By Mike McCombs
To say 2021 was a surprising year for Beaufort’s Dade Stanley would be an understatement.
After his freshman year at Clemson University, Stanley, then 19, who had not competed all year and had barely even trained, swept the Snatch and Clean & Jerk and set a personal record with an Overall total of 306 kilograms July 1 to win gold in the 89-kilogram weight class by 10 kg at the USA Weightlifting Junior National Championships in Detroit.
As the days dwindled in 2021 and 2022 crept near, Stanley may have pulled off an even bigger upset. In early December, Stanley was invited to compete as a funded athlete for the United States in the IWF Junior World Championships in late April or early May in Hersonossis, Greece. (The Junior Worlds were originally scheduled for March but were delayed a month in December.)
“Dear Dade, First off, let me say congratulations on making the 2022 IWF Junior World Championship team in the 89kg weight class,” his invitation letter read.
Stanley was admittedly “baffled.”
“I wasn’t expecting it at all. My training has been so minimal over the past year while I’ve been in college that I thought I wouldn’t make another world team for a long time,” Stanley said. “The decision came from the Junior Nationals back in June in Detroit. That total was enough to put me on the team.”
Stanley’s mother expressed her surprise in much simpler terms.
“I was blown away,” Missy Moberly said.
Team Beaufort Coach Ray Jones has long said that the only thing holding Dade Stanley back was Dade Stanley, comparing the 20-year-old favorably to teammate and fellow Beaufort native C.J. Cummings, who competed in the Tokyo Summer Olympics in July.
“There is not really a whole lot about Dade’s potential as a weightlifter that surprises me,” Jones said.
But given Stanley’s lack of work, as well as competition over the course of 2021, Jones admits making the USA World Junior team despite competing in just one event is another extraordinary accomplishment in a strange but extraordinary year for Stanley.
“NOPE!” Jones emphasized. “It just doesn’t happen. But it brings more credibility to my statement.”
When Stanley won in July, he was competing for the first time after a layoff of more than a year – last competitive meet was the American Open in March 2020 – because of an injury.
Then he struggled to train at Clemson, partially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He didn’t want to pay for CrossFit, and COVID-19 restrictions at Clemson limited him to just a basic gym, where Olympic weightlifting workouts weren’t possible.
Stanley said he was just doing basic strength training – dead lifts, squats, core.
That situation changed a bit in the fall, however, when he returned to Clemson. Stanley said his workouts are limited now only by when he has the opportunity to go to the gym.
“We have a place to lift (24 hours a day, seven days a week), and I try to lift 5 days a week,” Stanley said. “Coach Ray will send workouts if I ask, but most of the time I have an idea what he wants me to do. I send him videos of the lifts and he gives me advice on what to do.”
Though he’s training regularly now, Stanley said most of his acquaintances and classmates in the Upstate are unaware there is a world-class athlete walking among them.
“I don’t go around and tell really anybody unless they ask,” he said. “It’s not too popular around there, … I wouldn’t say that anybody even knows what the sport is outside of the people that do it.”
Mike McCombs is the editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.