Every time Cody Lawrence lifts the bar, he knows he’s lifting his hometown’s spirits with it.
“Whenever I compete, I want to put Clovis on the map,” Lawrence says with a proud smile. “I want to bring honor to this city.”
With the hopes of a hometown resting on every bench press, every deadlift, every squat, you’d think the 21-year-old powerlifter faces an inordinate amount of pressure during competition.
“The gym is my safe haven,” Lawrence counters. “When I lift, everything else goes away and I focus solely on getting better. Nothing else matters.”
Go ahead and call him Cool-Headed Cody.
And after a historic performance on August 28, you can also call him National Champion Cody.
The former Clovis High football and track athlete dazzled at the 2020 USA Powerlifting National Championships, finishing first in four Junior division (ages 20-23) events: Junior overall, Junior bench press, Junior Open overall, and Junior Open bench press.
And to put an exclamation point on top of his four champion medals, Lawrence set the world record for the Junior division 60 kg class in bench press, lifting a weight of 270 pounds at Nationals.
270 pounds – yes, Cody lifted more than twice his weight of 132 pounds.
Cody Lawrence is capable of Herculean tasks in powerlifting, a fact that shocks the man himself.
“It blows my mind to have former Clovis High teammates reach out and congratulate me on my achievements, because I always looked up to them during high school and now they’re looking up to me,” said Lawrence.
Cody is still getting used to the spotlight – after all, the path he took to reach this point was far from it.
Cody Lawrence was born and raised in Clovis, living in the same neighborhood throughout his entire childhood. Growing up in a single-parent household where his devoted father worked full-time, Lawrence adopted sports – namely Cougar football – as a second home.
“Most of my family is the football team at Clovis High,” Lawrence remembers. ”Most of my memories growing up are with the guys I went to middle school and high school with.”
Standing at 5 feet, 3 inches, Cody had a perceived height disadvantage on the football field. You could never tell by the way he worked tirelessly to gain a starting spot.
“I remember in the weightlifting room, the older guys would ask why I was working so hard if I wasn’t a starter,” Lawrence said, “but I was always trying to better myself and get to their level.”
Lawrence didn’t receive much playing time his freshman year, but earned a spot on the field sophomore year while playing on JV. In the first game of the 2014 season, he made a few big plays on special teams, including a forced fumble, but tore his ACL late in the game while playing cornerback.
Just like that, his sophomore season – and his chance to make noise on the gridiron – ended.
Cody battled back from surgery and rehabbed into playing shape, but tore his ACL a second time during a rainy football practice his junior year. It was another crushing blow, yet Cody refused a second surgery.
“I did not want to miss my senior season,” Lawrence affirms. “That year was rough, because every time I made a play, it felt like my leg gave out.”
Cody played Clovis High varsity football his senior season in 2016, and ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4×100 meter relay on the Cougars track team, all with a torn ACL.
Only after graduation did Cody finally proceed with a second surgery to repair his knee. Another long road of rehabilitation was ahead, and Cody believed his athletic career was possibly behind him – until a former Clovis teammate called him.
“Two days after the surgery, my friend Nash [Vidmar] asked me to work out with him at Nemesis Sports Academy,” Lawrence recalls. “I was bench pressing that day, and that’s when he told me I was only a few pounds away from the record in my class.”
Cody turned a few heads at Nemesis Sports Academy in his first appearance at the gym, including that of his future coach.
“When Cody first came in, he had a unique talent in bench press, because bench is usually everybody’s weakest lift in powerlifting,” said NSA owner/coach Richard Lazaro. “When you see someone lift like that, you pay attention to it.”
And thus, Cody found a new home at Nemesis, and a new sport in powerlifting.
After rehabbing from his second ACL surgery and having his first coach deploy for the military, Lawrence turned to Lazaro as his powerlifting coach, two months before the 2019 National Championships in Las Vegas.
On the national stage for the first time, Cool-Headed Cody made a statement.
Lawrence finished third in the Junior division and set the word record in bench press for his class, lifting a weight of 259 pounds. He also developed a reputation at Nationals among other powerlifters.
“People didn’t know who I was, but I would come in, complete my lift, shake the referees’ hands and leave,” Lawrence says. “Now, people tell me that they don’t always cheer when I complete my lift, because they expect me to do it now.”
How ironic – the kid who nobody expected greatness from turned into the powerlifter who defined it.
Lawrence’s world record lasted two months until another powerlifter bested his mark by 1.5 pounds. Cody remained undeterred and grew motivated to retake his world record and secure a national championship in April.
COVID-19 ultimately pushed the 2020 USPA Championships into August, where it took place outdoors in Vista, CA. The delay meant more time for Lawrence to train, who spent all summer powerlifting under the scorching Central Valley sun.
“We made him hit the heavier weights over and over leading up to this year’s Nationals,” said Lazaro. “The last six weeks before Nationals were a grinder, but he fought through and it paid off.”
Armed with preparation for heavier weights and hotter temperatures, Lawrence reclaimed the bench press world record with his lift of 270 pounds.
The world record was his, and with a remarkably improved performance in the squat and deadlift portion, so was the national championship.
Now, Lawrence has his sights set for the North American Championships in November, while eyeing a spot on the U.S team for World Championships.
Yet even with four national champion medals around his neck, when you talk to Cody Lawrence, you meet the humble, hard-working man he’s always been.
And if you ask him why he powerlifts, who he does it for, what drives him day in and day out, he’ll answer you plainly.
“I just want to make Clovis proud.”