Strength for Autism 2018 is in the books! The growth of the event from last year to this year was incredible, and the increased number of competitors, spectators, vendors, and donors meant that we raised a significantly higher amount of money this year – well done yall! The beneficiary this year was the Washington County school district’s Autism Program, and they will receive over $3800 thanks to everyone that was involved in this event. Everyone that came out for this show can be proud that they supported the cause in some fashion Saturday.

Beyond that, there is the matter of all this “heavy lifting” business to discuss. Our brawny contenders kicked things off in the Max Axle Press event, and PA state records were on the line! Massive solid steel axles were used so that we were in accordance with PA state record requirements, but the lifts were far more impressive than the 90 pound axles they were performed on! Michigan’s Anna Tapper was our first competitor to nab a record as she launched 155 pounds up, and even made an attempt at 175 later on. Next on the list was Judah Haas in the LW Open class, who matched the existing record on his first attempt, and surpassed it on his second with 220 pounds; a third round attempt at 240 was just not meant to be however. WV’s Shane Oney had struggled with the clean/continental in practice, but was able to come through when it mattered by setting a huge PR even though he was competing solo in the Masters 231 class.

The Masters HW class, which was one of my biggest masters classes ever, saw both Jacob Bobbs and Ryan Westling eclipse the previous record, and they tied on 240 to share joint custody of the new record. Dylan Ford suffered a scare as he was struggling to get the bar to a proper lockout on his first attempt. Dylan passed out cold after the bar hit the ground, but luckily our staff was able to break his fall well and get his belt off quickly; he was OK! The biggest lifts of the day belonged to SHWs Limmy Louisignau of Delaware and Preston Walls of Nebraska at 320 pounds – no easy feat on these extra difficult axles!

After the Max Press, one group of athletes went to the Hercules Hold, and another to the Progressive Deadlift. For the sake of ease, we will cover the Progressive Deadlift first here. Gigantic wagon wheels were used here to get the bar height to about 18in, and axles were used as well to make it exceptionally tough. Every time a rep was successful, more weight would be added to the bar. For women, 20 pounds per rep were added, and for men, 50 pounds per rep! In the Novice Women class Crystal Richardson was able to nail the starting rep at 280 pounds convincingly, but wasn’t able to get comfortable with successive reps. This meant that Jules Bochenek would take the lead with 4 big reps, the last of which was 340 pounds. Jackson Thomas caused a ruckus when he hit 5 reps in the Teen class, beginning at 300 and finishing on 500 pounds. MW Novice was a dog fight for 2nd place with 3 men achieving 3 reps, but first place belonged solely to Jacob Myers with 5 reps, which meant he lifted 550 on his final rep.

There was some serious pulling in the Masters HW class, as their deadlifts started at 400lbs on the 1st rep. Jacob Bobbs has been on an absolute tear since last year’s Summer Raid weekend, and his performance here indicated that more great performances are to come. Bobbs hit 6 reps including a final heft of 650 pounds. The story of the MW Open class was Chris Van Der Hoeven, Cody Haines, and Nick Pritts all hitting 5 reps, which meant their final reps were a whopping 600 pounds. Haines achieved this 7 seconds faster than Pritts to lock up second place, and Van Der Hoeven accomplished the feat 4 seconds faster than Haines, resulting in the event win. HW Novice men used the same weight, with a first rep at 400 and 50 pounds added per rep. This proved very challenging for these less experienced warriors, but Chad Simpson and John Schonour were able to separate themselves from the pack by both battling their way to 5 successful reps. By virtue of being 5 seconds faster, Simpson took the win.

In the Open 300’s, Dylan Ford pulled his first rep easily, but then realized it was time to walk away. The big man from VA had aggravated an oblique injury earlier on the axle clean and press, and heavy deads were just not in the cards. Live to fight another day! Jonathan Clark and Chris Betts had excellent showings here, with both men hitting 4 reps which progressed from 460, to 510, to 560, to 610! Betts reached the mark 9 seconds faster, thus securing the top placing and some very important points in the overall. A pair of mammoth men in the super HW class hit 4 reps as well; Mark Coviello blazed through 4 lifts in just over 15sec for the win, with Preston Walls achieving the same but in about 39 seconds.

Next, let’s a take a peek at the Deep Waters Hercules Hold event! This daunting endeavor is all about grip, grit, and the desire to win. For those not familiar, the competitors grab onto handles that are being pulled in opposite directions by massive amounts of force and have to hold on as long as possible! To make matters even more extreme, the handles rotate freely which makes it a tremendous grip challenge (this also prevents callous tears). Generally speaking, 30 seconds is a respectable mark as the pain is really setting in big time by that point, 45 seconds is enough to win some classes but it takes serious strength and metal fortitude to attain such a time, and anything that breaks the 60sec mark is absolutely incredible, and practically guarantees a win. On this day we saw 4 competitors break the one minute barrier! Let’s break it down and take a look at a few classes shall we?

