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Dondzilla remaining strong in more ways than just one

ON THE PODIUM — Indian Creek graduate Gavin Dondzila recently placed third in the National Strongman Competition held in New Hampshire. Dondzilla, a Steubenville native, played football and wrestled for the Redskins and is signed to play football in college. -- contributed

Gavin Dondzilla is no stranger to competition. The recent Indian Creek grad had a desire to be the best on the football field or the wrestling mats for the Redskins the last four years.

Most recently, however, the standout athlete was one of the best at a new level — placing third in his category, the lightweight class, at the American Strongman Championships in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“I thrive off competition,” he said. “I’ll make anything competitive, in the gym, on the field or even at work.”

Dondzilla, who is signed to play football collegiately at Muskingum University, reached the podium in a class that had 12 competitors, a big improvement from competing last season, he said.

“I went last year and was third of three, so going back this year and making it the top three out of 12 feels really good,” Dondzilla said. “My buddies were following along online and texting me.”

A fun aspect of the competition was meeting and competing against athletes from all over the country.

“The guy that won was from Iowa, the guy in second was from Oregon, there were guys from down south in Texas and Alabama,” Dondzilla said. “Ohio is well-known in the strength world, one of the top powerlifting gyms in the world is in Columbus, so I think it’s fitting (to have the Ohio Valley represented). Our area has a really good sports history.”

The competition consisted of several different lifting events.

“There’s a large variety of events you have to prepare for in any competition,” he said.

Dondzilla trains at Rocky Road Gym in Wintersville and has been training for strongman events for four years, competing for the last two.

He didn’t compete in strongman events during football and wrestling season, but worked on keeping his form up. He said the training for his high school athletics went hand in hand with his work to prepare for strongman events.

“I wrestled at 215 and my strongman weight class is 220,” Dondzilla said. “It was a pretty quick transition.”

A Steubenville native, Dondzilla said he may take the next couple of years off to focus on football, but he plans to continue his strongman career in the future.

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