Unequivocally, nationals this year was far and away the largest production ever undertaken by USA Powerlifting. This was not just due to the fact that it exceeded the overall lifter capacity at the meet by an additional 50 lifters (1147 entries in 2015 to 1197 competitors this year), but that it incorporated both the elements and logistical nightmares associated with conducting an expo sized event, but also the intricate details involved with the production value normally reserved for events like the Arnold Sports Festival. The week truly became a festival of strength, attracting thousands of fans around the world (yes, we had athletes that flew in from Europe just to be at this event). Team Rohr put on a magnificent event by anybody’s standards.
There was a lot that went on during the week and this article would quickly turn into a novel if I tried to mention every magical moment over the course of the four day meet, so my team and I discussed what we thought were the top five hilights of the event. Without further ado, here they are:
#5. Dennis Cornelius’ Performance
Those of you who have been paying attention to social media know that Dennis came to nationals to play and that, although he didn’t have any desire to compete in Belarus in 2017, he opted to come in heavy (he weighed in at 124.5kg / 274.4lbs) and see what he could do. He didn’t disappoint. He started off with an absolutely ridiculous 392.5kg / 865lbs raw squat that, under the old weight class system, would have obliterated any record out there. I actually think he surprised himself with how easy it was when he stood it up, looking incredulous that he hadn’t put more weight on the bar. We’ll see him become the lightest man to raw squat 400kg soon.
#4. Jennifer Millican Wins Best Lifter
In the days leading up to the national championships, Josh Rohr made a bold prediction that Jennifer would win the women’s 57kg class. What I don’t think anybody could have called was that she would take the overall. She won over 2nd place, 63kg multiple-time world champion and legend, Jennifer Thompson by a margin of 1.4 Wilks points. Thompson, who set another unofficial world record with another absolutely ridiculous 142kg raw benchpress, went nine for nine on her lifts and was just 9kg short of her lifetime best total of 486kg. She put on an amazing performance and this makes Millican’s win that much more incredible. Setting American records in the squat and total, she will be a force to be reckoned with in Belarus as her total from this meet would have put her first on the podium in Killeen over Russia’s Inna Filimonova by 1kg.
#3. Jennifer Thompson’s Unofficial World Record Bench
#2. The David Ricks versus Jesse Norris Showdown
Coming into this meet, I think most people expected Jesse to walk in and clean up. This was so far from what happened, as he nearly lost to multi-time IPF World Champion and Masters 2, 57 year old, lifter David Ricks who had the meet of a lifetime. It made for one of the most memorable and exciting shows in powerlifting history.
Ricks finished his third squat with an absolutely epic 320kg / 705lbs squat, which for anybody is a huge deal let alone a lifter approaching 60 years old. This is 10kg over his 310kg open world record set in Killeen this year. Norris missed his third attempt, being called for depth by the two side judges, of 345kg / 750lbs which would have been an unofficial world record. This simply proves the point that, making attempts in competition is infinitely more important than setting PRs or records (let that be a lesson to you new lifters). If Norris had made a slightly lower attempt, this portion of the article might not have existed except to say that Legend Dave Ricks squatted 705 at 57 years old.
Norris went into bench, a lift he has been struggling with as of late due to a shoulder injury sustained at a recent strongman competition, with just a 17.5kg lead over Ricks. Norris’ second bench of 160kg was far off his meet best of 199.6kg and he missed his third attempt of 167.5kg opening the door for Ricks to take the lead by 7.5kg with an incredible 202.5kg third attempt that looked easy, again proving the point that making lifts in competition is absolutely essential.
Going into deadlift, Ricks’ weakest lift, he opened with a smooth 600lbs to Norris’ 330kg pull which looked relatively easy. Both men missed their 2nd attempts of 290kg and 350kg respectively being red-lighted on lockouts. Ricks took the lead on his third with an absolutely massive 307.5kg pull for the win putting a ton of pressure on Norris to pull his 2nd attempt again. In dramatic style, Norris pulled it off, however, and earned his first place podium finish.
Moral of the story: hitting lifts >>>>> hitting PRs or setting records. As Matt Gary has said, “You can set PRs anytime in the gym, but you only get to be a champion once.”
#1. Ray Williams
@optimusprime_334 made history yesterday and solidified his place as the #strongest #powerlifter of all time with this 1079kg / 2379lbs total wearing a belt and knee sleeves on the final session of @usapowerlifting #rawnationals2016. #usapl #ipf #9for9 #usapowerlifting #squat #benchpress #deadlift
When all was said and done, this man made all nine attempts, re-setting every record in the process (save bench press which was still 240kg by itself), and pulling off a feat probably nobody thought was possible by a human without the assistance of lifting equipment. From here we will truly get to see what is possible as I predict Ray to eventually squat close to 500kg raw and deadlift over 400kg in the same meet.
There were many, many more epic moments at the meet. Which, not mentioned above were your favorites?