The Wesley Weightlifters
Big dreams are often born in simple beginnings. So it is with the Wesley Weightlifters of InterServ in St. Joseph, MO. Beginning a weightlifting program in the corner of the Wesley gym, Jon Carr, a volunteer coach, started paved the road to the Olympics for local youth in 1978. The club hit hard times in 1983 when Carr’s work schedule forced him to withdraw as coach. Only one team member remained when Dennis Snethen, current Youth Director at InterServ, took over and began rebuilding Team Wesley. The days with only a handful of lifters working out in the corner of the gym are now shadowed by a program that trains over 130 boys and girls ages 10 and older.
While success is sweet, it is won through long hours of disciplined training. Wes Barnett, a scrawny 13-year-old boy, became a champion for the first time in 1984 and at age 21, he made the 1992 Olympic team. However, Barnett was just one of two Team Wesley lifters to achieve Olympic glory. In 1996, Pete Kelley placed in his first Olympic championship .While Barnett and Kelley are the first Olympians from St. Joseph, they undoubtedly won’t be the last.
Younger athletes have seen living proof of what hard work can do and many of them have champion-sized dreams for the future. There have been too many youth to name who have been a part of the Wesley Weightlifters and have gone on to become model citizens. Youth who decide to travel with Team Wesley and “go for the gold” must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, not miss more than two days of school per semester, and avoid drugs and alcohol. These demands nurture self-discipline and a work ethic that will sustain them for a lifetime. The rewards go beyond ribbons and trophies to self-confidence and self-esteem and the dedication and love of the sport can last a lifetime.
Each day after school you can hear the clang of weights echoing throughout the InterServ weightroom. It is the sound of hard work, dedication, and dreams. You can also hear the sound of Dennis Snethen, urging, coaching, teaching; and yes, sometimes yelling to be heard over the clanging weights. If you visit the InterServ weightroom, what you will see first are the trophies, plaques, and posters from across the United States and around the world where Team Wesley has competed and won. What you may not see is the real success of this program—the youth that have been able to become successful not only at lifting weights, but at life. Striving for the Olympics is admirable, winning trophies is great, traveling to meets is fun; but developing a strong character—learning how to be dedicated and achieve goals—is a far greater skill to pass on to generations of youth. At InterServ, and in life, that is the true measure of a champion.
5400 King Hill Avenue
PO Box 4038
St Joseph, Missouri 64504
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InterServ is a United Way Community Partner. Other Partners include: United Methodist Women, Inc. and the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, The Heartland Presbytery (PCUSA); The Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ; St. Joseph Community Development; and the USDA - The USDA is an equal opportunity employer and provider, MO General Revenue & DHSS/ Division of Senior & Disability Services through the Older Americans Act of 1965 and a contract with NWMO Area Agency on Aging, Inc.; and a contract with Second Harvest of Greater St. Joseph.