The week of lifting at 2017’s Raw Nationals in Orlando, Florida, is finally past us, and there was a whole host of world class lifting that occurred. Here at 9for9 Media, we’ve sat down and put together a list of what we think were the top 10 most exciting moments at the Raw Nationals.

#10. Taylor Atwood’s flawless performance (and hair)

At the World’s this year, Taylor Atwood took home the silver medal for the second year in a row. On the road to doing so he squatted 265.5kg, a world record for a brief time, and totaled 733kg, which would have been a world record if it weren’t for Kjell Bakkelund, who totaled 757kg to win gold. Watching this battle, it seemed impossible that Taylor would ever be able to catch up to Kjell, who shocked the raw scene with his immense strength after many years of competing equipped. However, at this years’ Raw Nationals, Taylor showed he means business, and could potentially beat Kjell’s world record total in the near future. Taylor went 9 for 9, squatting 262.5kg, 3kg below his best but moving at considerable speed, benching 192.5kg, a 2.5kg PB for him, and deadlifting 295kg, a 5kg PB. All this put together gave an immense 750kg total, only 7kg off the world record. What’s scary is he looked like he had a decent amount of weight left in the tank for squat and deadlift too. What’s even scarier, is that his perfectly styled hair remained voluminous and sleek the entire time.

#9. Amanda Lawrence beating Daniella Melo’s world record squat

Before the prime-time lifting of the 84kg class had even begun, Amanda Lawrence had already caused a stir in the morning session. This newcomer has only been competing since last year, and this was her first Raw Nationals. After opening with 192.5kg and hitting 202.5kg on her second attempt squat, she went on to smash 207kg, unofficially chipping Daniella Melo’s open world record squat from IPF World’s earlier this year. Amanda went on to bench 85kg and deadlift 192.5kg for a 484.5kg total, placing fourth in the 84’s after the day was done. In the prime-session, Daniella attempted to beat Amanda’s now American record with 207.5kg on her third attempt, a lift which she had already hit in the gym a few weeks ago. Unfortunately for her, she stumbled on the way up and therefore was given red lights, but it will be exciting to watch these two young 84kg lifters toss the American and world record squat back and forth over the next few years.

#8. Bonica Lough beats her legendary 600lbs world record squat, bench, and total

Since the legendary moment at the 2016 Arnold Classic where Bonica squatted 272.5kg (600lbs), becoming the first woman to squat 600lbs raw, she has attempted to beat it and failed a couple of times. However, at this years’ Raw Nationals, she finally succeeded. After opening with 252.5kg and hitting 265kg on her second, she went on to squat 273kg (601.8lbs) on her third attempt – a truly epic moment. She then chipped her world record bench on her third attempt too, pressing 151.5kg, .5kg over her world record. To finish off the day, Bonica deadlifted 227.5kg (500lbs) on her second, and missed a crack at 241kg on her third, which would have given her the fourth 84kg+ world record (unofficially), which is currently held by LeeAnn Hewitt with 238kg. This left Bonica with a massive 652kg total, 6kg over her world record. Watch out for Bonica at her next international competition (likely the Arnold) where she’ll try to make these records official.

#7. Russel Orhii squats 300.5kg and wins the 83kg class

Last year Russel Orhii was meant to compete at the Raw Nationals for the first time, but dropped out due to injury. Since then, he’s been making tremendous strength gains. With John Haack still absent from the USAPL/IPF scene, Russel was the favorite to win coming into the Raw Nationals with a 792.5kg nominated total from a state competition, including a massive 297.5kg squat – .5kg off Haack’s American and world record squat. At the Nationals, Russel finished off his squats with a truly epic 300.5kg (662lbs) squat on his third attempt with some room to spare, beating John’s world record by 2kg. Finishing off his day with a 175kg bench and 312.5kg deadlift, Russell sealed a 793kg total and 9 for 9 performance, giving him the 83kg title in his first Raw National competition.

#6. Jennifer Thompson’s comeback

After mysteriously pulling out of the 2017 IPF World’s for unknown reasons, Powerlifting and bench press legend, Jennifer Thompson, revealed she’d undergone surgery earlier this year to re-shape her hip socket and sew up her labrum (shoulder socket) tendon. Now back and able to lift pain free, Jen made her comeback to the platform a bang. After squatting 130kg and 142.5kg on her opening and second squats, she hit a PB of 150kg on her third attempt – a milestone she’s been trying to achieve for ages, first attempting it back at the Arnold in 2015. On her specialty lift, the bench press, Jen did what she does best. After a shaky start, missing her 125kg opener for racking the bar before the ‘rack’ command, she confidently moved up to 140kg on her second attempt and hit it with a bit of a struggle. However, she wasn’t done there – she then came out and benched 142.5kg to match her American record and beat her world record by 1kg. Finishing off the day with a 197.5kg deadlift, she put together a massive 490kg – 4kg over her world record! This was the comeback of dreams for her, and is promising for her future lifting.

#5. Ray Williams 490kg squat attempt

In any competition Ray Williams attends, be it the Raw Nationals, the World’s, or the Arnold, everyone is always on the edge of their seats to see what the strongest 120kg+ male on our planet, Ray Williams, will put on the bar. This year was no different. At the 2017 Raw Nationals, Ray opened up with 442.5kg on the squat, before hitting 467.5kg on his second attempt, only 10kg behind his world record of 477.5kg. On his final attempt, he came out to squat a completely absurd 490kg (1080lbs), only 10kg off the 500kg milestone, which Blaine Sumner hit as a world record in the 120kg+ equipped division. After many minutes to load the bar to the correct weight (it probably takes a while to count), Ray walked on the platform with the crowd the most fired up it’s probably ever been at a Powerlifting event. Despite a momentous effort, he failed the lift towards the top, requiring the five spotters plus Ray himself to manage to get the bar safely onto the lower uprights – a nerve-racking moment. He went on to bench 237.5kg and deadlift 377.5kg to total 1082.5kg, winning the best overall male lifter with a 581 Wilks.

