With the rapid growth of our sport in the past few years, 2017 saw a many new top-level lifters emerge. Some of whom have only shown us half of what they’re capable of. Having seen some of these lifters’ training updates on social media and their performances at recent competitions, we’ve compiled an assortment of some of who we think are the top up-and-coming lifters to look out for in 2018. They’ll be sure to cause a stir.

Russel Orhii and Other 83’s

In 2016 Russel “Russwole” Orhii was meant to compete at the USAPL Raw Nationals for the first time, but had to pull out due to injury. This year he finally competed and made his mark with not only the 83kg title, but also a 300.5kg unofficial world record squat. This beat his fellow USAPL competitor, John Haack’s world record and best IPF squat of 298kg from the 2016 World’s. In 2018, Russel is set to compete at his first international competition in March at the Arnold Classic. With his 300.5kg lift from the USAPL Raw Nationals moving so well, it’s highly likely he’ll obliterate it officially at the Arnold, and even possibly have a stab at the world record total. Then in June, he’ll go head to head with Brett Gibbs and the other top 83’s, which will make for another epic USA vs New Zealand 83kg showdown.

Though Russel is probably the biggest up-and-coming name in the 83’s, don’t sleep on some of these other lifters. Nathan Tanis from Australia recently won the open 83kg Powerlifting Australia nationals as junior. Here he squatted, 290.5kg – only 7.5kg off Haack’s current world record, and 10kg off of Russel’s best squat. He then benched 160kg and deadlifted 290kg to total 740.5kg. Similarly, over in the UK, British lifter Dylan Nelson also squatted 290.5kg at the 2017 British Juniors last November. At the same competition the year prior, Dylan squatted 255kg on his third attempt, so has added 35.5kg to his squat in one year. If he continues gaining strength at that rate or similar, we could well see him, Nathan Tanis, Brett Gibbs and Russel Orhii toss the squat world record holder spot between themselves over the next year.

Luke Richardson

Luke Richardson took silver at the 2017 IPF World’s in the junior super-heavyweight division, where he totaled 865kg, comprising of a 337.5kg squat, a 190kg bench, and a 337.5kg deadlift. The British lifter then made immense gains on his total between June and November, where he competed at the 2017 British Juniors. Here, the 20-year-old made the heaviest squat in British Powerlifting history with 360kg, benched 202.5kg, and deadlifted 347.5kg – missing an attempt at 363kg/ 800lbs on his final pull. This meant he totaled 910kg, adding 45kg since his performance at World’s. Still weighing in light at 134kg~, he has a lot of potential in the super-heavyweights.

Daniella Melo and Sara Cowan

Daniella Melo has already made a name for herself as an incredible 84kg lifter, squatting a new open world record of 206.5kg at the IPF World’s. Following this, the 18-year-old benched 117.5kg and deadlifted 207.5kg for a junior world record total of 531.5kg (only 6kg behind the open world record) and her first junior world championship title. Then, at the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals, she had a sub-par performance, missing a 207.5kg squat for a technical error and missing a 215kg deadlift due to her thumbs ripping. Despite this, she still came away with a 532.5kg total – beating her junior world record total unofficially. However, it’s clear Daniella has barely even scratched the surface of her potential. Since then, Daniella has squatted 205kg, only 1.5kg below her best competition squat, for five reps in training. She’s also matched her bench PB with a smooth 120kg/ 265lbs single, and has deadlifted 220kg – 5kg above the world record. Still so early in her Powerlifting career, keep an eye out on Daniella for another breathtaking year of lifting.

Sara Cowan is another 84kg junior lifter whose been around for a bit longer. Having won the junior 84kg title at IPF World’s in 2016, Sara opted to lift in the open category in 2017 in an attempt to beat reigning champion Ielja Strik. She did this despite having another two years left in the u23’s – a bold move. The Canadian ended up finishing second with a 520kg total, 15kg less than Ielja Strik’s total, and 11.5kg less than Daniella Melo’s junior-title winning total. Since then, Sara had an awesome performance at a provincial CPU competition, where she squatted 205kg, benched 110kg, and deadlifted an unofficial open world record deadlift of 227.5kg/ 500lbs. This gave her an immense 542.5kg total – an unofficial junior and open world record, and 10kg over Daniella’s best competition total. It’s going to be very exciting to see how these two junor 84kg lifters perform over the next year, and see if they battle it out at World’s (assuming both of them compete in the same age class).

Sarah Brenner

Sarah Brenner is an up-and-coming 84kg+ lifter on the USAPL scene whose shown that she could one day rival even Bonica Lough. At the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals, Sarah squatted 235kg, benched 97.5kg, and deadlifted 227.5kg for a 560kg total, just missing out on second place in the open 84kg+’s with her final deadlift attempt of 240.5kg. In the gym recently though, Sarah deadlifted a whopping 245kg for an unofficial world record by 7kg. Given how much progress she made between 2016 and 2017, we’ll likely see her add more and more kilos to her total and take the 84kg+ world record deadlift to new heights.

