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2002 Amateur Strongman Nationals

I competed in the North American Strongman Society's (NASS) North America's Strongest Man competition. It was the national championship for amateur strongmen and it was held in St. Louis, MO. Weight classes went from 175lbs to Super heavyweight (300+lbs).

On October 5th of this year, I competed in the North American Strongman Society's (NASS) North America's Strongest Man competition. It was the national championship for amateur strongmen and it was held in St. Louis, MO. Weight classes went from 175lbs to Super heavyweight (300+lbs). These weight classes were then divided into 2 divisions: Lightweight (175-225lbs) and Heavyweight (226+lbs). I competed in the 300lb class, weighing in at 298lbs.

Getting My Pro-card!

Consequently, I was then scored amongst those in the 300lb weight class as well as amongst all the heavyweights. Not only were trophies and bragging rights involved, but the overall heavyweight winner would receive their IFSA-USA pro-card. (You can read more about the IFSA-USA at There were 9 men in the 300lb class (including me) as well as 39 total in the heavyweight class all competing for first place and their pro-card.

I qualified to compete at Nationals by winning the Northwest Superseries and with permission from Willie Wessels (NASS President). After deciding I would compete, I go the list of events off the NASS website ( and started my preparation. My last competition before Nationals was in July. I took a week off of training and starting training the following weeks for the specific events I'd be doing in St. Louis. This would be my 5th competition of the year so I wasn't as nervous, more excited to be amongst the best amateur in the U.S.

The Events Included:

Yoke Carry/Tire Flip
This event required each competitor to pick up and carry a 700lb yoke 50' then turn and flip a 600lb tire 50' back to the starting point.

Deadlift For Reps
The second event required each competitor to deadlift 500lbs as many times as possible in 60 seconds. (Deadlift suits and wrist straps were allowed.)

Apollan Axle For Reps
The third event required each competitor to clean a 2" non-revolving bar weighing 240lbs from the floor once and press it as many times as possible over their head in 60 seconds.

The fourth event required each competitor to pick up and carry 2 kegs weighing 250lbs each, one at a time, 50' and load them onto a 4' platform. The competitor would then drag a sled backwards, back to the starting point, weighing 500lbs. This was done for the fastest time.

Conan's Wheel
The fifth and final event required each competitor to lift a 4" pipe in the crease of their elbow and walk in a circle as far as possible without setting the apparatus down. It weighed 550lbs.

I trained for the competition by breaking the events down and analyzing lifts in the gym that would mimic muscles/movements involved in each of the events. With the help of Todd Ophiem (, I got a workout put together that resembled:

Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Heavy Incline Bench
DB or Machine Shoulder Presses
Lying BB Triceps Extensions
Hammer Curls.
Shuttle runs and sprints
Light abs and stretching
Machine or BB Shrugs
Lat Pull Downs
DB Rows
Ab work
Eat and sleep
Train 4 of the events
(all except the Deadlift)
Focusing on my weakest event,
the Axle Press.

(I had about 6 weeks to train specifically for the competition, so Todd and I set up a periodized program that would peak me for the October 5th competition.)

Training went very well and the week before I took 4-5 days off, knowing I was as prepared as I could be for Nationals. My workout partner, Heath Otto and I traveled to St. Louis the Thursday and Friday before and met up with all the other competitors Friday night at the weigh-in and rules meeting. A bunch of us also went to dinner, what a blast!

October 5th…the day of battle. After a good night's sleep, we chowed down on a big breakfast then went out and watched the lightweights compete. After watching our buddies Scott Hughes and Shane Neal (both from Washington) compete as well as Mark Wechter (Oregon) kick some butt, we headed back in for final preparations for the competition. I was a little nervous at this point, there were some big dudes out there I didn't want to get totally crushed after traveling all this way. On to the first event:

After some light jogging, stretching and warming up on the lightened Super Yoke, they announced the order of the first event and we were ready to go. Again, the first event was the Yoke Carry/Tire Flip. It was a heavy, tough event to start with and you had to be ready for that massive weight to be on your back when the whistle blew!

That's me on the left (white shirt/blue shorts) carrying 700lbs before flipping the tire.

This is me flipping the 600lb tire, what a heavy way to start the day! I was a little slow on the yoke portion, but made up a lot of time with fast flips and a quick 50'.

I finished this event in 33.6 seconds, placing me 4th in my weight class and around 9th overall in the heavyweight division. That time was a PR (personal record) for me though, so I was very happy with my performance and was ready for the next event. The Deadlift for reps was next. Everyone was putting on deadlift suits and straps to assist them with grip, I opted to just put baby powder all over my thighs and a ton of chalk on my hands. Deadlift suits work well for me if I'm doing a heavy single, but in a rep test scenario, they don't help me that much and actually throw me off balance a little. There were 4 competitors going at a time for this event, so it was moving very fast. My name was called and I was ready to give it everything I had.

