Olympic Barbell Club kicks off first semester as NIU organization


Riley Stefan, Exercise Physiology graduate student, Sept. 18 during her training at Prairie State Barbell, 328 Dietz Ave.

By Marcel Carrasco

DeKALB — Heavy weights crash to the ground like thunder inside of the Prairie State Barbell gym, 328 Dietz Ave. The gym is a recycled warehouse with rubber mats on the ground and flags representing various organizations on the walls, including an NIU flag on the western wall. The smell of rubber greets visitors at the doors, while the music playing in the background vibrates throughout the gym.

Although the gym is hidden in the back of a long line of rustic buildings, it’s hard to dodge the action being heard from inside.

Prairie State Barbell is the home of NIU Barbell, a student organization with undergraduate and graduate competitors in Olympic barbell lifting. The club is in its first official semester as an NIU organization, although the athletes have been competing alongside each other since last year.

The club has five officially registered athletes, although club president Jack Littner, a senior majoring in Kinesiology, said the club has a few athletes who filter in and out. Littner is also an assistant coach at Prairie State Barbell where he said the club unofficially started.

“We got the club going last semester,” Littner said. “We’re just rocking-and-rolling now.”

Littner’s connection to Prairie State Barbell started in the beginning of the 2018 spring semester when he was logging in observation hours for his major. Littner said seeing the coaching side of weightlifting during a meet held at NIU encouraged him to obtain his USA Weightlifting Level 1 Certification.

Head Coach Brandon Male is a graduate of NIU and is currently a member of the Exercise Science staff at NIU. Male is also a weight lifting coach at Prairie State Barbell.

Male said personal growth is the main goal for athletes. Anyone is welcome to join the club, even if suitors have no background in weightlifting, he said adding that he is ready to polish and tone out athletes.

“We want people to come out here that want to learn,” Male said. “We want people that want to work hard and are interested in growing in this sport for fun, for fitness and for competition.”

Riley Stefan is an Exercise Physiology graduate student and is one of the five competitors in the club. However, her experience in weightlifting extends beyond NIU. 

Stefan spent three years at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, where she competed on the Lions’ weightlifting team. Stefan was part of two National University Championship winning teams at Lindenwood, including winning a bronze medal of her own in the women’s 69 kilograms division in the 2018 National University Championship.

“I’m hoping to bring a lot of students to the club,” Stefan said. “Olympic weightlifting is an individual sport where people can take it at the caliber that they want to. There are a lot of ways to get students involved.”


For more information, contact Jack Littner at jlittner12@gmail.com