TRINITY — Mike Ferrantelli is a positive man.
A Pasco County sheriff's captain, a father, a mentor and a five-time powerlifting champion, Ferrantelli seems to inspire everyone around him. His aggressive approach toward life shows in the gym at the Trinity YMCA, where he is well known.
In April, Ferrantelli will again chase a powerlifting title, this time in Orlando at the IFC World Championship. With only three bench press lifts at his disposal, strategy is important. If he can get into the winning position before his final lift, however, the 43-year-old believes he is set to lift for the world record.
"The first lift I'm planning on opening with something easy like 523 pounds," Ferrantelli said. "You always start out with something that you feel you can do no matter what happens. It's all strategy.
"The second time I'll go up to somewhere between 557 pounds and 561 pounds," he said. "At that point, I'll make a determination on where I stand with the rest of the lifters and if I have it won, I'm going for the world record at 620 pounds."
Dedication to his workout regimen has been the key to Ferrantelli's success, but it doesn't hurt to have a little help from the gene pool. His father, Joe, was a successful bodybuilder, and his grandfather was a gymnast and bodybuilder. Had it not been for his father, Ferrantelli may have never begun working out.
"When he was in high school he came to me upset that they wouldn't let him play football," Joe Ferrantelli said of his son. "I got him started working out. I was a bodybuilder and I told him to just follow what I said.
"By the end of the year they wanted him to play football but I wouldn't let him. He stuck to the weights and now look at him, he's amazing. He's surpassed everything that I could have imagined."
After high school, Mike Ferrantelli became a police officer at age 19. His captain asked him to compete as a powerlifter in the Law Enforcement Olympics. Not knowing what powerlifting was, he agreed to it. Finding out how to train for it was a stroke of luck, and one that would forever change his life.
"I saw this guy doing some kind of strange lift, and very sarcastically, with a 19-year-old know-it-all tone, (I) asked what this guy was doing," Ferrantelli said. "He told me it was a dead lift and it was one of the disciplines in powerlifting. I started asking him a few questions and come to find out this man was a world class powerlifter.
"His name was Kent Harriman and he became my coach," Ferrantelli said. "For the next 10 years I did everything he said. That day that I talked to him altered the course of my life."
In 1996, Harriman died at age 39 of pancreatic cancer. Ferrantelli was devastated. Since being under his tutelage, Ferrantelli has been a powerlifter only. He has built his abilities from the ground up and can now bench press 650 pounds in the gym. He dead lifts somewhere in the area of 700 pounds, and once set a world record in his weight class by squat-lifting 800 pounds.
Ferrantelli has won five different world championships in various federations. He now competes in the International Powerlifting Federation, which he says has the most coveted powerlifting championship in the world.
Only one representative from each weight class is allowed on the 10-man teams that represent each country, so to compete in the world championship is a great honor for Ferrantelli.
Since powerlifting is not in the Olympics, the IPF World Championship is the highest stakes competition a lifter can be in.
Around the gym he is not known simply as a powerlifter or even as a law enforcement officer. Instead, Ferrantelli is most thought of as a role model. He is quick to share his knowledge of proper workout techniques and takes great joy from helping others.
"He's known by a lot of people around here as a mentor," YMCA wellness coordinator Marie Cervantes-Roth said. Ferrantelli works with a couple of youngsters at the gym who follow him around like ducklings, she said. So folks at the gym call him the Mama Duck.
"He has a positive impact on everyone around here," Cervantes-Roth said.
The kids feel privileged to have such a mentor.
"He treats us like adults," said Eric Yateman, a senior at Mitchell High School. "He inspires me to keep going so I can be like him some day. He's a truly good man. Because of him I'm into powerlifting now and if it opens as many doors for me as it has for him, that would be good."
David Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.