COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Weightlifting today announced that Andy Coggins and Sara Soto have been elected, and Mario Dispenza reelected, to the USA Weightlifting Board of Directors. All three will begin their first full, four-year terms on Jan. 1, 2023.
USA Weightlifting President Paula Aranda’s eight-year tenure on the board (first as Independent, then At-Large Director) concludes at the end of this year. Serving as chair since March 2020, Aranda has played a key role in the organization’s international relations efforts, including the election of Ursula Garza Papandrea to International Weightlifting Federation 1st Vice President. Aranda is on the IWF Development and Education Commission and the Pan American Weightlifting Federation Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Commission.
“On behalf of the entire USA Weightlifting Board of Directors, we warmly welcome the winners of the recent elections to the board,” Aranda said. “We are elated at the increased participation in this election, and I’d like to remind all members that there are many opportunities to volunteer beyond just the board, including with our committees, commissions, councils and Weightlifting State Organizations, which all have various openings that regularly come up.
“It has been an honor and privilege to represent USAW over the last eight years. To reflect on how far we’ve come from when I first joined in 2014 to where we are at now in 2022 is incredible. Between growing the organization, increasing athlete support, increasing the status of USA Weightlifting in the international political arena and successfully leading the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot to be grateful for and I leave the organization in a better place than when I first joined. Many thanks to my supporters over the years, many who became like family to me. I wish the best to the next board and I hope the group will continue the difficult work to keep improving the organization at a governance level. I am lastly grateful for my fellow board members who have sacrificed countless hours for meetings, deliberations and phone calls. My success is directly attributed to the many strong board members I served alongside, who shared the same visions and goals of making this organization better every year.”
The USAW Board consists of 12 directors, two each for the following categories: At Large, Coach and Technical, Elite Athlete, Grassroots, Independent, National Team Athlete. Board members serve staggered terms, with elections for six of the roles occurring every two years. Elections will be held later this year among all athlete members for the two National Team Athlete Directors (one male, one female), at which time nominations for one Independent Director will also be received.
“My sincere appreciation goes out to everyone who ran for a board position, and congratulations to Sara, Andy and Mario for earning the trust of their fellow USA Weightlifting members,” said USA Weightlifting CEO Matt Sicchio, who began at the helm of the organization Oct. 10. “A special thank you to Paula Aranda for her tireless work serving and advocating for the sport, and leading the board during a period of growth, pandemic-related challenges and transition. I am excited to work with each of our current and incoming board members to build on the legacy Paula and others have established for our sport.”
Coggins, owner and club director of ALLSOUTH Barbell in Georgia, will serve alongside current board vice chair Jenny Schumacher as the Grassroots Directors. A USAW National Coach, Coggins has held positions on the Georgia Local Weightlifting Committee/WSO leadership for the past five years; he was also on the 2017 IWF World Championships organizing committee.
“I am honored to be voted onto the board and look forward to serving the weightlifting community over the next four years,” Coggins said. “We have a big challenge ahead of us as a sport, and I am excited to take it on with my fellow board members.”
The position Coggins will hold is currently filled by Jasha Faye. In addition to being an IWF Category 1 technical official and a USAW National Coach, Faye is the California North Central WSO president and the club director of Marin Heavy Athletics; he served the maximum two full terms, plus one partial term, on the board from 2013-2022.
Soto will join current board member Michael Choi as an At-Large Director. An athlete representative for the New York WSO, Soto has been competing in weightlifting since 2014 and has since elevated into the roles of IWF Category 2 technical official and USAW Level 2 coach.
“Thank you to the members of USA Weightlifting who voted in this very important election as we head into these next four years,” Soto said. “I am beyond elated to be a part of this board and feel strongly that I can offer a fresh perspective that truly represents the greater USAW membership. I do not take this responsibility lightly, and I will work hard to grow and improve the sport of weightlifting in the U.S.”
Dispenza will continue as Coach and Technical Director, a position he began on April 1, 2022, when elected for a partial term to fill a vacated seat, serving alongside alongside fellow Coach and Technical Director Sally Van de Water. The club director of OSS Weightlifting Club, Dispenza is an IWF Category 1 technical official and USAW National Coach.
“I’m honored by and grateful to USAW technical officials, coaches and club owners who have placed their trust in me to represent them and all of the membership on the USAW Board of Directors for the 2023-2027 term,” Dispenza said. “I will continue as a strong advocate for athletes and coaches in all divisions and for transparent, objective governance. It is a privilege to serve and give back.”