American dream: Weightlifter aims to represent his country

Contributed Super-heavyweight Tylar Reagan is looking to improve his totals at USA Weightlifting’s American Open Series II event in Miami later this month.

As a teenager, Tylar Reagan had aspirations to be an offensive lineman in the NFL. He also had a desire to serve his country.


“I’m an American patriot,” said the former three-sport athlete at Bartram Trail. “I believe in the values of this country.”

Both of his grandfathers were Vietnam veterans. His paternal grandfather, John Reagan, persuaded Tylar to follow his own dream.

“He didn’t want me to go into the military,” Tylar said. “He said he served in the military so I wouldn’t have to. He never regretted his service, but he felt my gifts were better suited for (sports).”

Reagan, now 22, accepted a football scholarship out of high school to North Carolina State. Two years later, he was back home with a labral tear in his hip and disillusionment in his chosen sport.

“His body and his spirit were broken,” said Joe Hanson, who operates the Athlete Development Center in Jacksonville and was one of Reagan’s first strength coaches when he was a youngster. “So he went back to a place where he felt happy and safe — his old gym and his old coach.”

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Reagan didn’t give up on an athletic career. He just traded his football dream for another — representing his country as an Olympic weightlifter.

“Wearing the red, white and blue on my chest, honoring my country in the Olympics, would be more meaningful to me than playing in the Super Bowl,” he said.

It’s a goal that motivates Reagan to push himself every single day. Since he began weight training at 8 years old, he has been captivated by the sights and sounds of the gym.

“When he first started he was so wide-eyed and in awe of everything he saw, watching the older kids, seeing how much they were lifting and how hard they worked.” Hanson said. “Holy cow, has he grown big and strong. He’s humongous.”

Hanson said nobody outworks Reagan, who is the son of a football and weightlifting coach. Ron Reagan was Tylar’s offensive line coach at Bartram Trail where Tylar was also a two-time state weightlifting qualifier and was a discus thrower and shot putter on the Bears’ two-time state championship track and field team, finishing fourth in shot put at the Class 3A state finals in 2013.

Individual sports like track and weightlifting appeal to Tylar.

“The biggest thing me and dad both love about weightlifting is the work you put in is always reflected in your performance,” Tylar said. “In a team sport you can have the best game of your career, but you can still get slaughtered.”

Reagan has seen considerable progress in his USA Weightlifting performances since he began competing again two years ago. He finished 10th in 105-plus kilogram class (super-heavyweight) at the University Nationals in 2015. At the same meet in 2016, he finished fourth, taking bronze in snatch with a 142-kilogram lift (313 pounds).

His next competition is July 27-30 at the American Open Series II in Miami, a qualifier for the American Open Final in December in Anaheim.

Reagan has already qualified for Anaheim but he is looking to improve his seeding with a good showing in Miami.

“If he wins that, it will be one more benchmark,” said Ron Reagan, who, along with Hanson, coaches Tylar.

Tylar is also his dad’s assistant coach with Bartram Trail’s girls weightlifting team and helps coach Hanson’s weightlifting club — Team Florida Jax.

Ron Reagan and Hanson say Tylar’s goal of making an Olympic team is not implausible, because he’s probably five to seven years from reaching his peak performances.

“We want to work toward qualifying for the Olympic trials in 2020,” Hanson said, adding that making the 2024 U.S. Olympic team is an attainable goal.

“The big goal is a 200-kilo snatch. No American has done that,” Hanson said. “There is an enormous amount of work to do to get there. Now he’s closing in on 150 kilos (331 pounds).”

Reagan’s best clean and jerk in competition has been 178 kilograms (392.4 pounds). Hanson said Reagan’s target is a 500-pound lift.

His goals include working up to a top-five showing at nationals next May and then begin competing internationally, with the initials, USA, spread across his massive chest.

“There are no guarantees,” Ron Reagan said. “But if he continues to hit benchmarks within the time allotted, it’s all very possible.”