West Virginia is an amazing place full of amazing people, and this is evident in strength athletics as much as anywhere. Many do not realize that within the last generation or two WV has produced world champions in timber sports, arm wrestling, powerlifting, and strongman sport (male and female). The Mountain State has also played host to the Highland Games world championships, the World’s Strongest Man competition, some of the biggest Timber Sports competitions in the world, national championships in powerlifting, and let’s not forget that just last year the biggest block press of all time was performed right here on WV soil. Currently, WV also holds more strongman competitions in total than perhaps any other state in the country, as well as a slew of powerlifting meets via multiple federations.

Why am I telling you this? When Jerry Handley and I saw that the teenage national championships was struggling to gain its footing in the last few years in other parts of the country, we asked the boss lady herself Dione Masters to let us bring it here to coal country. We wanted to bring Teen Nationals to a place steeped in strength culture and history, and give the incredible young athletes involved the biggest spotlight that we could. Dione, likely due to our over-enthusiasm, was on board with the idea, and thus Teen Nationals was booked as yet another incredible strength extravaganza to be held in the heart of Appalachia. It was then time to make sure it would live up to the billing.

The challenges each represented something special from the region: the Max Mouser Block Press event (presented by Dan Ryan Builders) was a nod to Charleston’s Phil Pfister who launched an unforgettable performance on the Block Press Medley at the 2006 World’s Strongest Man competition en route to his victory that year. The Max Deadlift event (presented by Apex Counseling) brought powerlifting elements into play, inspired by world champions like Aaron Lawrence and Brian Siders. Arm wrestling world champion Travis Bagent often prescribes isometric holds for time, so a Max Distance Block Carry was selected to simulate the torture of such types of training. Timber Sport champions like Arden Cogar Jr. and family often have to work through challenges that involve multiple parts and multiple facets of strength, so a three-part Medley event seemed to fit quite nicely even if the comparison is “reaching” a bit. Finally, we paid homage to Phil Pfister one more time with our Hercules Hold, as it was during this event in 2001 that he announced to the world that he would indeed become the World’s Strongest Man one day.

The promotion went on thick like syrup on waffles, and we offered everything we possibly could to draw in the best athletes. World records would be up for grabs, national records, spectacular awards, a scenic venue featuring a massive amphitheater stage, and of course, a chance at the National Title. Soon, entries starting rolling in from all over the country. Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Texas, California, Maryland Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and of course, West Virginia were all soon on the roster. Radio stations, newspapers, and local television were all covering the story. This was shaping up to be big… and we couldn’t have been happier about it.

The day of reckoning had arrived and the athletes were more than ready to tackle the challenges set forth. With the Teen world records virtually wide open in the overhead block press, every division saw a new world record set! In the lightweight women’s category, Victoria opened higher than Rachel, but Rachel jumped ahead on her second attempt. This meant that on the third and final attempt that Victoria would have to make bigger jump to beat Rachel’s second lift, or tie her on the third. Despite some very brave attempts, neither made the 120 pound third round attempt, so Rachel gained sole possession of the event victory and the new world record at 110 pounds. At middleweight, Grace Stire, defending National Champion, earned a win by virtue of a 100 pound press, edging out Caitlin Delaney. Kaitlyn Tennant was unopposed at heavyweight, but she wanted to put up a massive world record so she powered up block lifts at 130 and 150 pounds. This was a teen world record, and only 8 pounds off the all-time women’s world record.

At men’s lightweight, Ethan Zydel (our lightest youngest competitor) topped out at 125, Camron Wayne and Will Simpson completed lifts at 145, and Larry Zapotocky of PA took the event and new world record at 155 pounds on the Max Block Press event presented by Dan Ryan Builders. In the middleweight men’s class Gage Hovest opened the lightest at 160, with Blake Herron and Luke Bonnett selecting 180. Blake just missed at 200, with Bonnett successful, and Hovest making 180 on his second. Luke missed 220 on his third, but was guaranteed the win because Gage was going for

200 on his 3rd attempt and even if he made the lift, Luke would have the win by virtue of doing it on less attempts. Gage needed the 200 to pass up Herron however, and he made the lift in good style.

Our biggest overall class was our heavyweight men, and these guys collectively looked like the offensive for an NFL football team. Three of our heavies made 200 or higher, with the massive Hunter Roethlisberger grabbing 3rd place with 200, Steven Stockslager of MD getting second by nailing 200 on less attempts, but the biggest block press of the day belonged to Nolan Toti of NC. Nolan looked in tremendous form here, and his winning 240 pound world record press was indicative of a full day of outstanding performances to come.

The Apex Counseling Max Deadlift event was next, and the ground was shaking even during the warmups at the tremendous poundages these young athletes were hefting. Both our LW women finished at 315, both missing 355 on gutsy third attempt gambles. Caitlin Delaney went 3 for 3 ending on 255, with Grace Stire hitting 275 but missing 315 on her third. Kaitlyn Tennant caused quite a stir with her attempts, not only because of the sheer weight she was lifting, but also because on two separate occasions she missed her initial effort, only to come back and immediately complete the attempt before time expired! Her 3rd attempt was full of suspense as not only did she stumble and drop the bar the bar to begin with, but also because when she regrouped and tried again, the 395 pound bar moved at a snail’s pace upward. The mighty Kaitlyn strained and struggled for every centimeter of the lift, pulling for what seemed like an hour while the clock was winding down, until finally she stood tall, she stood steady, and she stood victorious. 395 pounds was in the books for WV’s Kaitlyn Tennant, and we had a new national record.

