Geography Major Preparing For World Powerlifting Championships This Month

Jun 13, 2017 3:20 PM

College students are used to doing heavy lifting for their course work. Frostburg State University student Tristan Nazelrod is taking that to the next level with his dedication to powerlifting.

The junior geography major is on his way to the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus, June 14 to 25, where he will compete against the best in the world. He’s part of the USA Powerlifting Team and represented his country in 2016.

Nazelrod holds five teenage American records in the squat in the under 120kg class, bench press in the 120kg class, deadlift only in the under 120kg class and total for super heavyweight and 120kg classes. He also has numerous Maryland records in various age divisions, weight classes and lifts.

Best squat? Try 317.5 kilograms, or 700 pounds. He’s deadlifted as much as 310 kilograms, or 683 pounds, and he can bench press 205 kilograms, or 451 pounds.

At 21 years old, Nazelrod is now in the junior age group, where he hopes to break records in that age division. He lifted his way to a gold in the 2016 Arnold SSP Nutrition Pro Raw Challenge in the junior super heavyweight division. At last year’s bench press world championship in Denmark, he placed sixth in the under 120kg division and helped Team USA to a fourth-place finish. He’s focused on a spot on the medal stand in Belarus.

“If I could walk away with a gold, it would be an amazing feeling of euphoria,” Nazelrod said. “But I’ve got to take it one step at a time.”

Nazelrod started to dedicate most of his time to powerlifting in high school, when it was quickly outpacing his love for football.

“I was playing football to lift weights, not lifting weights to play football,” he recalled.

The championships are overseen by the sport’s governing body – the International Powerlifting Federation. Powerlifting is not yet in the Olympics, where the snatch and clean-and-jerk comprise Olympic weightlifting. The IPF has applied to the International Olympic Committee to be recognized as an Olympic sport. If approved, it provides a window for Nazelrod to be on the world’s largest sporting stage. Powerlifters peak in their mid-30s, giving the 21-year-old some hope.

“I'm not holding my breath, because I know how difficult it is for that to happen, but it would be a dream,” Nazelrod said.

Nazelod is a big believer that powerlifting, just like any exercise, keeps his mind active and helps him with his studies.

“To be a good powerlifter, you have to set a plan in place and have to be disciplined enough to stick to that plan for the fruits of your labor to show up on competition day,” he said.

“It’s the same thing with school. You have to set a plan of studying. I need to study this at this rate for the end game of a test or grade. Or, in the big scheme of things, skill acquisition for the workforce,” he said

Nazelrod wants to follow the path of his parents, who are both teachers – and Frostburg bachelor’s and master’s graduates – in Oakland, Md. His father, Paul Nazelrod, is a science teacher at Southern High School, and his mother, Robyn Nazelrod, is a fourth-grade teacher at Yough Glades Elementary School. The younger Nazelrod plans to enter the Master of Arts in Teaching program at FSU and then become either a geography or earth science teacher.

“I like to talk in front of people,” Nazelrod said. “I can be a show-off at times but I’m fairly introverted.”

Plus, there’s something about those hulking boulders that can be mistaken for his biceps that interest him.

“The idea that some of the rocks and boulders you are looking at are so immense in size, I could never lift them,” Nazelrod said.

He originally was a biology major but when he took a geography course that brought him to look at rock strata in Finzel, his inspiration began and is reinforced as he drives through the Sideling Hill cut on Interstate 68.

“Everything in my life that I’m truly passionate about – that’s not school – is gym related and health. I want to become the best, which sounds ridiculous but that’s how it is,” Nazelrod said. “That (geography) was the only thing I’d come across that wasn’t related to health that I was passionate about.”

His advisor, Associate Professor of Geography Dr. Phillip P. Allen, admires Nazelrod’s dedication.

“I was very impressed with his time management because he’s one of the most committed and conscientious students I’ve ever worked with,” Allen said. “To do that on top of all of his training regime, I think is fantastic and a real testament to his character.”

To view a video of Tristan Nazelrod, visit

For more information about the geography major at FSU, visit