Samantha Zalepa first lost weight.
Now, she throws it around.
The 28-year-old from West Pittston has been a powerlifter for just four months and already has four state titles.
Zalepa found her way to Rick’s Gym in Exeter after already losing 60 pounds on her own. Once the weight was gone, she went to the gym to try to become more fit, but not with the intention of strength training.
“I’ve been in the gym for about a year, but I was just doing toning,” said Zalepa, who had the state’s highest squad, dead lift, bench press and combined weights at the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate’s Powerpalooza April 14 in York.
Zalepa has wins in her first two competitions. The immediate success leaves her pointing to lofty goals as she talks excitedly about chasing world records, landing sponsorships and turning professional.
Although powerlifting is new to her, Zalepa is closing in on record levels for her 114-pound weight class. She has squatted 230 pounds, just 20 short of the record and is making similar gains in the dead lift.
“I gained some from muscle,” said Zalepa, who moved back up just a couple pounds from training and follows a similar routine to wrestlers, fasting the night before competition to make sure she remains at her optimum weight class.
The former cheerleader at Wyoming Area, from where she graduated in 2008, said she knew little about powerlifting before being encouraged by trainers at the gym that she was very strong for her size.
She has gotten the competition bug and credits her coach, bodybuilder Steve Matechak, with teaching her the sport as she changed the emphasis of her weightlifting.
“I don’t ever want to stop competing as of now,” said Zalepa, who is 5-foot tall. “In four months, I already hold state titles. I definitely want to go further.”
A mother of two who fits in training while working full-time as a bartender, Zalepa said she is pursuing those world records immediately and would like to turn pro by 2019. Finding sponsorships could help with the costs of training and competing.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.