Steve Kirit, Derek Poundstone, Trey Mitchell; these are just a few of the strongmen that have won America’s Strongest Man during their careers, and on November 7th & 8th 2020, five more champions were crowned as America’s Strongest.
Iron Resurgence, headed by Jackson Reeves, teamed up with Strongman Corporation to bring America’s Strongest Man/Woman to beautiful Savannah, GA in 2020. Despite the challenges of the COVID era in which we live, this team was able to put on the most exciting edition of ASM/ASW in recent memory. Six events over 2 days were contested by a stacked roster of the best pro strongmen and strongwomen in the United States. Here’s the event breakdown:
Circus Dumbbell Press for Reps – This was a very heavy bell for every class, with no athlete getting more than 6 reps in any division in the entire contest!
Basket Deadlift for Reps – This apparatus was a large, hinged machine deadlift loaded with kegs. The organizers wanted to see some serious grinding here, so the weight was more conservative than the DB event, which meant several competitors achieved double digit reps.
Husafell Stone for Max Distance – One of the most grueling events in strongman sport, the Husafell carry for maximum distance is as much a test of sheer grit and determination as it is strength.
Arm Over Arm Truck Pull – This challenge requires competitors to push to “redline” intensity for the duration, with the hands and forearms playing a bigger role than one may suspect.
Sandbag Toss – A feat that involves hurling a series of bags over a bar suspended high in the air. Explosive power is paramount.
Sandbag Carry & Load – Why was this an appropriate event on which to end the competition? Well, this loading medley event was so tough that many did not even finish it, and those that did showed that they were able to dig down deep to summon strength during a clutch situation.
The Lightweight Women’s class consisted of America’s best strongwomen under 140lbs (64kg): “Barbell” Joelle Pecci, 2019 National Champion Rebecca Lorch, Arnold Pro veteran Laura Anderson, and 2019 National bronze medalist Kristin Graham. Lorch kicked things off with an emphatic victory in the Circus Dumbbell Press by knocking out 5 reps with the 100lb monstrosity of a dumbbell, with Pecci clenching 2nd place with 2 reps. Anderson was better able to show her skills in the Basket Deadlift by recording a cool dozen reps at 385lbs, but it was Lorch once again who took top honors with a stunning 14 reps. Pecci relegated Lorch to 2nd in the Husafell, ending Rebecca’s streak and opening the door a little. After taking the 200lb Stone for a 495ft ride however, Pecci may have risked burning herself out for the rest of the show.
Apparently Pecci had plenty left in the tank however as she kicked off Day 2 by winning the Arm Over Arm Truck Pull, while Anderson took the Sandbag Toss event. In both cases, Lorch claimed 2nd. In the final challenge, the Sandbag Carry and Load, Graham fought valiantly to get 3 of the 4 bags loaded, but it was Anderson who placed all four bags in 25 seconds to secure the event win. Lorch, as you may have guessed by now, remained in the top two however, and this incredibly consistent performance from Rebecca landed her the title of America’s Strongest Woman in the Lightweight division at the end of the day.
LW Women’s Podium:
3rd – Joelle Pecci
2nd – Laura Anderson
Champion – Rebecca Lorch
At Middleweight (180lb limit or 82kg), the battle for the title of America’s Strongest was even more hotly contested. Seven women, including national champions and Arnold Pro athletes, made up this class: Brittany Diamond, Casey Garland, Abigail Deal, Erin Walklet, Jodi Kennedy, Erin Murray, and Gabrielle Burgholzer. Garland and Burgholzer tied for 1st in the Circus Dumbbell Press, with both registering 5 reps on the mammoth 125lb bell. Gabbi annihilated 15 reps in the Basket Deadlift to win there, with Kennedy earning second by virtue of 12 reps with the 425lb load. Erin Walklet reminded everyone that she is the queen of the Husafell Carry in the Middeweight division by taking the 240lb stone for nearly 450ft to win that event, with Deal snagging second.
To begin Day 2, Deal and Burgholzer took 1st and 2nd respectively on the Arm Over Arm Truck Pull. Walklet and Burgholzer were only separated by 0.09sec on the Sandbag Toss event, with both ladies completing all 4 bags with lightning speed. Walklet claimed the win, and their times were a full 6sec faster than the 3rd place time set by Abigail Deal. Deal and Walklet were lightning fast on the Carry and Load, but Gabbi’s consistent efforts landed her in the top spot when the dust settled.
MW Women’s Podium:
3rd – Erin Walklet
2nd – Abigail Deal
Champion – Gabrielle Burgholzer
Amongst the Heavyweight women, we had former National Champions, National runners-up, runners-up at the Arnold Amateur Worlds, a Strongest Woman in the World champion, and women that had broken log press world records, block press world records, and deadlift world records. All these accolades were distributed among just four women: Melissa Edwards, Cori Butler, Amanda Kelly, and Jessica Fithen. I’d had the pleasure to see each of these women compete before live, so I knew each had potential to create some amazing moments amidst the six challenges they faced.
