Wouldn't you love to know how Evan Centopani felt when, but with only two contests under his competitive belt, the 24-year-old was tabbed to win it all at this season's Nationals by the notoriously precise Swami in the News and Views section in December's IRON MAN Magazine?
I would. So, I called him and asked. Naturally, Evan was overwhelmed by the prestigious prognostication. "I was blown away," gushed the Trumbull, Connecticut resident. "It has given me a lot of encouragement-and at the same time puts a little fire under my @ss. I thought I'd be coming out of nowhere, but now I guess I won't be."
Click Image To Enlarge.
Evan Centopani, 2006 Junior Nationals Overall Winner.
Photo Courtesy Of Graphic Muscle (photographer: Bill Comstock)
A long way from nowhere, I'd say. Centopani copped the Heavyweight and Overall crowns in his flexing debut at the 2005 Atlantic States, when he carried 225 pounds of muscle on his 5'11" frame.
This past June, with 12 more pounds of beef added to the package, Evan flew into Chicago to take on the field at the Junior Nationals and returned home three days later with the class and Overall trophies in hand. A cover shot on Muscular Development Magazine followed shortly after.
This is the second time in two years the Swami has picked a relative newcomer to win a pro qualifying event without ever seeing the competitor in person. After viewing pics of Phil Heath from the 2005 Junior Nationals, the industry's number one prognosticator envisioned "The Gift" would bag the top souvenir at the USA. As we all know by now, Phil was a thrill at that one with a unanimous victory.
I have to admit I like what I've seen of Centopani's photos, but I liked him even more when I found out he has a job. A full-time job. And no, he's not a personal trainer. He's a title searcher for a local law firm/title insurance company. See, the dude has only "title" on his mind day and night.
But, as the Swami points out, a Centopani victory will not come easy. Evan definitely needs to bring up his wheels, and Desmond Miller impressed a lot of people-including Centopani--with a disputed fourth place finish last year. The dense (as in muscle, gang) New Yorker is definitely a threat for the crown.
"I went to Atlanta to see the Nationals, and Miller looked great," Centopani says. "I don't know why he didn't finisher higher." Well, he was only three points behind second place finisher Leo Ingram (who won this year's North American), so Desmond definitely gave notice it could be Miller time at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in a few days.
Hollywood & Broadway
Others to keep an eye on in the Super heavyweight class are Jerome (Hollywood) Ferguson and James (Broadway) Bivens. Jerome went into last July's USA as one of the faves, but finished a disappointing fifth and says he won't miss his peak again.
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| Training W/ Jerome Fergusson!
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My question is, will he use "Who Let the Dogs Out" in his posing routine again? Actually, I enjoy it each and every time, so I'll give Jerome the thumbs up for another encore. Bivens, at 6'3" and 280 pounds, was fifth last year, but only four points out of second, and won't have to worry about any plane trips or foreign hotel rooms since Broadway calls Miami Beach home.
I say Lionel (The L Train) Brown will bounce back from his controversial second place finish at the USA and move at full throttle in South Beach to take the Heavyweight division-and battle Centopani for the Overall crown.
That is, if he can beat Darrell Terrell, Shaun (Ain't No Chump) Crump, Jeff Schwartzer and a couple of other top-flight contenders. Terrell and Crump have divinely balanced physiques and could slow down the train if Lionel isn't spot on.
Schwartzer, one of the pre-contest favorites in last year's event, slipped to 11th when his weight slipped all the way down to 204, and the fella with perhaps the best quads in the NPC vows to be right back in the hunt this time around.
"I am around 223 right now and will be about 215-218 at the show," said Schwartzer, who is setting dead aim on winning my Comeback Bodybuilder of the Year award, not to mention a pro card.
Stan (The Man) McQuay has been close many times in the Middleweight class, but swears this will be the year he definitely moves up one division. Now, if I could have anybody's physique in the entire field, McQuay might be my pick (actually, just about anybody's bod will do), but does he have enough beef to do justice in the 198 pound and under category?
| Training with Stan McQuay and Prolab!
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If Randall Cheney, coming off his win in the LH class at the USA, competes at the Nationals he will be hard to beat. I've heard different stories on Cheney's plans, but another guy I like in the class is former California State champ (and fourth place finisher in '05) David Truly.
Forty-one-year-old Garrett Allin has finally come out of his shell shocked state from last season's event-remember when he unanimously led the field in the Middleweight class after the Friday night prejudging, only to be pushed out of the top slot at the Finals by Tricky Jackson (?) - and is a good bet to take the crown in Florida and earn that pro card he thought was his in Atlanta. Hey, better late than never, Garrett.
Does Jose Raymond return in the Welterweight division? If so, the class is his. If Raymond sits this one out, look for a battle between Abiu Feliz and Carlo (The Chef) Filippone.
In the Lightweight class, the Swami sees the General, Robert E. Lee, leading the troops in the division. Lee, a sometimes-training partner of a cat named Ronnie Coleman in Arlington, Texas, is a hairdresser by trade and hopes to do some "permanent" damage in Florida.
I love sweets, so I have to go with Dandy David Candy in the Bantamweight class. A former Teen, Collegiate and Junior Nationals class winner, Candy was second at the Nationals a year and should move up one slot this time around.
Unlike the past few Nationals, where a solid favorite led the pack, this looks to be one of the most wide-open shows in years. The pressure's on, Swami.