There were some real grinders in the men’s LW class as well! Top performances included PA’s Jackson Thomas and Larry Zapotocky both nailing unbelievable deadlifts of 455 pounds. Apex Counseling was well represented on this, their title event, because the MW men pushing things even further as Gage Hovest recorded 475 pounds here. The HW division produced astounding lifts across the board in this discipline, with every one of them breaking over 500 pounds. Harley Redd, Tyler May, and Steven Stockslager all made 575, but it was Nolan Toti that took home the bacon at 635 pounds for a new national record. Nolan had one attempt after it was all said and done, so he opted to skip over the next allowable increment at 655, and asked for the bar to be loaded all the way to 675! Believe it or not he actually got some air time on the attempt, but 675 was a bit much even for Nolan who was now riding a huge wave of momentum going into event number 3.

The first two event were stationary endeavors, but strongman sport is above all else about movong things around that normal humans cannot budge, so our third feat of strength involved carrying heavy objects as quickly as possible in a farmers walk fashion; we called it our Medley event. A gigantic set of i-beams with handles welded on had to be carried (one in each hand) across the stage, then the athletes had to hurry to middle of the stage and hoist a loaded keg over a 4ft high crossbar. During the time that the athletes were wrestling with the kegs, staff members would attach extra weight to the i-beams, and the athletes had to come back and carry the now-heavier beams back to the start. The fastest time would win, so not only did one have to be uncommonly strong to even do attempt this gauntlet of pain, they had to be able to use that strength in a “real world” or “work-like” manner.

Victoria kicked us off in the event and got stopped in her tracks when she made it to the keg loading portion, but Rachel followed and completed the course in just under 29sec. Grace Stire Made the first leg of the farmers walk look easy, and toss the keg over the crossbar without too much trouble, but she suffered greatly on the return trip and did not finish. Caitlin Delaney fared better here and crossed the finish line at about the 41sec mark with 158 pounds in each hand. Kaitlyn Tennant completed her course in 36.23sec, despite her final farmers carry being at 178 pounds per hand!

Many of our athletes were suffering from the deadlift event, including Will Simpson who pulled out at this point. Camron Wayne did not the complete the course here and lost valuable points, as Larry Zapotocky, Jackson Thomas, and Ethan Zydel were all able to battle their way to the end. The MW men’s times were fast and furious despite monstrous weights; the first farmers walk was set to 172 per hand, the keg load was established at 240 pounds, and the return trip with the farmers was loaded to 222 pounds! Gage Hovest grasped the win here with the fastest time of anyone regardless of division with 20.11sec! In the HW mix, the weights were so heavy that only 3 men finished the course. Of

those that finished however, they were only separated by 1 second apiece! Nolan grabbed another win here and looked unstoppable… but it was far from over.

Our fourth obstacle for these teen titans was called the Mouser Block Carry. The idea was to carry a large steel block as far as possible before dropping it. Sounds simple right? Our LW ladies faced a steel block loaded to 140 pounds, and Utt suffered a cruel fate here as she set the block down at the turning point on the course; she forgot that setting it down meant your turn was over. This opened the door for Stone, who went above and beyond what was needed to win the event in order to test herself. MW ladies had to negotiate a 170 pound steel block (these loadable blocks were invented and are produced right here in WV by the way), and both Delaney and Stire were able to put up impressive performances here. Stire in fact had the longest distance carry of anyone regardless of division the entire day at 336 feet! Tennant made 96ft with her block loaded to 200 pounds, and the LW men were faced with a full 220 pounds. Ethan Zydel struggled to find any success with the big steel box which outweighed him by 70 pounds, but Wayne found his groove and put up 144ft. This would have normally been enough to win in most competitions, but with Zapotocky on the roster it only locked up 2nd place. Zapotocky willed his way to the win with a stunning 238ft 5in for a stunning victory.

Bonnett’s back was begging for mercy after the deadlift event, and he had to bow out of this challenge. Hovest fought valiantly for 155ft 2in, grinding to the point that he fell over with the block! This scared us all half to death, but the teenage Superman from Ohio hopped right up unscathed from the incident. WV’s Blake Herron took the win here, carrying the daunting 270 pound load beyond the 170ft mark. At HW the block was packed to a whopping 320 pounds (that is not a typo). Just to pick the thing up at that point was an unbelievable feat of strength, and carrying it for distance was just otherworldly. Redd could not get the hang of the initial pick and bombed out here to his dismay, but Brennan Hobbs of Indiana fared better with 48ft, and he was surpassed by Toti and May who both dropped at the turning mark with 96ft. Roethlisberger had what may have been his best performance of the day here, as he managed an enormous distance of 144ft. It was a superb display of strength and toughness, but the crown here went to Stockslager with 151 and a half feet! Steven showed us all what the term “grind” really means as it pertains to effort, and his relentless determination here was met with well-earned applause.

