New Istrouma Weight Room Now Open

Istrouma High School’s new weight room is now open, and head football coach Jeremy Gradney has members of his football team lifting weights three times a week as the off season begins.

Istrouma’s team this year was composed of 9th and 10th graders, few of whom had ever been exposed to weight training.

Coach Gradney said he is sure team members will return to the football field next August much bigger and stronger after nearly a year of weight training.

Principal Reginald Douglas said, “The weight room is beautiful, and we are very grateful that we have it. Because of budget constraints, we have used equipment, and we are very grateful that it also, but we do hope to be able to afford new equipment soon.  We want to be on par with top schools in our area.  We have to ramp up the fundraising and develop the alumni and community support that you see at schools like Catholic, and Baton Rouge High.”

Ironically, weight training for football and other competitive sports actually began at Istrouma High School.  The story of how it began is told in Billy Cannon: A Long, Long Run by Charles deGravelles.  Ironically, the decision to try weight training began when Istrouma lost to Baton Rouge High in 1954.

Here’s an excerpt from the Cannon biography:

“The Monday after New Year’s Day 1955, a Saia Freight 18 wheeler  parked in front of Istrouma High. Students and coaches began pulling out heavy steel bars and round black weights into

the gym. Until this moment, no American high school, college or professional team utilized weightlifting programs to complement its team athletics. It was popular wisdom among coaches that weights were good for bodybuilding but a detriment for other sports, that the muscles produced by weightlifting rendered an athlete slower and more awkward. Some even thought lifting dangerous.”

“One man had been trying to change that, and Istrouma High was going to be his testing ground.”

Alvin Roy had played at Istrouma football until his graduation in 1938. After the war, he worked with the U.S. weightlifting team. “He saw firsthand how weightlifting  could increase an athlete’s speed and athleticism.”

“After Istrouma’s crushing defeat by Baton Rouge High, Istrouma’s coach Big Fuzzy Brown was finally willing to give the weights a try.” Weightlifting began the day the weights arrive, and Roy put the players on a program of working out three days a week with a series of eight lifts.

“The Istrouma players, motivated by the defeat by Baton Rouge High, took to the weights with enthusiasm.” Billy Cannon said everyone sensed it would give them an edge. Everyone gained weight and strength. By

the time the 1955 season began, Cannon was bench pressing 320 pounds.

In 1955, Istrouma won the State Championship and had arguably the greatest team in Louisiana history. Istrouma became the model for weight training in America.  Football and other team sports have never been the same again!

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