Faces In The Crowd: Dan Schwab

October 11, 2018

By Aaron Michell

Dan Schwab, an ’87 Marion graduate, turned 50 years old in August.
To celebrate, Dan presumably went to his basement gym and bench pressed somewhere between 400 and 500 pounds.
Because that’s what he does.
As the National Bench Press Champion for the American Powerlifters Federation, Dan Schwab is one of the strongest guys around. In November, Dan and his son Matt will compete for the United States team at the World Powerlifting Conference Championships in Orlando, Florida.
In order to qualify, both Dan and Matt had to finish in the top three in the nation in their respective divisions: Matt qualified in the 220 pound open-division by finishing second with a 424.5 pound lift. Not to be outdone, Dan finished first in the masters’ division with a lift of 414 pounds.
Needless to say, these dudes are strong.
Dan, who works full-time for Avon Automotive, and his wife, Amy, have helped raise a family of weightlifters. Their sons Ryan and Jaden have also taken up the sport and competed on a national level.
As a family, they love competing, lifting weights, and playing sports. Especially football.
We caught up with Dan, Matt, and Jaden at the Schwab home recently where we talked about a lot of things. Mainly though, we talked about football and lifting weights. During our discussion, we found out that Dan Schwab is more than just another face in the crowd; in fact, he’s a national champion.

Dan Schwab (center), pictured with his sons, Matt and Jaden, who are also weightlifters.

Dan Schwab (center), pictured with his sons, Matt and Jaden, who are also weightlifters.

Marion Press: How do you get to be this strong?
Dan: It takes a lot of time.
Matt: Years; it takes years.
Dan: A lot of years; lots of years. Mainly technique, you’ve always got to improve your technique – that’s why I always have videos. Some lifters – I’m friends with some on Facebook – they’ll give me some pointers and there’s little tricks that you can do. If you’re benching with your shoulders out, you want to cut down the distance; you want to bring your elbows in.
Jaden: I’m a high school sophomore right now, and in 5th grade I wanted to start benching, so he’s been teaching me for a long time now.

MP: What was it that got you started lifting weights?
Dan: Football. Playing at Marion was a lot of fun. Football’s a lot of fun.

MP: Did you have good teams? What position did you play?
Dan: In ’85 we went 8-1 and we lost to Beal City on a field goal that hit the goal post. And they did the playoffs differently, so we didn’t make the playoffs. And we went 6-3 the next year. We were decent.
I played fullback and linebacker. Back then I was maybe, at most, 140 pounds.
Some of my teammates were Bob Ryan, Tom Cutler, Todd Baker – he’s a coach for Cadillac. Scott Schepers. When I did the fundraiser for the powerlifting tournament, that’s where a majority of the people who donated money came from – the guys I played football with. They’d stop by, so that was pretty nice.

MP: When did you start taking weightlifting seriously?
Dan: Not very long ago. I always lifted. I worked out at the Cimmerian Gym, which Tom Skiver owned. I know he did – with a [bench] shirt – 700 pounds. And I was watching how they were doing stuff, so that helped me get stronger. At the time I was 150 pounds and I was lifting 300.
But it was only a few years ago when we decided to get serious. Matt and I were mainly battling each other through Facebook videos to see who could lift more, one-upping each other. And then my youngest son, Ryan, got involved. He has a state record too. That was a battle. Sometimes I’d have to send them old [videos] when I didn’t feel like working out!
And then we did some local tournaments. We did one at Ryno’s gym – that was a touch and go contest and I lifted 440 pounds there.

MP: How old are you?
Dan: 50.

MP: You’re 50 years old, lifting twice your body weight. How do you stay in shape?
Dan: I kinda still think I’m a kid, I guess. I don’t give up football – those trophies up there [in the living room] are from flag football. We had a flag football league and our team won some championships.
We didn’t do the league this year because we were busy with lifting, but we had done it every year since 2012.

MP: Are injuries something you have to deal with?
Dan: For me they are. I use a lot of bands; I’ll take a break for a while. Sometimes I’ll only work out once or twice a week until I’ll heal. My wrists will hurt every now and then. Sometimes you just have to switch it up.

MP: And diet has to be a big part of your life too, right?
Dan: Yeah, it is. Tons of protein and protein shakes. And there’s the unfortunate salads – it just depends on the weight we want to be at. Last August I got down to 179 – but I wasn’t feeling too well and I bombed out in that event.
We learned to weight cut from doing MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).

MP: MMA? Tell us about that.
Dan: I went into it because it was more like a bucket list event. I showed up, weighed in, and then someone was like, “Do you know how to get out of an armbar?” And I’m like: ‘What’s an armbar?’
I was just gonna stand up and fight. I won that fight, and then I went out into the parking lot and threw up!

MP: I’ve heard that’s not that uncommon!
Dan: And Matt did MMA, but he took a different route.
Matt: I did a little bit different route; I probably did six months of training before my first fight. I did 10 or 11 fights, so I did it for quite a while. I went 7-4, and at the time, my three boys were really young; I just didn’t have the time to do the training to get to the next level.

MP: So growing up in the Schwab family, has sports always been a big part of your lives?
Matt: Oh, definitely. It’s pretty much always been sports for us. He [Dan] played semi-pro football for the Northmen in Cadillac; I played semi-pro for Traverse City’s team. There’s always been something competitive going on. In high school – I went to school in Manton – I was more of a track runner. I did play football, but I was more of a runner.

MP: What was life like for you Dan, growing up in Marion in the ‘80s?
Dan: Well, there was 12 kids.

MP: 12 kids?!
Dan: We were never bored. We played a lot of football outside. We lived on Main Street most of the time, just by the funeral home – the big white house in between the funeral home and the VFW. I go to Marion every now and then; I’ll go to Old Fashioned Days, and drag my wife and kids there and tell them all the old stories: I used to do this, and I was here when this happened. I’ll tell them my stories over and over.
We just played football, baseball; just stuff in the back yard. Seven brothers and four sisters.

MP: That’s a whole football team! And now you have a family of powerlifters.
Dan: My wife Amy, and I have 8 kids combined. Matt, Ryan, Thomas, Jaden Barnard, Gaven Barnard, Corra Barnard, Sky, and Kylee.

MP: Who have been some of your role models over the years?
Dan: I would have to say my football coaches. That’s down from rocket football all the way up: Al Johnson, Greg Merrifield, Chris Jackson, Wayne Partica, Greg Mikulich, Tom Cutler. I think football has kept me out of trouble.
I just know that I have a lot of respect for all of them.

MP: What about you, Matt? Who have been your mentors?
Matt: The only one who sticks out really would probably be my track coach, Rick Swanson. I wouldn’t say that it was any one thing in particular – he didn’t say a lot – but he always had a really good plan and never got too high or too low, and that’s something I’ve carried with me in whatever I do. Just kind of stay even keel and you grind it out.
Dan: That’s the thing that you learn through your coaches. That’s what I’ve explained with Jaden through football – you learn a lot of things that you can take with you in life.

MP: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Dan: Being really old. Probably not lifting.

Dan and Matt will represent Team USA at the WPC World Championships in November.

Dan and Matt will represent Team USA at the WPC World Championships in November.

MP: You don’t see yourself still lifting?
Dan: I don’t know. I’ve been saying that for a while.
Matt: He’s been saying that for a while. You will see guys in their ‘60s and ‘70s lifting weights and breaking records.
Dan: You never know. It’s hard for me to give it up.
Matt: If I keep on doing it, he will.

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