VALDOSTA -- Eric Suber wanted to graduate from Valdosta High with a state championship.

Suber the defensive end almost got it on the football field, but an extremely talented team from Parkview got in the way of that.

Nothing could get in the way of Suber the weightlifter's pursuit of a state championship.

Suber, a senior, outlifted everyone else and was crowned state champion in the 220-pound weight class last month at the state weightlifting meet in Macon.

"I had always set a goal that I had to do it," Suber said. "I had to get a state championship before I leave. I didn't get it in football, like I wanted to, so I got it in weightlifting."

The 5-foot-10, 219-pound Suber benched 360 pounds, power-cleaned 275, and squatted 450 for a combined lift of 1085 pounds.

This fulfilled a year-long pursuit for the senior. Suber competed at state last year, and finished eighth. He wanted to do better this year.

"He set a goal this year that he wanted to finish in the top three. When we got up there this year, he told me he thought he had a chance to win it," Valdosta head coach Bob Bolton said.

"They do some things differently at state than they do at the meets we have here," Suber said. "Little changes. It's a little more organized.

"I got to see the weightlifters from the rest of the state. There are some big guys, guys who are extremely strong. I was a little nervous, but as soon as I did the bench, I felt good about my chances."

For Bolton, who has coached a lot of weightlifters over the years, the victory was a source of pride, especially since it was Suber doing it.

"To me, with Eric Suber, it's the most gratifying accomplishment I've had with a young man in a very long time," Bolton said. "His work habits, his demeanor, his personality are just unbelievable. I've had kids who were stronger in some areas, but I don't think I've had a kid that was as totally dedicated to lifting weights as Eric."

Dedication indeed. During the weightlifting season, especially leading up to state, Suber was in Valdosta High's weight room for a minimum of two hours a day, and often more than three.

"He does the same thing in life as he does here," Bolton said. "He's dedicated to what he wants to do, he's dedicated to school. I wish this school was full of Eric Subers. He's just a dedicated kid. There's not a finer one to work with."

"I've always believed if you want something, you've got to work hard for it," Suber said. "I worked hard for this."

Suber first gained interest in weightlifting years ago from his older brothers, particularly Derek, who is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds.

"Like a typical little brother, I wanted to do it because he did it," Suber said. "I wanted to be bigger than him, and lift more. I always had that determination-- I still do."

Suber may not have gotten as big as his brother, but he says he's closing the gap.

Suber is the first state weightlifting champion Valdosta has had in a long time. But he hopes he's not the last.

"I'm hoping this will inspire others to go for it," Suber said. "We've got a couple of guys who could do it next year, Travis Bailey and James Neal, and I'm going to encourage them."

Suber is less than two months away from graduating from Valdosta. He plans to go into the Air Force this summer. Eventually he wants to become an auto paint technician after his Air Force stint.

"Whatever he does, I am confident Eric will be successful in it. That's just the type of person he is," Bolton said.

But before he graduates, there's one more goal that Eric Suber hopes to obtain.

"I want to bench 400 before I graduate. I'm getting close now, but I want to reach 400 by graduation."

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