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PAIGE A. LEECH

Linemen Get Lift With Some Summer Fun

July 26, 1998|PAIGE A. LEECH

Mike Kohr of Camarillo High speaks for linemen everywhere when he says, "We're hogs and hogs need something to do."

Basically, that's why several tournament directors are including linemen--or strongman--competitions in conjunction with their seven-on-seven passing tournaments during the summer.

In the past, it was only the offensive backs and receivers, linebackers and defensive backs who participated against other schools during the summer. Linemen were left behind to pump iron in a stuffy weight room.

Coaches have taken notice and come to realize their beloved hogs need to have some fun, too.

"These guys are in the weight room every night and then they go home," Rio Mesa Coach George Contreras said. "This gives them a chance to compete. It's something to break up the monotony of the weight room."

Linemen competitions have been appearing in greater numbers at the high school level since the early 1990s.

Contreras, who has hosted linemen competition for the last three years, first learned of them about eight years ago from a magazine article and later from a book written by Tom Zupancic, strength and conditioning coach for the Indianapolis Colts.

"Heck, if it motivates professional guys, it should motivate high school kids," Contreras said.

As a general rule, each school sends five linemen to compete as a team in a series of events that vary from tournament to tournament.

At Rio Mesa's tournament last weekend, there were six events for linemen: A bench press, a 50-pound rock toss, a truck tire toss, a shuttle relay, an obstacle course and tug-of-war.

Kohr, a guard who will turn 16 on Wednesday, has been lifting weights since the seventh grade and finds the competition gratifying.

"I love 'em," Kohr said. "I get really nervous before [the competitions]."

His nerves apparently don't affect his strength. Kohr, a 5-foot-11, 275-pound junior, blew away his opponents in the bench press at Rio Mesa.

Kohr benched 185 pounds 30 times, accounting for 42% of his team's 71 repetitions.

"In the beginning, it was like a feather," said Liz Kohr, Mike's mother, who was among numerous parents who watched the competition. "Then 28, 29, 30 . . . it was a little slower."

Kohr shows no signs of slowing down. He keeps a diary of his workouts and maximum lifts, and is bench pressing 350 pounds and squatting 480 pounds.

"It's really important to me," Kohr said. "I'm dedicated to it."

In May, competing against other players from the Oxnard School District, Kohr won the overall title at the Pacific View League weightlifting championships.

Kohr, who lifts every day, sees his time in the weight room as a means to an end, namely a football scholarship.

"Football means a lot to me," he said. "And I know . . . someone at Rio Mesa is working just as hard as me and I want to be able to handle that guy on the field."

While there was no trophy for Rio Mesa's seven-on-seven tournament, the linemen had something for which to play.

"The kids play for a rock," Contreras said.

Contreras' wife, Laurie, finds the best football-shaped rock she can at the beach in Ventura and paints it brown with white stripes and seams. It serves as the trophy for the linemen's tournament.

"It's amazing how many kids love to ogle this rock," Contreras said. "Linemen are simple folk."

*

No doubt about it, St. Francis quarterback Kjell Nesen St. Francis made one heck of an impression last week . . . as a kicker and punter.

Nesen, who is headed to Washington State on a scholarship, boomed punts and blasted kickoffs in the Youth Valley Conference All-Star game at Birmingham.

With a no-rush rule in effect, the left-handed and left-footed Nesen averaged 53.6 yards on six punts, three of which covered 56 yards or more.

Apparently, Nesen's kicking comes by naturally.

"To tell you the truth, I haven't kicked a ball since the season [ended in November]," Nesen said.

Nesen opened the game with a kickoff that sailed past the left upright. After a five-yard penalty was assessed against the kicking team, Nesen boomed another kickoff through the end zone.

But Nesen, 6-2 and 185 pounds, isn't a kicker anymore.

Washington State wants to make Nesen the next Ryan Leaf.

Nesen, who passed for 901 yards and four touchdowns last season, wasn't impressive at quarterback during the All-Star game.

In more than three quarters of play, he completed only one of nine passes for one yard and had his final pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

"I was very disappointed," Nesen said. "We had such crisp, clean practices and this [game] wasn't clean at all. The fans probably thought this looked like the most disgusting performance ever for all-stars."

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