Will Hemmen

Will Hemmen executes a dead lift during a training session Friday at Northside Athletics. Hemmen is competing for USA Powerlifting in the seventh annual International Powerlifting Federation World Men’s Classic Championships on June 9 in Helsingborg, Sweden. Photo courtesy Will Hemmen

Will Hemmen started lifting weights six years ago as part of training for hockey.

The former defenseman for the South Anchorage High School hockey team and the Southcentral Wolves comp hockey program now lifts as part of training for powerlifting.

Three lifts are involved in powerlifting — bench press, dead lift and squat.

“My senior year (at South Anchorage), I started going to the gym; I wanted to put some weight on for the hockey season,” Hemmen said during a phone interview Friday. “I really found out I like working out and I like lifting weights.”

The 22-year-old’s recent training with weights has been for the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Men’s Classic Championships on June 4-15 in Helsingborg, Sweden. The event marks the international powerlifting debut for Hemmen, who started competing in the sport three years ago.

“I’m really nervous for it. This is the biggest meet I’ve ever done,’’ said Hemmen, who graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in May with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering.

“There’s going to be a lot of really strong guys there. I know where my body is at and what I’m capable of. I’m just going to go there and do my best,’’ added Hemmen, who works as a corrosion control engineer for Coffman Engineers in Fairbanks.

At the world championships, the 6-foot, 231-pound Hemmen will be among more than 30 participants for USA Powerlifting, the sport’s national governing body. Hemmen, though, is only competing June 9 in Sweden, where he’s entered in the junior category (ages 20-23). 

“I’m going to set PRs (personal records), and I’m going to have a really smart day,” Hemmen said. “I’m going to make smart choices, and I think that’s going to put me in a good spot, potentially a podium position.”

Nick Fisher, who coaches Hemmen at Northside Athletics in Fairbanks, echoed Hemnen’s approach to the world championships. Hemmen will be among 17 entries in the 105-kilogram (231 pounds) division of the junior category.

“I think he has to just stay within in his own means,” Fisher, who also is competitive powerlifter, said by phone Saturday. “The people there are extremely strong, and they’ll probably try to go outside of their own means.

“If he stays within his own means, he’ll be able to put himself in the best position to place as high as possible. I hope he goes in there with a level head.”

Hemmen achieved personal bests in the junior division and best overall lifter titles in the Anchorage-Fairbanks Showdown in March at UAF. He registered 667 pounds (302.5 kilograms) for the squat, 352 pounds (160 kilograms) for the bench press; and 700 pounds (317.5 kilograms) for the dead lift.

Fisher started coaching Hemmen after they met in 2016 while each was training at the UAF Student Recreation Center.

“I saw him and said, ‘Hey, there’s someone else here strong,’” Fisher recalled.

“He’s very serious, and he will do everything prescribed and more,” added Fisher, who’s two years older than Hemmen. “As a coach you tell him what to do, and he’ll go above and beyond it. You don’t see that very often. He’s dedicated to what he’s doing.”

Hemmen’s introduction to competitive powerlifting was the Frostbite Classic in 2016 at Cross-Fit Fairbanks. He captured the junior division title with a total of 1,317 pounds lifted — 501 pounds for the squats, 265 for the bench press and 551 for the dead lift.

Last October, he had a strong showing in the 105-kilogram category at the USA Powerling National Championships in Spokane, Washington. The effort helped him qualify for USA Powerlifting’s team for this year’s worlds.

A USA Powerlifting national coach sent him an email in February to congratulate him for his efforts in Spokane and to invite him to the national team for the IPF World Men’s Classic Championships in Sweden.

However, Hemmen had to pay his own way to the worlds.

He raised about $3,000. The help, Hemmen said, included a large donation from the Northside Athletics owner, and donations through GoFundMe and Instagram accounts as well as from family members and friends.

“I’ve got a lot of people supporting me right now. I’ve got a lot of people that helped me raise money to go,’’ Hemmen said.

“I have a little pressure to perform, but I think I’ll rise to the occasion.”

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.