you need an elite coach.

“I think I did a really good job of keeping the two separate,” Natasha said. “But once he is getting to those really heavy weights, and watching him get exhausted, I found I was more worried about whether he was getting his sleep, eating right. Mom things. It was more difficult to push him that way he needed.”

Vincent, too, could feel that time coming.

“I really enjoyed having mom as coach. But it does get kind of scary, especially a nasty fail,” Vincent said, remembering one particular miss on a 225-pound clean and jerk that nearly came down on the back of his neck.

“About November of last year, I started talking to my mom about a new coach. I kind of hit that point where I needed someone as a coach who wasn’t mom,” he said.

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Raising The Bar

“As Vincent got more and more serious about competing, we needed someone who could be harder on him,” Marcus said. “An outside perspective.”

Enter Anna Martin, owner and head trainer of Kansas City Weightlifting. The internationally-renowned coach was the one who trained Natasha, so mom’s seal of approval was immediate.

“Her approach suited me. She is very friendly, a great teacher. I trust her,” Natasha said. “Another reason to go with Anna is she has developed a successful youth program and loves coaching kids. She really connects with youth.”

Martin analyzes and critiques Vincent’s lifts via video. She has an eye like a hawk.

“There is video from the side, for instance, where Anna can watch what is going wrong on your technique. She can draw lines on the video where maybe your bar path is more curving or S-shaped than straight,” Natasha said.

Other than proper mental hygiene, technique in weightlifting is everything.

“I can feel it immediately. As soon as I lift off the floor, even if something is a little wrong, an inch off, I know it will be a failed lift,” Vincent said. “It feels like a million things that can go wrong sometimes. And with Coach Anna, there is not much she can’t find that aren’t flaws.”

The Gallizzis is a weightlifting family with Marcus, Natasha and Vincent.
The Gallizzis is a weightlifting family with Marcus, Natasha and Vincent. (Courtesy Photo)

Unfinished Business

Vincent’s trajectory is meteoric, but the biggest challenges lie ahead. He will turn 17 later this year, pushing him into the next age group (Juniors) beginning in 2024.

He has one more meet at the Youth Level A this December at the North American Open Finals in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Vincent began training for that the day after his disappointing finish at nationals, where he placed seventh overall in a field that included multiple national champions and two world team members.

“The night after the meet I was very upset, really disappointed that I made only two out of my six lifts and only finished seventh,” Vincent said. “By the next day, that feeling turned more into a hunger. I feel unsatisfied, like I have unfinished business.”

Vincent says he has always used negative reinforcement as motivation. Missing the podium just makes him double down.

“Right around when eighth grade ended and I did a meet in Pinedale and missed qualifying for nationals is when I remember flipping a switch. I didn’t like missing and not being good enough,” Vincent said. “I used to think I would not be capable of medaling until about three or four months ago. Now I am all in.”

Vincent is preparing for the end of the year meet with renewed vigor. He’s trying to get his clean and jerk on par with his stronger event: the snatch.

Then next year, he’ll level up into tougher competition, something he says he has been thinking a lot about.

“I'm not necessarily worried. I don't think it will be too much of a jump for me. And I will have three or four years to adjust [to Junior level age 18-21],” Vincent said.

“The challenge right now is the mental aspect. I lost all my momentum leading up to that last big meet. I have never had that happen. I really began doubting my abilities,” Vincent said. “It was so competitive to be in contention for a medal.

“Learning how to not psyche yourself out is what I need to work on. That is my biggest level-up challenge right now.”

Jake Nichols can be reached at: Jake@CowboyStateDaily.com

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Jake Nichols

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