Randall Hughes is one of the most accomplished weight lifters to ever come through West Monroe’s proud program. He’s also the happiest.

That’s why the 275-pound Class 5A State Champion earned the nickname, “Happy.”

“I always smiled and coaches caught onto that,” Hughes said. “I think it’s just from God. Every day he wakes me up, I take it as a blessing. I know there’s someone my age that didn’t get to wake up this morning. Every day is a blessing.”  

After his fourth consecutive state qualifier, Covid-19 cancelled an attempt to win yet another state championship for West Monroe.

“To be honest with you, that was heart-wrenching for me because this year I really had a chance,” Hughes said. “This year, we had such a good team. I was projected to be first place, and I know what it feels like to win a state championship. But I feel so bad for the freshmen because I feel like they had that feeling taken from them.”

Hughes burst onto the power weightlifting scene as a freshman when he qualified for the state tournament as a 250-pounder. West Monroe head boys powerlifting coach Jeremy Many called that feat a rare one.

“The older you get it’s harder to keep your weight down, so I’ve had freshmen qualify before in the lower weight classes just because the older guys are competing in higher weight classes,” Many said. “For a guy that weighed 250 to make it as a freshman is a big deal. I can probably count on one hand in 37 years how many times that’s happened.”

It must be the genes. Long before Hughes was squatting 655 pounds, bench pressing 390 pounds or deadlifting 600 pounds, his mother and aunt were pioneers at West Monroe. Megan Hughes and Jessica Carr both lifted under the recently retired Casey Sanders before most schools ever thought about fielding a girls powerlifting team.

“They didn’t pressure me to do it,” Hughes said. “At the end of the day, they told me it was my choice.”

Hughes not only became a vital part of the team almost immediately, but he also became the squad’s little brother. His infectious attitude endeared himself to others, and he eventually left the program as everyone’s big brother.

“He takes care of people, and he’s the ultimate team guy. He’s always positive,” Many said. “He shows up every day with the same attitude. If he has something going on, he doesn’t show it. He doesn’t like to go to a dark place. He doesn’t believe in getting mad or getting upset before lifts. He told me once, ‘Coach, I don’t want to do that.’ He approaches weights the same way he approaches life. He’s gentle with a determination to do it.”

The brotherly character traits will be missed sorely by Many and West Monroe. And it goes without saying, Hughes was a force to be reckoned with at meets. In fact, Hughes entered this year’s state meet 100 pounds ahead of the second-best lift in his weight class.

“I’m confident he was going to blow away the competition this year,” Many said. 

Below are a list of powerlifting accomplishments throughout Hughes’ career:

—   2017 State Qualifier

—   2018 North Regional Runner-Up (275 pounds)

—   2018 State Champion (275 pounds)

—   2019 North Regional Champion (275 pounds)

—   2019 State Runner-Up (275 pounds)

—   2019 USAPL National Runner-Up (265 pounds)

—   2020 North Regional Champion (275 pounds)

—   2020 State Qualifier (Season ends due to Covid-19) 

Hughes’ success expanded beyond the weight room and onto the football field, as he was a contributor on the football team. A man with his size and strength made for an easy plug-in at times in the trenches.

And though Hughes made many memories on the football field, it’s hard to top that 2018 State Championship win in powerlifting.

“I finally felt like I played a major role in us winning,” Hughes said. “I broke through those mental barrier with myself. I felt like I broke through with my own strength and just me overcoming being a shy person. As a kid, I was always anti-social. And I always had strength, but Coach Many always pushed me to let it all out. Powerlifting and football helped me breakthrough.”

Hughes plans on attending ULM where he wants to study kinesiology.

“Happy is going to be successful in whatever he does,” Many said.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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