The sport of powerlifting comes pretty naturally for Tessa Kneip.
At the age of 14, the Argyle teen was already squatting over 300 pounds, bench pressing 175 pounds and dead lifting 280 pounds.
Tessa, now 15, will be competing for the Argyle powerlifting team this season and said the sport itself has a “different feel” than any other sport in which she has participated, which include basketball, softball, track and field, and even archery.
“There is so much pain and hard work that goes into it, so when I compete and hit my numbers, I feel like I am on cloud nine,” Tessa said. “Sure, in other sports there is that same thing, but with powerlifting it’s on a different level. The rush of hitting a new personal record is beyond comparable. Every time I compete, there is this adrenaline that pumps through my veins that I have never felt before.”
It appears that the future is bright for the Argyle teen, but powerlifting is more than just a sport for Tessa; it is a way for her and her father, Bob Kneip, her first teacher and coach, to bond.
Bob started competing in powerlifting back in the late 80s as a continuation of strength training he had done while playing sports in high school and college.
The Argyle man stopped competing when “injuries and life” got in the way, but continued to train out of habit more than anything else.
“After being away from competitive strength sports for almost 20 years, I dabbled in Strongman for a year and accidentally found the Scottish Highland Games,” Bob said. “Highland Games were a good sport for me in the sense that I had a throwing background from track and had the strength, plus it was my heritage.”
Bob had a very successful career in the Highland Games, holding a top-10 world ranking for five consecutive years, until a chronic arthritic “bone on bone knee” issue forced him to retire.
After years of watching and supporting her old man, Tessa decided to throw her hat in the ring, and oddly enough, it was the coronavirus pandemic that provided her with the opportunity to try.
“Tessa and all our kids have grown up watching me compete in the Highland Games and now Powerlifting,” Bob said. “They and my wife Patti have been my greatest supporters and have sacrificed a lot so I can continue to compete. They have seen me train at home, in the gym and have all trained with me at some time or another. They have come out to yell for me when I train heavy sets. So lifting weights is not foreign in this house.
“While in COVID lockdown back in April, Tessa, who was 14 at the time, started training in the gym with me and when she saw how strong she was, she began to show interest in maybe joining the AHS powerlifting team. I realized right then she had some amazing potential.”
Tessa said that she remembers those days fondly, but said her initial curiosity about the sport actually started earlier than that.
“I think my interest in the powerlifting started when I would watch my dad lift out in our garage when I was younger,” Tessa said. “I have always wanted to be like my dad, and I look up to him a lot. He has accomplished so many amazing things. I remember the day that it all started. I had been telling him that I had wanted to start lifting years prior and he had finally let me.
“He had me working out under him, and the last thing that we did that day was dead lift. I started pulling and he started adding weight. That day I pulled 200 pounds, and that was the moment I knew that I wanted to start powerlifting.”
The Argyle teen’s ultimate goal is to be able to go to the state meet and make a run at a state championship, but said her focus at the moment is reaching the regional tournament.
The fact that her father will be there supporting her makes it that much more special
“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share something that I love with my dad,” Tessa said. “It is so awesome being able to workout with him and have him as a mentor. Honestly, being able to compete together is so surreal. My dad has always been one of my biggest supporters when it comes to my sports and now being able to do the same for him feels so amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
For Bob, the feeling is definitely mutual.
“It’s been great,” Bob said. “For me, I have accomplished a lot of things that I have set out to do and have been very blessed to be good at what I do. However, it’s nothing compared to helping someone else become competitive in that same sport and achieve success. That’s why throughout my life I have trained or coached young athletes. When it’s your own child it’s even more special.
“I got to do this first with Tessa’s older sister Lily who throws shot and discus for the Argyle High School track team. We trained together a lot. Also, her older brother EJ is a Special Olympics Track athlete who threw with me in the Highland Games for five years. Now I get the chance to share the love of a sport with Tessa, so I am truly blessed.”
The Kneips are even looking to compete in a tournament together at some point, but Bob wants to make sure they both focus on one step at a time.
“That day is coming, and we both look forward to it,” Bob said. “For now though, we train together when she’s not training with her team, and I help out with the team where I can. I just want to sit back and watch and support her at her meets without being distracted with competing myself. When I competed at the National Championships in November, Tessa was backstage with me a lot, talking me through numbers, getting my gear prepared and helping me stay focused and confident.
“I could tell she was really itching to compete herself. That was really cool. Maybe next year after her high school season is over, we will find a meet to go to together. That would be an incredibly special moment indeed.”