Victoria Vargas, 21, had to perform her best deadlift in order to capture gold Wednesday morning at the 2016 International Powerlifting Federation Raw World Classic Championships held at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

The San Antonio native made it happen, as she put up 330 pounds to finish first overall in the 115-pound weight class of the women’s junior division.

Vargas, competing in the IPF Raw World Classic Championships for the first time, did not know how much weight was on the platform as she approached the bar.

Her coach decided the weight and simply told her to go for it.

“It was amazing, and it was an honor, too,” Vargas said. “I did not know how I felt about it right away; I was just so excited.

“It was the best feeling in the world.”

The Raw World Classic Championships are a bit different from what used to be deemed standard competition — equipped powerlifting. In equipped powerlifting, competitors are allowed to use a squat suit, knee wraps, a bench shirt and a deadlift suit.

Raw powerlifting forbids any equipment that could assist the lifters. The weight put up by the competitors at the Raw World Classic is done so from their pure strength alone.

Vargas began her powerlifting career as an equipped lifter.

“My first raw was last year,” she said. “I decided, ‘OK — I’ll give it a shot,’ and I loved it. It was much easier, because you are more relaxed. All you have to do is relax and lift.

“I am more of an equipped lifter, but raw just makes it so much more … it’s nothing but your natural strength.”

Beverly DiPiero, of Jacksonville, Fla., was also competing in Raw World Classic Championships for the first time in the 126-pound weight class of the women’s junior division. The 21-year-old never competed in equipped events and thinks she will always stick with raw meets.

“I’m not quite sure about equipped, so I can’t speak about too much of it because I’ve never done it,” DiPiero said. “But as far as raw, to me it’s empowering to know that it’s just my strength. It’s just me against the bar, always.

“Ever since I got into it, I was introduced into raw and just stuck with it.”

DiPiero reached the Raw World Classic very early in her career, and she hopes to qualify again next year.

“I haven’t really been powerlifting competitively for long,” DiPiero said. “I’m coming into my second year, so this has been my goal long-term. To hit it so quickly is kind of just mind blowing, but it’s also cool to meet the other strong women of the world.”

Canada’s Alexandra Stodalka, a 20-year-old who hails from Calgary, Alberta, began her powerlifting career with raw competition. But she actually aspires to become a top equipped lifter.

“Equipped is a little more complicated,” Stodalka said. “Right now, I’ve only been lifting for a year, so I just wanted to build my raw strength. But then I’m thinking about getting into equipped lifting after this.”

Between the two, the preferred style of powerlifting is strictly based on the individual.

After Wednesday’s action, however, Vargas has had a change of heart.

“I’ve always wanted to prove to myself how strong I am,” Vargas said. “I decided I wanted to keep doing this, because it is more natural. It just feels great to be in raw lifting, and I want to keep doing it.”

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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