One competitor got 16 reps, one got 14 and 3 of us (including me) all tied for 3rd place overall with 13 reps. I was pumped since my best training set with 500 was 11 reps, so to get 13 and a high placing really pumped me up. However, I had to cover my back with Biofreeze as it was starting to tighten up after 2 events that can just trash your back.

The next event was the Carry/Load/Drag. I do not have any pictures of this. But because of my performance at the Deadlift event, I got to go towards the end of the group in this event. This was a speed event, which is good for me and I can make up points at events requiring movement and speed. When the whistle blew, I lifted the first keg and it's weight startled me. I wasn't ready for one that heavy and I dropped it. I snatched it off the pavement and continued running with it. I tossed it on the platform and sprinted back as fast as possible for the next one. It felt lighter and I was making up time. After placing it on the box, I grabbed the handle of the sled and took off with it. It was a photo finish between my and another competitor (Dave O.). I finished this event in 34.13 seconds placing me 3rd in my weight class and 3rd overall. (I missed 2nd place in this event by less than 2 tenths of a second!)

The next event was the Axle Press. Now, you may think 240lbs isn't that much for a National Championship competition, but remember that it's on a 2" bar, that doesn't revolve. Most bars you see in the gym, the ends turn making it easier to move/lift the weights. The Appolons Axle is not like that. It is like a solid, 2" pipe that's about 7' long. It is very tough to grip, clean and press. I had practiced this event for hours, so I hoped it would all pay off. Because the competition was moving so fast and there were so many competitors, warm up was minimal. I was placed in front of a judge and I grasped the thick bar ready to rip from the ground. ON the whistle, I lifted it to my thighs and cleaned it without a problem.

Here I am about to clean the Axle weighing 240lbs. As you can see in the background, there were 4 competitors going at a time. The Competitor in the red shirt is doing what's called a "continental clean" where you lift it to your belt, rest it there, then clean and drop under it.

My first press felt very light and I got into a rhythm of pressing it one time after another. My goal was to hit 10 reps, and I'd hit that in training 2 weeks before. I hit 10 and Heath yelled "KEEP GOING" I hit another 3 reps and dropped the bar. (The rules stated that you cannot drop the bar, you had to set it down under control, so I was deducted one rep.) I ended up with 12 reps placing me 2nd in my weight class and tied for 2nd overall all. One guy got 16 reps while 4 heavyweights got 12 reps.

Here I am waiting for the "Down" signal from my judge. You had to have your feet parallel, elbows locked and head under the bar.

The final event of the day was the Conans Wheel. While this event is usually better for taller competitors, I had only performed this once before in competition and even though I'd practiced it as much as I could, I was getting tired and my back was getting sore already. I went 3rd to last in this event so I knew exactly how far I would have to walk with 550lbs tugging down on my arms, back and shoulders. After lifting it, I walked 109' 4". It was a PR for me, but placed me 4th in my weight class and 8th overall.

That was it. The day was over. I had hit 3 PRs and got out of another heavy competition injury-free. My hard work and heavy training had paid off, and I ended up placing 2nd in my weight class and 2nd overall in the heavyweight division. The only guy that beat me, Nick Cortad won the overall and got his pro-card. It was a great day, a terrific show (run mainly by Willie and Dione Wessels) and everyone had a blast. At the award banquet that night, I was given my 2nd place trophy (which is huge!) and had a blast hanging out with all my friends/peers in the sport.

A Special Thanks To:

  • Dr. Corey Matthews of Idaho Chiropractic Group for helping me with my trip to St. Louis
  • Ryan Deluca and the crew at for the Powerbars I chewed on in between events
  • Mike Schiefelbein at EAS for all his support of me and the sport of Strongman over the years
  • Jesse Marunde for the never ending coaching/support he always gives me with my training-Good Luck in your quest for the World's Strongest Man title
  • Karla and Ulf Plath for the GREAT pictures you guys took of me and all the other competitors busting our butts out there. Great competition Ulf! It's tough to be 6'4", I don't know how you do it being 8' tall (or however tall you are) You can see Ulf in the background of a few of my Deadlift pics wearing a yellow shirt
  • My workout partner Heath for never letting me take "go easy" and always pushing me
  • Willie and Dione Wessels for making amateur strongman and NASS great
  • Jesse Marunde, Chad Coy, Nick Osborne, Chad Smith, Brian Holt and all the other judges and volunteers that made this competition a joy to be a part of…

Good luck, train hard and if you're interested in getting involved in the sport of Strongman email me at or go to the NASS website for information on competitions in your area. If you've always wanted to compete, GO DO IT! Quit talking about how you want to do it, go do one and you'll be hooked!

Please feel free to email me with any questions! Keep training hard!

Train hard!