Junior 74kg Lifters

Stephen “Blake” Lehew

There are a whole host of junior 74kg lifters who have been making immense progress and will fight for open world records across 2018. While Taylor Atwood won the open 74kg title at the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals, a number of them were in hot pursuit, including Stephen “Blake” Lehew. After focussing on equipped lifting for a while, this American 74kg junior was back on the raw scene with a bang. After squatting 260kg with room to spare on his third attempt (which the world record had sat around since 2015), Blake went on to bench 170kg and deadlift 287.5kg on his second attempts. On his final deadlift attempt, he went for an insane 320.5kg pull to move himself into first ahead of Taylor. Although he didn’t manage to get it off the ground, it’s clear he’s capable of pulling 300kg+, which makes him a lifter we must watch out for going forward.

Rj Hizon

Another 74kg junior lifter, Rj Hizon, placed fourth at the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals. After his 250kg squat opener, he didn’t manage his two following squat attempts of 262.5kg, missing the second attempt on depth and running out of gas on the third. He then almost bombed out on deadlifts due to cramping, but managed to clutch fourth place in the opens with 277.5kg on his all or nothing third attempt. What really makes Rj stand out is his absurd squatting since the meet. The current open world record in the 74’s is 270kg, just shy of 600lbs, held by Japanese lifter Yoshihiro Higa from the 2017 IPF World’s. This kind of squatting was simply unheard of from any 74kg lifter at the time. However, Rj just squatted 275kg/ 606lbs in training, 5kg over the record. We’ll see Rj step on the platform at the 2018 Arnold Classic in March, where we’ll likely see him try to officially squat a new open 74kg world record, and become the first IPF 74kg lifter to squat over 600lbs in competition.

Mason Cabney

The list of up-and-coming 74kg lifters doesn’t end there however. Absent at 2017’s USAPL Raw Nationals for financial reasons, but reigning 74kg junior world champion from IPF World’s, Mason Cabney is another insane 74kg junior lifter who’s ready to smash some open world records. During a mock meet in his gym, Mason matched Yoshihiro Higa’s squat world record with 270kg/ 595lbs, benched 154kg/ 340lbs, and deadlifted 300kg, which would have beaten his own junior world record deadlift by 19.5kg. Since then, Mason’s squatted 272.5kg/ 600lbs in the gym to also beat Yoshihiro Higa’s world record unofficially. We don’t know when Mason will next be competing, let alone internationally to break records officially, but make sure you’re watching when he does.

Ashton Rouska

Ashton Rouska’s performance at the 2016 Raw Nationals made it very clear he was a lifter to be reckoned with. At only 19-years-old, Ashton weighed in extremely light in the 93’s (at 85.28kg) and placed third in the opens with a 792.5kg total. This year, Ashton filled out the 93kg limit a bit more (still with room to grow) and won the 93kg open division with a massive 840kg total, beating both reigning world champion LS McClain, and Powerlifting legend David Ricks. 840kg is also only 7.5kg below Krzysztof Wierzbicki’s open 93kg world record total too. The last time we saw Ashton lift internationally was in the sub-junior division at the 2014 Equipped IPF World’s where he won the title in the 83’s. Now, having added almost 50kg to his total in one year, it’s highly likely we’ll see this prodigy beat the open 93kg world record total when he next competes internationally.

Maria Htee

Maria Htee is already a well-established name in the Powerlifting scene, dominating the 57kg division in Canada, but we haven’t seen the best of her yet whatsoever. In 2017, Maria weighed in just above 57kg and competed light in the 63’s at the Arnold Classic. Here she put on a phenomenal performance, squatting 181kg, benching 100kg, and deadlifting 185kg, all for a 468.5kg total. This total would still stand as a 57kg world record today if she didn’t weigh in heavy. Then in June she lost to now reigning champion of 2017 IPF World’s, Jennifer Millican, who also took the best overall female lifter award. This was after a poor performance on Maria’s part. However, she has since had some awesome training PBs, squatting 405lbs/ 183.7kg – 9kg over Jennifer’s world record, benching 225lbs/ 102kg, and deadlifting 190kg/ 418lbs. Watch out for Maria’s performances at the CPU Raw Nationals in February and the Arnold Classic in March, where she could try her luck at some world records even before her inevitable showdown with Jennifer at World’s.

Febriose Tsiode

Febriosde Tsiode is perhaps the most unknown lifter on this lift, but her potential is perhaps one of the greatest. She’s a 52kg Nauruan sub-junior lifter who won both her division at IPF World’s and the overall best sub-junior female award with a 470 Wilks. Most impressively, she also benched an insane 110.5kg to smash Inna Filimonova’s open 52kg world record of 105kg, which held since 2013. It’s always impressive to see junior lifters beat open world records, but for a sub-junior to do it is very much unheard of. As well this mind-blowing bench, she also squatted 127.5kg and deadlifted 135kg to total 373kg (62kg below Marisa Inda’s open world record) and win the sub-junior world championship title. Considering Febrose was born in 1999, we think it’s almost guaranteed we’ll see her become the open 52kg world champion one day, it’s just a case of how soon, and what she’ll do in 2018.


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.