The fifth and final challenge was the “Deep Waters” Hercules Hold. This required our competitors to hold onto revolving handles attached to a diabolic device that was trying to pull them apart! The arms, the shoulders, the upper back, and above all else the grip and forearms would be tested here. This event was equal parts strength and sheer toughness as it is extremely uncomfortable to hold on, and every second gets more and more difficult. Victoria and Rachel both had phenomenal turns on this event, going nearly one full minute and nearly 90 seconds respectively. Delaney and Stire had impressive heats as well, 41.15 for Caitlin and 55.13 for Grace. Kaitlyn broke the one minute barrier with 1min 5sec in the HW class.

At LW in the men’s classes, Larry had a solid time of 46sec, but in this field it was only strong enough for fourth. Wayne hit just under 50sec for 3rd, Thomas held on for a full minute for 2nd, and Zydel took home the gold with 1min 7sec! Ethan was the lightest and youngest competitor in the class, so that added even more flare to his incredible performance. The weights continued to climb with each division, and by the time we got to the MW men, the forces created from the medieval-looking machine were tremendous. The weight was listed at 120 pounds per side, but a quick look at the apparatus would reveal that the weight was 6-7 feet out away from the hinge joint, so the pressure being applied to the athletes was probably 2-3 times that amount on each side! Herron squeezed tight for nearly 38sec, Gage reached nearly 40sec, and Bonnett almost 43 for the win. Luke’s troublesome back was out of the equation here, so he was able to really put his best foot forward.

At HW the increased poundage was quite evident as the handles ripped away from Harley Redd in about 23sec, Brennan Hobbs’ hand pried open at 29sec, Tyler may lost his grip at 39sec, and Steven Stockslager let loose around 41sec. Even Roethlisberger with his massive bear-paw sized mitts didn’t make it past 46seconds, and Nolan Toti was short of the magical one minute barrier by 4 or 5 seconds. Then came Jose Alonzo. The giant football player from Texas had an eventful day before the contest even started, and unfortunately it wasn’t for the best. Jose, while carrying a cooler through the parking lot to venue, smashed his foot on a trailer, and badly dislocated his big toe! Anyone who has ever

suffered such an injury knows that it would be rather ill-advised and quite difficult to even try to compete after mangling one’s foot in such a manner, so Jose went off to the hospital to get his toe put back in the socket. Upon his return, he asked if he could please still participate in the Hercules Hold event since it would not require him to put any pressure on the injury. I wasn’t about to deny a young man who traveled all the way from Texas to be there with us, so with his family’s blessing we decided to let him give it a go! What transpired may have been the story of the day, as not only did the big Texan win the event with 1min 2sec, he started talking to us and telling us jokes in the process! This as much of a feel-good moment as one could imagine, and we were all ecstatic for that young man who was able to turn what could have been a disaster of a day into a fantastic memory. Kudos Jose!

When the dust settled, here were the final standings:

LW Women Overall (120 and 140) 2nd Victoria Utt

1st Rachel Stone

MW Women Overall (160 and 180) 2nd Caitlin Delaney (1st place 180 division) 1st Grace Stire (1st place 160 division) *now 2 time National Champion

HW Women Overall (200 and Super HW) 1st Kaitlyn Tennant (also biggest female Press and Deadlift awards)

LW Men Overall (150 and 175) 5th Will Simpson

4th Ethan Zydel (1st place 150 division) 3rd Camron Wayne 2nd Jackson Thomas 1st Larry Zapotocky

*top 3 was the same for the 175 division

MW Men Overall (200 and 231) 3rd Luke Bonnett (1st place 200 division) 2nd Blake Herron 1st Gage Hovest *top 2 were the same for the 231 division

HW Men (265, 300, and unlimited) 7th Jose Alonzo (3rd at Super HW) 6th Harley Redd (2nd at 300) 5th Brennan Hobbs (2nd at Super HW) 4th Tyler May (1st at 300) 3rd Hunter Roethlisberger (1st at Super HW) 2nd Steven Stockslager (2nd at 265) 1st Nolan Toti (1st at 265)

Thank you so much to our staff and everyone who made this possible: Nicole Mouser (my lovely wife)

John Provins Jerry Handley Christian from Viking

Tiffany Drake Bryan Drake Shane Oney Katie O’Connor Strongman Corporation Andrew Clayton (former Teen National Champ) Viking Performance Training

Mouser Strength Dynamics Mountain State Women of Strength

Thanks to our sponsors! Dan Ryan Builders of Morgantown Apex Counseling Rider Pharmacy Starting Strongman

Thank you so much to everyone who came out or watched the live stream! We will catch in a few weeks in Bluefield, WV at Freedom Fest! Then the granddaddy of them all is coming to Fairmont on Sept 1, America’s Strongest Viking! After that we go back to the original meet that spawned all this madness in WV, the Strongest Man/Woman in the Forest in Elkins, WV on 9/29! Check out the calendars at mouserpower.com and vikingperformancetraining.com for more info!

Happy resting, – Paul Mouser