Bonac Senior, 17, Sets Powerlifting World Record in Las Vegas

“Extraordinary,” says East Hampton High’s strength and conditioning coach
Richy Rangel lifts weights he can get rather than ones that are too heavy when practicing at the high school’s Kendall Madison fitness center. Jack Graves

To look at him, you would not think he’d be so strong, but Richy Rangel, a quiet-spoken East Hampton High School senior who wants to become a computer engineer, is, as Lisa Farbar, the high school’s strength and conditioning coach, says, “extraordinary.”

“He came to me when he was a freshman, having never worked out before,” Farbar said during a conversation at the high school’s Kendall Madison fitness center the other day. “He said he was interested in building strength. I showed him the basic exercises — the deadlift, squat, and bench press, explaining that there was no finish line to strength. It’s a pure science based on reps, sets, and the progression of weight. . . . He’s made significant strength leaps in the last two years.”

So significant, in fact, that as the result of a national competition earlier this month in Las Vegas, at the Golden Nugget, Rangel now holds the world deadlift record for 17-to-19-year-olds in his 132-to-148-pound weight class at 551 pounds. In September, in Albany, he broke the national deadlift record in his age and weight group at 540 pounds, a feat that prompted the International Powerlifting Federation to pay for his hotel room when in Las Vegas, though not his flight out and back. 

“He was casual at first, and then, all of a sudden, he went full bore with powerlifting,” said Farbar.

And last year, he set three state records — in the deadlift (500), squat (340), and in total weightlifting.

“Your knees have to be locked,” Farbar said concerning deadlifting, described by the I.P.F. as “the king of powerlifting disciplines.”

“I missed at 573 — next time I’ll get it,” said Rangel, adding, in answer to a question, that “the more you do it the stronger you get. It’s a skill; you have to work at it.”

“As I always say, ‘Perfect practice makes perfection‚’ ” said his coach.

Rangel said he was “pretty far off‚” when it came to a world record in the squat, 70-plus pounds off. The bench press record in his age and weight group was 280. He was at 205.

He had played soccer when younger, the world record-holder said in reply to a question, but soon realized he couldn’t excel at both. 

He works out every day, basically, though with weights he can get, as it were, not too heavy. In the weeks leading up to competitions, however, he pushes himself.

“Five reps is the max, five sets of five, that’s what you need to build strength,” said Farbar. “You have to own it. Then you add a little more weight. It’s not like bodybuilding, with many reps and many sets.”

“And egg whites for dinner,” this writer chimed in.

Asked about his diet, Rangel said, with a smile, “I don’t go to McDonald’s every day.”

He’ll turn 18 on Jan. 18, and that will move him up into the 18-to-19-year-old class, “where there’s definitely more competition.”

“You have to be strong mentally,” the young powerlifter said when asked how he felt when the pressure was on. “You focus on yourself . . . you do your best.” Farbar, he said, “has been a great help.”

And he, in turn, had been a great help, she said, when it has come to working with other lifters in the fitness room. 

“He’s my go-to guy,” she said of Rangel, with admiration.