Meet the York County police officer who now holds a world weightlifting record

DANTE GREEN
717-505-5418/@TaySean14
  • West York policeman Sean Hightman recently set a bench-press world record for his weight class.
  • The 179-pound Hightman bench-pressed 785 pounds at a state powerlifting event.
  • Hightman also won the Champion of Champions Award at the event after lifting 2,100 total pounds.
West York policeman Sean Hightman recently set a bench-press world record for his 179-pound weight class  with a lift of 785 pounds.

Sometimes it’s more about heart than it is about size.

See Sean Hightman, a West York police officer who's now also a world record-holder after he bench-pressed nearly 12 times his body weight.

"I didn’t think it was going to happen this time," he said. "My warmups went amazing though. Everything fell in place.”

Hightman won the Champion of Champions Award at the 2022 International Powerlifting Association Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships, held late last month at  York Barbell Company, after his recent bench press of 785 pounds.

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Only one lifter takes home the coveted Champions Award. That person is the best of the best lifters at the meet, spanning all divisions and subdivisions.

Weighing in at 179 pounds, Hightman lifted nearly 12 times his body weight with a 2,100-pound total for his three lifts. He also squatted 745 pounds and deadlifted 570 pounds, in addition to his 785-pound bench press, which set the world mark for his weight class.

A passion that started years ago carried Hightman through life. He’s grown accustomed to all that being a powerlifter means. He’s also balanced a job as a full-time police officer with his hours spent in the gym training.

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During the recent event, he faced off against lifters ranging from 12 to 80. Earning the Champion of Champions Award was a special achievement. Though it hasn’t fully hit him yet, the powerlifter was satisfied with how his hard work had paid off. 

“It’s a monumental achievement; it’s my first time,” Hightman said. “I knew I was close to setting a record."

West York policeman Sean Hightman performs a squat lift.

Hightman wasn’t an overnight success.

A standout wrestler at Northeastern High School and at York College, the 35-year-old Hightman spent years perfecting his craft. It started when he was in 10th grade and only 98 pounds. 

He stood just 5 feet, 3 inches tall and was looking for a hobby. His mother took him to a gym called Chaillet’s Private Fitness. There he met trainers Mark and Ellen Chaillet.

They would help mold and shape Hightman over the next few years of his life. They taught him how to properly lift, as they had done for many others over the years. But they also recognized Hightman might have a drive that most don’t.

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“Sean has been coming here to the gym for a while and is a great athlete and a great wrestler,” Ellen Chaillet said. “I've watched him get stronger and rise to the top. He’s one of the best that we have.”

Hightman enjoyed watching others older than him lift and was amazed at the amount of weight they could handle. He worked hard at becoming stronger and won district wrestling medals in high school, while also qualifying for regionals. But it was in college where his focus shifted to lifting and his powerlifting began to take shape.

West York policeman Sean Hightman recently won the Champion of Champions Award at  2022 International Powerlifting Association Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships.

A few years ago, he met Jeff McVicar, the former powerlifter and bench-presser who would help take his bench press to a new level. McVicar taught Hightman various techniques and how to approach the bench press.

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Those lessons have done wonders for his bench press and made Hightman into a better powerlifter. McVicar taught him how to handle carrying weight under extreme pressure  and also how to work with different types of equipment, including belts and shirts for pressing. 

“He doesn’t question anything. He just knows my background as a professional powerlifter, and he just does as he is told,” McVicar said. “He has the ability to be an excellent student. He wants to learn, and he is willing to try about anything.”

West York policeman Sean Hightman performs a bench-press lift.

Hightman has added 80 pounds since high school on his 5-3 frame and grown into one of the stronger powerlifters in the state.

His recent achievement only made him want to get better. 

“Very few people can say they achieved that,” he said. “It makes me more motivated to keep pushing myself and make the number higher.”

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Hightman doesn’t do it just because it’s a way to get bigger and stronger but because of how it fuels his competitive nature. 

“I enjoy the competition, and I enjoy pushing myself,” he said. “I want to be the best. If I am putting my time into something, I want people to see the hard work is paying off.”

West York Borough Patrolman Sean Hightman tests a sample of marijuana headed for destruction, Monday, January 16, 2017. The Borough is considering a decriminalization ordinance.  John A. Pavoncello photo

In some ways, powerlifting has helped in Hightman’s job as a police officer.  

“I am not a big guy, but it gives me an advantage of controlling someone a lot larger than me if I have to,” he said. 

Despite his height and relative lack of notoriety in powerlifting, the West York police officer achieved much and impressed those around. 

“He’s really reliable. He’s humble and just works hard,” said Ellen Chaillet, another of Hightman's trainers. “Nice guy and always offering to help someone else out with their workouts. He’s always in the gym, too.”

Officer Sean Hightman of the West York Borough Police Department and volunteer Nichole Young carry toys for Elijah Barnes, 7 during the Shop With A Cop event at Target, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2015.  (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

McVicar is expecting more things to come for his trainee. 

“He’s going to break more records,” McVicar said. “He’s going to be one of the best. Look out for Sean Hightman.”

— Reach Dante Green at dgreen@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.