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.

@denniscornelius500 crushed his third #squat of 392.5kg / 865lbs weighing in at just 124.5kg / 274lbs at @usapowerlifting #rawnationals2016. Check it out. #usapowerlifting #usapl #9for9 #strong
@denniscornelius500 crushed his third #squat of 392.5kg / 865lbs weighing in at just 124.5kg / 274lbs at @usapowerlifting #rawnationals2016. Check it out. #usapowerlifting #usapl #9for9 #strong
He followed it up with a 255kg bench press and missed an attempt at 262.5kg. I’m calling it now. We will probably see Dennis press 600lbs raw at 264lbs bodyweight down the road. Lastly, his deadlift has made steady improvement, being his weakest lift, pulling 744lbs on his second attempt. This put him on a PR total of 985kg. In addition to his ridiculous squat and bench, we will likely see him become the lightest man in history to total 1000kg raw. He placed 2nd only to Ray Williams at this competition with a 561 Wilks, pretty incredible considering he weighs more than 120lbs less than Williams.

#4. Jennifer Millican Wins Best Lifter

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

Jennifer Thompson's Unofficial World Record Bench
Having missed 142kg in competition at the USA Powerlifting bench press championships twice just a few weekends prior to this competition, Jennifer Thompson is something of a huge anomaly when it comes to bench press. She defies all logic when we talk about range of motion and she doesn’t exactly sport the muscle mass of an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder, yet she is the greatest bencher to ever live. She benches more than probably 99% of men her size weighing just 134lbs and at 44 years old. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s incredible to watch her lift every time and she always delivers. This performance was no exception to that and it’s easy to classify this particular press as #3 on this list.

#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

What more can be said? Well, this isn’t just about his ridiculous, historic 1005lbs raw squat, but his overall performance and his unofficial world-record deadlift of 844lbs and his incredible total of 2379lbs wearing only a belt and knee sleeves. Ray Williams is well on his way to becoming the greatest raw powerlifter of our time. As soon as it happened, his squat video alone was viewed millions of times around the world going truly viral in a very short amount of time. Crazier is the fact that he likely had another 10-15kg in the tank, he practically buried it on depth, and the lift came up very, very smoothly.

@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?