How might you spend a 70th birthday? An intimate dinner with family? A leisurely cruise?
Not Robert Wass, of Eagle Point. He has a different kind of celebration in mind. On Dec. 4, at the U.S. Powerlifting Association Western Regionals in Newport, Wass will be there; not to watch, but to compete.
If all goes as planned, the 233-pound Wass, who turns 70 on Dec. 1, will set a USPA national deadlift record for his new age group in the 242.5-pound weight class. If he's successful on his planned first attempt at 427 pounds, Wass will shatter the record by roughly 100 pounds.
He also plans to set a standard for septuagenarians in the bench press with his first attempt at “227 to 238,” he says.
This is nothing new for Wass. He's been breaking more records than an irate disc jockey.
At the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters (WABDL) meet in August in Rancho Cordova, California, Wass set an age 68-74 men's masters world record in the push-pull at 683.2 pounds. He also holds the USPA national single-ply, single-lift deadlift record for his age and weight class of 457.45 pounds, set in March.
In September, Wass set an Oregon USPA raw record in the bench press for his age and weight with a lift of 248.02.
Numerous trophies, medals, photos and certificates adorn his living room — attesting to his achievements and those of his daughter, Amanda, a successful powerlifter in her own right.
Wass’ motivation isn’t to beat somebody else.
“I don't care what somebody else has,” he says. “I compete against myself. I do the best that I can do.”
Active since his youth, Wass was a four-sport letterman at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach, California, in football, baseball, swimming and as a runner in track.
During his military career, he served four tours in Mekong during the Vietnam War.
A retired diesel mechanic, Wass' pursuits have encompassed everything from hunting to horseback riding. Until he was slowed down by a pinched sciatic nerve in his back — the result of a fall from a ladder in 2011 — Wass played softball, but not in a senior league.
“I was way too aggressive,” he says.
It wasn't until 2005 that Wass got into powerlifting, because of his daughter.
“She had just turned 14, so she could go to Gold's Gym,” says Wass. “She's over here leg pressing 650 pounds. At that time, I think she weighed 116.”
A woman on the gym’s team asked if Amanda had thought about powerlifting. Amanda and Robert were introduced to a local lifting legend, the late Jerry Capello. When Capello suggested the teen become a deadlifter, she agreed on one condition: Her dad was to do it with her.
Amanda is now an EMT and is taking a break from competition to focus on her education.
Wass, however, is showing no signs of slowing down.
Like clockwork, you'll find Wass among the regulars at Elite Power and Fitness.
“The only thing I'm adjusting for is that pinched nerve I can't get rid of,” he says. “I'm still lifting crazy every week. Four days a week I train, and I don't slow down. I still do heavy, heavy weights. My trainer got me doing squats yesterday. I hadn't squatted in seven months. He knows me. He said, ‘Give me 20' at 135. I did two sets of 20, and then he had me do a third set of 25.”
While his workout routine hasn't changed over time, his eating habits have. A certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist, he says he didn’t heed his own advice until January, when he tipped the scales at 239½ pounds.
“I said, 'Oh no, this ain't happenin'. I'm changing my diet,'” he says.
Never a junk-food eater, he’s scaled back on dairy products and relies on leaner meats for protein, such as chicken, fish and pork.
Though he's getting older, Wass sees no end in sight.
“I'm going to do this, even if they have to put me on stage with a backhoe. I just absolutely love working out,” he says.
It's also provided a social outlet.
“I meet new people every time I go to a competition. They amaze me and I amaze them,” he says.
He’s cut down on his personal-trainer work so he can have “more time for me, more time to play; so I help people out when I can.
“I'd like, even the hospitals around here or where old people are hanging out, not doing anything. I hope they get ahold of me and have me come and talk to them, and help them.”
That he's soon to be 70 is irrelevant.
“Age is just a number,” he says. “How you eat, how you take care of yourself, you can pull yourself out of just about anything.”
And put yourself in the record book.