Who Will Win The Overall?
The overall winner of this season's Nationals will be anyone's guess, as there are no open favorites predicted to walk away with the title, although there will be plenty of spectacular muscle on display courtesy of perennial competitors super-heavyweight, Jerome Ferguson, heavyweight Lionel Brown, and newcomer, and 2006 Junior Nationals winner, Evan Centopani.
With military muscle giant Leo Ingram out of the picture — he won the recent North American Champs to qualify as a professional and would have stood a great chance of winning the Nationals — the next biggest, most complete athlete onstage is thought to be Lionel Brown.
However, it will not be easy going for him, as strong challenges will be coming in the form of the symmetrically pleasing and massively muscled Jerome Ferguson, who might already have achieved pro status had he not missed his peak at the USA's in July, and Evan Centopani who has one of the most impressive upper body's around, but might lack the leg muscularity to match the top dogs.
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Evan Centopani, 2006 Junior Nationals Overall Winner.
Photo Courtesy Of Graphic Muscle (photographer: Bill Comstock)
It is also expected that he of the amazing legs, Rudy Richards, and 6', 250-pound-plus Desmond Miller, who placed third and fourth respectively at last season's Nationals, will cause some trouble among the top guys.
Jerome Ferguson has said that he will be ready to win this year's Nationals with several major improvements he has made to his physique since his disappointing loss at the USA's.
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"There is no one that is close and I will be the most complete athlete on the Nationals stage," he said. This being his last amateur show, it will be all on the line for him.
Go here for Jerome's hot-off-the-press Pre-Nationals Interview.
Also of interest, in the heavyweight division, will be training partner to Ronnie Coleman, Gus Carter, who placed eighth last year and has over the years steadily improved, along with frontrunners Shawn Crump and Darrel Terrell. As with previous Nationals competitions, the overall, and new professional, will likely come from the heavyweight or super-heavyweight divisions. The question on everyone's mind is, "Just who will have the edge on the day?"
Others Sure To Impress...
In the light-heavyweight division there are not too many familiar names, save last season's third place USA finisher Manuel Torres, Mr. Consistency himself, Stan McQuay and USA light heavy winner Randall Cheney.
Perhaps not possessing the sheer size of last year's light heavyweight champion, Charles "Stingray" Arde, the ever-popular Stan McQuay is sure to impress with his balanced mass and may even sneak ahead Randall for the light-heavyweight crown should he bring a few more kilos of size to battle the typically shorter, more-powerfully-built light-heavyweight boys.
As good as Stan may be though, the possibility of him, or whoever else wins the light-heavyweight division, winning the overall and turning pro is highly unlikely given that this honour is usually exclusively granted to the 200-plus athletes in the heavy or super-heavy classes.
Again, the light heavies are wide open and will be hard to pick. Look for Randall, based on his great form at the USA's to win, followed by Stan if he can bring the shape he is known for along with a few additional pounds.
It is predicted that 41-year-old Garrett Allin will take this division based on his second place finish at last year's Nationals. However, thickly muscled Jesse Duque, who placed fourth at the same event, might have something to say about this if he can bring the right conditioning.
Also of interest will be long-time competitor, Jorge Betancourt who never fails to impress with his great shape and conditioning.
The 31-year-old, 5.5, Abiu Feliz is my pick to take out the welterweights based on his amazing conditioning and deceptive size, along with one of the best V-tapers shown onstage at last year's event.
Musclemag contributing chef, Carlo Fillippone, is likely to place second, although he will be pushed hard by several top competitors, Robert E. Lee, who moves up a class from lightweight, being noteworthy among them.
One of the hardest classes to pick, as many of these competitors are an unknown quantity, the winner for me would have to be Dave Candy who placed second in the bantamweight division at last year's event. Dave has a proven record of coming in shape and does present an excellent package, complete with terrific biceps peak and shredded glutes.
The bantamweight winner will probably be decided between Fernando Abaco and Rafael Campuzano. Coming third and fifth respectively (fourth placed George Gibson is out this year and second finisher Dave Candy has moved up a class) at last year's event, Fernando and Rafael are likely to dominate the field, but if either of these men come even slightly off it could be anyone's title.
Once again the Nationals overall winner will probably be decided between the heavy and super-heavyweight boys. My pick is Jerome Ferguson to take the title, as pro status is long overdue for him and due to his unsurpassed shape (for such a big man at the amateur level) and great size he would be an asset to the pro division.
He will, however, be pushed hard by Lionel Brown, who is also picked by many as the IFBB's next pro. Whatever the case, the Nationals will prove to be an exciting event and will, once again, showcase the best amateur bodybuilders in the world.