Thanks to the efforts of many people, most notably longtime Weightlifting Program Director Lynn Jolly, the "Cherokee Ironworks" weight training facility on the Washington High School Campus has evolved into a state-of-the-art weight room on par with the best of the best high schools and one that rivals those of many colleges.
Through the years, dedicated coaches and athletic directors at WHS have embraced the Cherokee Ironworks facility and have long encouraged Cherokee athletes to utilize the expansive weight room to increase their strength, agility, acceleration, and endurance for the many sports the Braves engage in.
Beginning with Jolly, who has monitored and made the weight room "his baby" since he arrived at WHS 32 years ago, the Cherokee Ironworks is what it is today because of the efforts of the Cherokee Booster Club, coaching staff, former ADs Leo Hupke and Paul Fuhrman, and current Activities Director Neil Phipps.
Many Cherokee businesses and individuals too many to mention also have contributed in some form or another to make the facility - a former National Guard Armory - a shining beacon of the Cherokee Braves athletic programs.
Today, nearly 150 students and athletes use Cherokee Ironworks on a daily basis, thanks to the continually improving facility that just recently underwent a $46,000 upgrade, including all new equipment, paint, signage, etc.
The Boosters originally contributed $20,000 to the project, but has upped that contribution with additional funding, the District contributed $10,000 that was formerly pledged for baseball/softball bleacher upgrades, and several businesses and individuals also have contributed.
"When I first arrived in 1978, the weight room was a small room off the boys lockeroom in the gym," noted Jolly in a recent interview. "The room was full with a 10-station Universal Machine. Each summer, we dismantled the machine and moved it to the stage that was in the gym and put it all back together.
"In 1980, I bought a 300-pound set of Olympic-style weights to start doing squats and cleans," explained Jolly, also the District's Industrial Arts Instructor, Drivers Education Instructor, and veteran track and field and football coach. "We built our own benches and squat racks from scrap bed frames and donated pipes from Peterson & Sons Plumbing. Eventually, we built two eight-foot squat racks and three adjustable incline and flat benches. We also built 11 plyometric jump boxes."
Jolly led the relocation of the weight room to another small room off the wrestling room about one year after the gym stage was removed in a remodeling project. Jolly and students laid down old bleacher planks and 3/4 inch plywood to protect the floor, and then covered the floor with recycled carpet to keep the dust down, and lined the walls with old mirrors.
"During the winter we were confined to that small room," explained Jolly. "The rest of the time, we expanded into the wrestling room for cleans and plyometrics.
In 1998, after 20 years of coping with such a make-shift facility and determined to keep doing what he could to improve the weight training situation he firmly believes in, Jolly, Leng, and Reynolds, and several WHS students and athletes moved Cherokee Ironworks into the armory during a summer full of painting and moving equipment and accessories. More benches and squat racks were purchased to help expand the room, and the WHS Art Club painted several colorful murals on the walls.
In 2005, former Braves football coach Tony Napierala helped expand the weight machines and the equipment in use at that time included four squat racks, four bench press benches, four incline benches, four glute/ham machines, three hip sleds, four leg curl extensions, and two sets of dumbbells five-pounds to 100-pounds.
In the summer of 2010, with Jolly and Phipps, also the Braves football coach, leading the remodeling project, and with proceeds from the Boosters and others, the new equipment included 10 squat racks, two glute/ham machines, two leg machines, two leg curl machines, two leg extensions, two sets of dumbbells from five to 100 pounds, two jammers, four dip benches, and four lat pull machines.
"When we first started, we would ask the athletes to come in before or after school on a volunteer basis," added Jolly. "After a long time, it was finally shown by the numbers we were getting to use the room that we could have an elective weight training class before school, for a grade. Then it was converted to a P.E. class."
Jolly explained that in 1985 he started the "Pay The Price" program for both boys and girls in an effort to reward the athletes for their hard work in the weight room and for their success for such hard work. The athletes were then tested every nine weeks in squat-clean-bench press and rewarded with a special T-shirt, White representing first level, Gold second level, and Black third and highest level.
"Lynn has been an invaluable fixture in our weight room for so long and for so many of our athletes - hundreds of them year in and year out," noted Phipps. "We can't thank the Boosters, businesses, and individuals who stepped up enough for what they did to make this dream a reality. Our new weight room is a great example of community support."
As he has conducted this labor of love for 32 years, Jolly opens the weight room at 6 a.m. every day and is there to help and counsel Cherokee student-athletes on their weight training regimen.
Only now, instead of peering into a tiny room with one Universal Machine, he is greeted by rows and rows of state-of-the-art weight training equipment in a spiffy, shiny new facility all made possible by the yeoman efforts and devotion of many - especially himself.
And what do those wall mirrors detect each time the respected, taciturn Jolly steps into the Cherokee Ironworks? A smile?
Well, just maybe.