“For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.”
I don’t know where to start. I’ve competed in multiple National Championships and multiple American Opens. This year has been some of the most fun and most rewarding yet. To win the American Open this year was a dream come true! And as I stated in my blog on that win, it was a huge reality check. A reality check that I carried with me to this years National Championships.
Background on the National Championships for me. The highest I have ever placed was 8th and last year when I felt most prepared I bombed. The Nationals has always been an event for me where I left feeling like I was one of the “also competed” of the competition. The Nationals have always been fun to compete at and they have always been a meet I look forward to but this year was a whole different experience.
I can honestly say that without having to try to keep up with Mike Szela there is no chance I have the performance like I did. If there is credit to give Mike should get it. That man never let off the gas pedal and I was always chasing him. Literally there’s a hookgrip poster of him hanging in the gym to remind me that’s he’s still working when I want to let up. He’s a phenomenal competitor and really pushed me to weights I would have never expected to have to hit. What’s crazy is this is Mike’s first National Championship. Incredible!
To summarize the events. I hit a 118 snatch opener. I left it a little forward and because of that jumped too early with it. I almost missed it out front. However, I followed the 118kg mess with 2 solid lifts at 121kg and 124kg. 124 was a lifetime meet PR of 1kg and a 7kg PR as a 69kg lifter. Mike smoked 120 at his opener and narrowly missed 123 twice. Mike was the lighter lifter and so I only had a 3kg lead on him, as a tie would end in his favor. Going into the CJ, I could feel the weight cut in my stand up from the clean but my jerk was feeling better than it had in months. Mike opened at 147 and I opened at 148 to keep the pressure on him. I know Mike is awesome at the clean and jerk and had no doubt he was capable of big weights. I knew I would have to step up to the plate to stay with him. After we both made our openers I planned on matching him lift for lift through the rest of the competition. To say that I was mystified by the clinic that Mike would put on in the clean and jerk is a massive understatement. Mike hit 151 like butter and I matched him. Then he jumped to 155! 155 is a lifetime PR for me and the last time I had clean and jerked it was over a year ago as a 77kg lifter. Mike made 155 look like cake and I was forced into a position I had never been in before. Make the lift for the silver or miss the lift for the bronze. I literally would have never put that weight on the bar without Mike having hit it first and to be honest the likelihood of me making the lift is much lower had Mike not made it look like an opener. However, after a really hard clean that forced me to pause in the bottom, I managed to jerk the weight over my head for a 10kg clean and jerk PR as a 69kg lifter! That moment was like no other. To be forced to make the final lift and to hold up under the pressure is an incredible feeling. I said after the American Open that I never wanted to be the guy hoping the other guy would miss. I had to sit back and watch and hope for Timothy and Mike to miss in December. That feeling is helpless and unforgiving. I vowed to never have that happen again. If I didn’t reach my goal I wanted it to be because I missed the lift not because a judge turned down the lift of my competitor. I wanted the bar to be in my hands at the end of the day. I can say now, that it’s much easier to wish for that situation than to actually complete it successfully. It was a great feeling to hit the lift when it mattered when the pressure was immense but I wouldn’t trade for anything the experience of having the final lift fall on my shoulders to make. Overall, the meet was a 17kg lifetime PR total at 279kg and my first National Championship medal. One a sidenote, Caleb Williams is the most impressive lifter I have had the opportunity to watch in person bar none. His attitude while competing and while not competing is more admirable than any lifter I know. Maybe one day I’ll learn to squat like him and maybe I can push on him a little. One day…
All of that sounds awesome but the truth is that there is a whole brigade of people that have pushed me to this level, supported me through the training, and believed in me every step. I would never be in the sport without coaches like Stan Luttrell and CJ Stockel who never let me settle for mediocrity. Most recently, my coaches Ursula Papandrea, Richard Flemming, and Tom Witherspoon have been unwavering in their support and coaching. I wouldn’t be half the lifter I am right now if not for them. No lifter excels without training partners to push them. Thanks to Jason Riggins, Freedom Ha, James Aftomis, Melissa Knourek, Bobby Sirkis, Jose Carranza, Thomas Lower, Thomas Field, Steve Galvan, Dutch Lowy, Samantha Lower, and Jack Gaines for the commitment to push each other week in and week out. Furthermore, any married man knows that a husband can have the best coaches in the world, the best training partners, the best training facility but none of it compares to the support and steadfast faithfulness of your wife. Megan, thank you for your love, patience, support, and trust. You believe in me often more than I believe in myself. (and that’s pretty hard to do) Thanks again to Mike Szela and Glenn Pendlay for never letting me sit on my haunches and always gunning for me. I head back to Dallas knowing that Monday you’re going to be putting the weights on the bar and start training for the American Open. Never let up, you’re the type of people that bring life to this sport. Lastly, I find great comfort and freedom in remembering that I am who I am today because the Lord made me that way. He made me, as Colossians 1:16 states, to do great things for His glory. I am created BY HIM to do things FOR HIM and ultimately this meet was a result of His grace and His goodness to grant me the talents and ability to compete on a National stage. The accolades awarded to me are His to give and His to take away. Nobody should get the glory outside of the Lord. I am His alone and my talents are His always. He holds and gives the kind of glory that lasts longer than a medal. He gives the glory of Jesus to us that we might have glory that lasts forever.
Here are the 6 videos of my lifts:
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
– Acts 20:24