#4. David Ricks saves himself from bombing out

The 93kg class was full of shocks and upsets, not the least of which was David Ricks’ lifting. At the 2017 IPF World’s earlier this year, Dave had a shaky performance. After being called for depth on his opening squat of 292.5kg, he reattempted it on his second and got the same call. On the verge of bombing out on his best lift, “Superman” came out on his third and sunk it a little deeper to finally lock in a squat. At this years’ Raw Nationals, a similar story occurred. He chose the same opening squat as World’s, 292.5kg, but this time he wasn’t met his depth issues. After making his descent, he just couldn’t stand up with it – it looked like purely a lack of strength.

On his second attempt, he repeated the weight, but had the same issue and missed again. It looked there was no hope for Dave at this point, failing the squat twice for what seemed to just be a bad day for him. When he came out for his third attempt, the atmosphere in the room was wild, the crowd was on their feet – everyone wanted to see the 58-year-old save himself from bombing out. Somehow, David did the impossible, managing to squat the weight and secure himself in the meet. After the squats, he benched a new M2 American and unofficial world record of 207.5kg, and deadlifted 305kg for an 805kg total and third place in the open 93’s.

#3. Ashton Rouska shocking the 93kg class

Another shocker in the 93kg class that we’ve deemed to be number three on our list, was Ashton Rouska’s performance which sealed him the win. At the 2016 Raw Nationals, Ashton placed fourth as a Teen 3 lifter with a 792.5kg total; ahead of him was LS McClain, who went on to win the IPF World’s this year, David Ricks, and Jesse Norris, an unbelievable lifter who was absent this year due to shoulder issues. This year, the very young 1997-born lifter managed to beat reigning 93kg world champion, LS McClain, at the last moment. On the squats, LS finished with 300kg on his third attempt after missing it on his second, while Ashton was slightly ahead with 305kg, taking a jab at 320kg on his third but missing. LS moved ahead on the sub-total on bench, pressing 220kg compared to Ashton’s 182.5kg. The deadlifts are where things got very exciting. LS pulled 302.5kg on his second, so Ashton, 32.5kg behind on the total, but the lighter lifter, pulled a huge 335kg to match LS’s total and beat him on body weight. LS finished off his day with a big 320kg pull, the lift he thought would be enough to keep Ashton at bay. However, Ashton came out on the third and secured the win with a 352.5kg American record deadlift, tying LS’s 840kg total – both lifters 7.5kg below Krzysztof Wierbicki’s total record. What’s very exciting is that Ashton is still so young, and weighed in light at 90.95kg, shows he’s got room to grow in the 93’s.

#2. Yu-Yu Ren smashes the 83kg world record deadlift

Among the excitement of Russel Orhii’s 83kg title winning American record squat and overall performance, the 83kg class filled with many exciting moments, the highlight of which we think was Yangsu “Yu-Yu” Ren’s deadlifting. Earlier this year, this lifter pulled 332.5kg in a local competition – 7kg more than the current world record held by Kjell Bakkelund with 325.5kg. At the Raw Nationals, Yu-Yu squatted 240kg on his third, and benched 157.5kg, leaving him very low in the rankings of sub-totals. However, he’s a deadlift specialist if you’ve ever seen one. After opening with 305kg, he hit 321kg on his second attempt to officially claim the American deadlift record. This put him in 9th place. On his final attempt, he came out and pulled an insane 340kg – by far the highest of this weight class, and obliterating the world record by 14.5kg! This kind of deadlift strength rivals the caliber of Krzysztof “Mr. Deadlift” Wierzbicki himself, who holds the world record deadlift in the 105kg class with 390kg. Yu-Yu’s final pull surged him from 9th position all the way into 5th with the crowd going wild. We hope to see Yu-Yu compete internationally soon and make a record like this official.

#1. Kimberly Walford’s incredible performance

Kimberly Walford is hands down the best female deadlifter of all time, and arguably the best Powerlifter. Since her performance at the 2015 Arnold Classic Europe, where she totaled her world record of 540kg, she’s chipped her world record deadlift up to 243kg, but hasn’t had a flawless performance on all three lifts since. At this years’ Raw Nationals, she finally managed to put everything together on one day. It was so epic we’ve deemed it our number one moment of the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals. She squatted 188kg on her third attempt, 2kg more than her best squat and a new American record, and only 8kg below Ana Castellain’s current world record. She then benched 115kg, tying her best competition press. On the deadlifts, the lift she’s most famous for, she really closed everything off with a bang. After opening with 227.5kg (500lbs) and hitting 240kg on her second, she went on to smash 246kg on her third attempt, 3kg more than her world record. This gave her a 9 for 9 performance and a 549kg total, unofficially beating her world record by 9kg. This also meant she posted a 541.37 Wilks score – enough to beat Jennifer Millican’s Wilks by only .08 points, giving her the best overall female lifter award.

About the author: Ramsay Kirkhy

Ramsay holds a BSc in Psychology and is currently studying for his MSc. He is also a certified Personal Trainer with three years’ experience. Along with his studies, he has a huge passion for Powerlifting, competing in the 74kg division in Great Britain, also writing for the 9for9 Media blog.