COLUMBIA — Muscled men and women surround the stage in Lange Middle School cafeteria waiting their turn to bench press. The attention of the audience comes and goes as competitors slide under the bar and pump out one press of their chosen weight, gaining a judge's approval before the lift is counted. But when Dave Quevreaux takes the stage the crowd stops talking. The 78-year-old powerlifter grabs everyone’s attention.
Quevreaux was the oldest competitor Saturday in the Show-Me State Games powerlifting competition. The father of six from O’Fallon weighed in at 188 pounds and walked away with first place medals for the bench press and powerlifting events. He was the only athlete in his age division, but his lifts outmatched many.
“I’m gonna get that 210,” Quevreaux said before his first attempt at the bench press. “I’m gonna send it through the ceiling.”
The ceiling remained intact, but Quevreaux easily dropped the weight to his chest and pushed it back up to the top of the rack. Andrea Weber cheered for her grandfather as the judge verified the lift.
Quevreaux’s then attempted 225 pounds. The bar came up again, but the lift was disqualified. Quevreaux didn’t pause long enough with the bar at his chest. He had trouble hearing the call from the judge, the only visible sign of his age.
“He lifted 225, but he couldn’t hear the press call because of his hearing aides,” 21-year-old powerlifter Justin Lopez said. “He had the lift easy.”
Quevreaux ended the day with his 210-pound bench press and a 250-pound deadlift. He attempted deadlifting 300 pounds, but dropped it as it reached mid-knee.
“I could feel it,” Quevreaux said. “I’m not gonna hurt myself lifting that sucker.”
While Quevreaux usually lifts more than he did on Saturday, he was not upset with his results. A smile instantly appeared on his face the moment the weights were out of his hands.
“I don’t feel bad, there are guys here a lot younger than me who are lifting the same,” Quevreaux said.
Quevreaux’s strength is apparent in his handshake. The man looks as strong as his grip feels. He started working out in a gym 10 years ago and holds three USA Powerlifting national records for squat, bench and deadlift for 75- to 79-year-olds in his weight class. He works out three times a week, but his strength training began as a child.
“My dad died when I was 10, so my mom raised us kids. I didn’t do good in school, so a guy offered me a job as a laborer and I went to work for him.”
Quevreaux was 16 when he quit eighth grade to take the job. He has earned a living with his hands ever since, moving up from a laborer to the owner of his own construction company.
He credits some of his friends from work for inspiring him to lift weights.
“I’ve got friends that are all carpenters,” Quevreaux said. "They’re the same age I am. They all sit at home. I don’t want to look like them. I don’t want to be a great big, fat old guy.”
Mat Wolf also competed in Saturday’s competition. He and Quevreaux both train at Armstrong Health and Fitness in Troy. Wolf said Quevreaux is inspiring.
“He is vibrant, obviously,” Wolf said. "His outlook on life. His longevity. To him, age really is just a number."
Quevreaux says he doesn’t get sore anymore, and that he will be ready to participate in his other regular activity Sunday night. Dancing to country music with his wife Eula Quevreaux. The couple will celebrate 60 years of marriage this year. Dave Quevreaux says his wife is supportive of his lifting and enjoys his physique.
“She’s the one who gets me all these smaller shirts than I wear,” Dave Quevreaux said. “When we go outside she says, ‘Wear that other shirt that’s tighter.”
Quevreaux smiles as those around him laugh. He seems comfortable being the center of attention. A feeling he plans on having for at least two more years.
“My goal is to lift until I’m 80," Quevreaux said. "My wife says I won't quit until they bury me.”