A bizarre pick by The Swami? Perhaps. But, in checking out Bill Comstock's pics on www.graphicmuscle.com of the dude from the Junior Nationals, and hearing the superlatives from the likes of noted lens man Chris (Don't call me Benny Hill) Lund, I'm going with the 25-year-old Denver, Colorado resident to reign supreme in 'Vegas.
I have to admit, I was quite impressed when Jay Cutler sent me some pics of the kid prior to the Junior Nationals. Jay said the 5'9" Heath played Division One basketball (still trying to find out where, when) and could dunk. Judging by the photos, I felt he could dunk the field at the Juniors. If you haven't noticed, it was a slam-dunk.
Heath listed himself at 214 pounds when he sent Comstock his stats; I presume he'll be a bit heavier when he hits the Artemus Ham Auditorium stage at the Friday night prejudging. He's got the goods, no question; Health is the first bodybuilder to come out of the amateur ranks in a long time that can be a major player at the next level right off the bat-the 'Olympia included. Check out this cat's guns. And his delts. And his calves.
Definitely the next American Idol. Now, holding that look from the Juniors-or coming in even better-is the trick. The
Chicago event was a month ago, and holding on six weeks ain't easy. Hell, some can't even hold on three days for photo shoots.
And, the prodigy won't be facing Junior National level opponents, either. In last season's Heavyweight class - won by World Harris - Markus Haley was second, Faramarz Aghazadeh third. Haley moved up a division at the Nationals (where he placed second behind Overall champ Chris Cook) and I imagine he'll be doing the same next week.
Haley's Comet has to be the favorite in the supers. Faramarz, from Novato, California, is an outstanding bodybuilder and no one would have complained if he won this class a year ago. If Heath does makes good on my prediction, he'll have to plow through Aghazadeh to get there.
Will Jerome (Hollywood) Ferguson go Superheavy again, like he did at the Nationals (where he finished fourth) or will the symmetrical one drop down a class and do battle with Heath, Faramarz and company? I say Hollywood glitters the most as a Heavyweight; isn't thick enough to battle the bigger guys, and if he goes much above his 225 pounds of last year, will lose the sharpness necessary to battle for the title.
On the subject of the USA, 325 competitors had signed on the dotted line (as in entry forms) as of July 18-125 men, 40 women bodybuilders and 160 in figure - making it the largest USA in history. The reason?
Figure is being held for the first time at the USA and the winners of the six height classes will turn pro. Judges, you have my best wishes going into this long weekend. See you at Starbucks.
So, who do I like in some of the other classes? Well, Randall Chaney looked supreme last year in taking second to Overall champ
Mark Dugdale, and could win the Lightheavyweight crown. And, fellow Floridian Nathan Wonsley was right behind Randall.
The Middleweights, as always, will probably be the most competitive division in the contest. Homeboy Garrett Allin, at 40 years of age, showed up in his all-time best shape a year ago to upset
Eryk Bui and the gang. However, Allen will not be in the line-up again this season, concentrating instead on November's Nationals in Atlanta.
I'm going with Jorge "Chic" Betancourt to take this class, although Sam Bakhtiar has personally told me I will be announcing his name, not Chic's, when I call out the winner of the class at Saturday night's finals. Sam, third last year in the class to Betancourt's fourth, was upset when he found out I put a friendly lunch on the line with Bui on this year's clash between Sam and Jorge.
So bothered, in fact, that he forced me to watch him hit a few poses in the pump up room prior to the California State Championships a couple of months back. Hey, have to admit Sam was the man when it comes to thickness. He was impressive, especially that far out.
But, Jorge has the classic lines, the symmetry that made him the fastest rising star in the NPC over a decade back before he went into premature retirement.
If you remember correctly, Betancourt, at but 19 years of age, won the Overall at the Southern States in 1991, besting future pro champ
Michael Francois in the process.
Frank Zane, if you will. I'd give ya some predictions in the female bodybuilding department while I'm at it, but have no idea, for the most part, on who's in, who's out.
Okay, since you won't take an "I don't know" for an answer, Yamille Marrero, Jayne Treka, Chris Sabo and Debbie Bramwell will all be in the hunt for a pro card.
Say what? I HAVE to give you some names in the figure division, too? In the very first year of existence? Well, how about Simona Douglas,
Alexis Ellis, Zhanna Rotar, Lisa Balash and Danielle Hollenshade? And, if I happen to be correct with any of these blind picks, make sure to write back and congratulate me for such expertise.
It's going to be hotter than hell in 'Vegas, both on and off the stage. See ya there-and bring me a towel and a beverage while you're at it.