Anna Tapper took the stage initially in the Open HW women’s class, and registered a solid showing with 33.37sec. Moving up to HW for this show, Wendi Wentzell-Cuc showed she was able to hang in the division by racking up 41.38sec for the win. With more plates tossed on, Teen LW Jackson Thomas held on for 26.53sec, while Masters MW Shane Oney clenched his fists on the devilish apparatus for 49.79sec with even more weight. MW novice saw an entire class full of great performances as every competitor in the division registered at least 40sec – wow! Jared Estock held the mark to beat at 52.13 for some time, but then Joshua Kuykendall presented to us our first minute-plus performance of the day with an astounding 110.50sec, the single longest hold we would see regardless of division! Josh may have earned a new nickname after that showing. How does “Bear Paw Kuykendall” sound LOL???

Masters HW saw a match up between grip aficionados Mike Saffell and Jacob Bobbs. Both are big men with gorilla grip strength, and the match up lived up to the billing I had given it in my head. Saffell checked in with a terrific 57.22sec, which gave him a precipitous lead over the rest of the field. Mr. Bobbs however took things up yet another notch, and held on for a minute and four seconds! Having words with him about ten minutes later, Bobbs reported that his hands were still far from recovered from the effort. The next class to see the one minute barrier shattered was our HW novice grouping, with the massive 6’ 7” Adam Wakefield setting the bar at 56.67sec, and Cole Wilhelm playing David to this Goliath and clocking in with 1:02:80 for the win. The weight climbed ever higher for the SHW men, with the torque of the pull now threatening to rip the arms of a normal man clean off. Our Supers were up to the challenge however, and they all broke the 30sec mark. The performance of the day here however was big Limmy Louisignau with 1:02:37sec for the win by a stunning 25sec margin!

The Truck Pull may have been our most difficult event of the day, as it was more for distance than completion time due to the grade of the parking lot. A flat spot in this part of the country is like a unicorn; some believe they don’t actually exist! This is merely a minor inconvenience however and doesn’t stop us mountain folk from having our fun. The matchup between Crystal and Jules in the Novice ladies class was close, as only 3 feet separated them with Crystal taking first. Our HW Open women were even tighter, as less than one foot was the determinant there, making it our closest heat of the day. Judah Haas took a well deserved win over Curtis Sargeant in the LW open, and Byron Romanyak took the win at MW Open using his gigantic arms to good effect on the rope.

The final event we will examine was a classic style Carrying Medley, with 3 heavy, uncooperative items that our athletes were charged with moving as quickly as possible over a 30ft course. Jackson Thomas may have been our only teen competitor, but he attacked the medley like a man possessed. He carried the Mouser Block at 140 pounds, a keg at 160 pounds, and a final keg at 180 pounds down the course all in under 30sec – well done young man! MW novice had some blistering times, despite the weights climbing to 170, 180, and 200 respectively. Jacob Myers took the win here with the fastest time of anyone in the entire competition at 23.20sec. Reports indicate his shoes may have actually caught fire during the effort.

Bobbs edged out Ryan Westling at Masters HW proving that grizzly bears are deceptively fast. A superb run by Nick Pritts earned him the win at Open MW and the 8 big points that went with it, and Chad Simpson smoked the course at Novice HW to take top honors. The weights climbed so high in the 300 Open class that no one finished the course; a 270 Mouser Block, a 270 keg, and an unforgiving 320 keg were simply too exhausting! Chris Betts netted the win there however, nearly completing the course. The Supers stepped up the challenge here and all managed to finish, and it was Preston Walls who had traveled from a thousand miles away to be there that traveled the fastest on this punishing event.

Final podium standings were as follows:

Novice Women

2nd Crystal Richardson

1st Jules Bochenek

HWW Open

2nd Wendi Wentzell-Cuc

1st Anna Tapper

LW Teen

1st Jackson Thomas

LW Open

2nd Curtis Sargeant

1st Judah Haas

Masters MW

1st Shane Oney

Novice MW

3rd John Marinangeli

2nd Jacob Myers

1st Joshua Kuykendall

Masters HW

3rd Mike Saffell

2nd Ryan Westling

1st Jacob Bobbs

MW Open

3rd Byron Romanyak

2nd Nick Pritts (via tie breaker win)

1st Chris Van Der Hoeven

Novice HW

3rd Chad Simpson

2nd Bastian Conaway

1st Cole Wilhelm

Open 300

3rd Brian Lipps

2nd Jonathan Clark

1st Chris Betts

SHW Open

3rd Mark Coviello

2nd Limmy Louisignau

1st Preston Walls

Thanks so much to everyone who competed, volunteered, donated, and cheered for the athletes!

Special shouts to Rider Pharmacy for your continued support for strength and of course for autism charities; Viking Performance Training for supporting this event; Red Beard’s Barbell and the Haines family for all being involved; Bell Ringer Athletic Gear for coming from so far away to be there; Krissy Shepard for doing so much behind the scenes; Dustin Patrick for being my partner in crime and making this event awesome; and my lovely wife Nicole Mouser for being the glue that holds it all together.

Next stop, the Appalachian Team Championships on Memorial Day weekend! When we hit ten teams registered I’m going to announce a huge prize for the winning team! Gather your crew and get signed up at!

Until next time, God bless, and happy training.

  • Paul Mouser, Strongman Corp WV State Chairman