With a 140lb Circus Dumbbell to tangle with, even the pressing queen Jessica Fithen topped out at 3 reps, which was enough for the win. In the Basket Deadlift, Jessica was pushed to the limit with the 475lb load as Amanda Kelly’s 7 reps forced Fithen to do 8 to win two events in a row. This was as good a start as Fithen could have possibly hoped for, and she continued her brilliance into the 280lbs Husafell Stone Carry, coming in 2nd only to Cori Butler. Butler took first again in the Arm Over Arm Truck Pull, but Jessica bounced back big time in the Sandbag Toss, where she got 1st. The Loading Medley was the Amanda Kelly show, as she finished all four sandbags (the last of which was an eyebrow raising 270lbs) a full 16sec faster than the only other HW to finish, which was Cori Butler. Edwards and Fithen had to settle for completing 3 of the 4 sandbags, but it mattered not in determining who would walk away with the title, as Fithen had done so well in the previous events that she didn’t need a top placing here.
HW Women’s Podium:
3rd – Amanda Kelly
2nd – Cori Butler
Champion – Jessica Fithen
The 13 best 105k pro strongmen in America gathered to find out who was the baddest man amongst them, and even last year’s silver medalist Anthony Fuhrman couldn’t stay away despite being only 2 months removed from biceps surgery. Veteran contenders like Tom Mutaffis, Nick Cambi, and 2017 champion James Deffinbaugh were in attendance, mixed with newer pros like Justin Loy, and Gary Piotrowski. Nate Bolling, Adam Geiger, Tommy Sharp, and Jesse Nelson were pegged as podium favorites, while elder statesman Johnny Wasiczko, Tyler Sickle, and last year’s 8th place finisher Anthony Diehl seemed to be overlooked a little in discussions preceding the event.
Sharp handily won the 210lb Dumbbell Press with 6 big reps, followed by pressing prodigy Jesse Nelson with 4. The scores got really interesting in the Basket Deadlift however when Bolling pounded 9 reps and looked good for a win, but was eclipsed by Diehl with a whopping 12 reps at 675lbs. This won the event for Diehl, and showed marked improvement in his deadlifting game over the previous year’s 6th place finish on the deadlifting event. In the Husafell Stone Carry, brand new National-Champion-turned-pro Justin Loy went to his mental happy place for a 287ft carry with the 350lb load, which earned him first place over an awesome 270 feet from Geiger. Loy also smashed the Arm Over Arm Truck Pull, edging out Diehl who was showing very consistent strength across the events at this point. The Sandbag Toss was the James Deffinbaugh show, as he was the only man to complete all 4 throws. The fastest man to 3 bags was Nelson however, who picked up some terrific points to put him in contention for the overall title. The Sandbag Carry and Load was where Cambi was able to shine by being one of few to complete all 4 bags, but his time was obliterated by Diehl, who put an exclamation point on his lead by winning this event and securing the championship. From 8th place last year, to America’s Strongest Man champion this year, it was clear that Mr. Diehl had spent the last 12 months “in the woodshed”.
105kg Men Podium –
3rd – Jesse Nelson
2nd – Nick Cambi
Champion – Anthony Diehl
The heavyweight men have been the premier showcase of strongman sport since its inception, and the HW class at ASM 2020 showed us why. These giants relentlessly jostled for position over the 6 events, and recorded some incredible performances. The roster consisted of: Casey Garrison, Jose Baez, Michael Strooza, Spenser Remick, Josh Hatfield, Nate Goltry, Marcus Crowder, Travis Ortmayer, and Tyler Cotton.
Event 1 was the Circus Dumbbell Press at 240lbs, and to the surprise of no one, Marcus Crowder did very well here with 5 reps. What may have surprised a few folks however is that Jose Baez, the man that spoiled the strongman dreams of Larry Wheels a year or so ago at the LA FitExpo, nailed 4 reps for second place, ahead of some guys that are maybe better known for pressing. The Basket Deadlift was set to 725lbs, and the legendary Travis Ortmayer showed his mettle here by powering through 11 reps, matched by Goltry, and only surpassed by Crowder. Crowder, the young lion from North Carolina, was having an amazing start at the competition. The Husafell Carry at 400lbs ended Day 1’s events, and Casey Garrison joined Spenser Remick in the quest for 200ft at that weight, with both coming painfully close while locking up the number 1 and 2 spots in the event respectfully.
Hatfield turned his luck around to begin Day 2, as he won the Arm Over Arm Truck Pull and looked so feverish in the attempt, those in attendance thought he may just fling the truck right through the walls of the building; Garrison secured 2nd here. Garrison came on strong again in the Sandbag Toss, pushing Cotton to 2nd place with a tremendous showing on the event. In the Sandbag Carry and Load medley, Baez roared to a win, loading all 4 bags including the monstrous 400lb final bag, keeping Cotton’s almost equally impressive performance at bay in 2nd place. When the smoke cleared, standing atop the podium with a 4-point margin of victory was Marcus Crowder; Marcus is America’s Strongest Man 2020.
HW Men Podium:
3rd – Jose Baez
2nd – Tyler Cotton
Champion – Marcus Crowder
ASM/ASW is in the books now for 2020, and I am already looking forward to 2021. Will Liefia Ingalls return to take on Gabrielle Burgholzer for the MW women’s crown? Can Anthony Diehl continue to improve at such an awesome pace? While these new champions enjoy their titles for the next 12 months, we will have plenty to talk about from now until then as we think ahead to ASM/ASW 2021!