2004 Bench Press Nationals

Killeen, TX

MD: Johnny Graham

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Article by: Robert Keller

The 2004 USAPL National Bench Press Championships was a splendid success! This year's contest was held in Killeen, Texas under the direction of Johnny Graham, the USAPL Vice-president, and the loyal and faithful Phantom Corps Powerlifting Team of Fort Hood, Texas. Overall, the contest featured 150 lifters from 30+ states. Not to be left out, Lanette Lopez must be recognized for her tireless work behind the scenes in assisting Johnny to direct these championships -- Many thanks to Lanette for her great work along with coaching our US National Teams! The venue for this year's championships was the newly constructed Killeen Civic Center that boasted some 50,000+ square feet of convention space. Two large projection screens, mounted in corners of the ballroom behind the lifting platform, were a definite plus to not only the lifters, but the audience to view the lifting - especially if you were seated in the back of the room, or in the prep area behind the lifting platform. This feature allowed everyone, regardless as to where you were standing in the room to see the lifting take place -- A definite plus at any event of this size.

To compliment this convention center, the newly constructed Killeen Regional Airport makes transportation into Killeen, from any part of Texas or surrounding one of the surrounding states, a very comfortable and uncomplicated process. Interesting to note, once I landed in Killen, and after getting my bag, then catching a cab to the lifting venue, was literally 20 minutes. The plaza hotel, not less than 5 minutes from the convention center, again, provided the lodging for the athletes, administrators, and coaches. The hotel staff was extremely friendly, courteous and supportive of our group, which made everyone feel welcome and comfortable prior to taking part in the championship. To add to this, I was informed that the city of Killeen boasts one of thee largest volunteer youth groups in not only Texas, but the United States. They have received many awards and citations for their service to the community. This same 'attitude' and sense of community was present from the time I arrived in Killeen to my departure. It must be noted also, that during the course of the weekend, many dignitaries from the town, to include the police and fire chiefs, as well as the city manager came to the event to support and cheer on the lifters. This is not often the case and we are thankful to the city of Killeen for their generous hospitality - USA Powerlifting looks forward to our return in May 2005, when Johnny will be hosting the 2005 USAPL Men's National Powerlifting Championships. If you have note made your reservations yet, I would suggest making them now, as I see this as a sell out weekend!

Contests Results and Review:
Prior to beginning the lifting report, I would like to mention that with the World Bench Press Championships going to be held at home this year in the good ole USA, made the competition in quite a few of the weight classes extremely competitive, with many lifters opening right at their maximum, which needless to say, caused quite a few bombouts to take place. This opened the door for several lifters to make their first international squad, and some veteran lifters having to sit this one out this year. On this note, it must be stated that it is not what you start with that actually counts, but it is what you end with that really matters. This statement rang more loudly in this championship, than any other I have been to. Open with what you know that you can honestly can get, and go from there. Also, I would like to comment that we are experiencing a technological boom of sorts in the evolution, in not only the construction of the actual bench press shirt technology, but in the execution of how the bench press is actually performed. Gone are the days, where a lifter walked up and laid down on the bench in a flat-back position, un-racked the weight without the aid of a spotter, and performed the movement with a strict "press" and "rack" command called by the referee. As I see it, we have entered the truly modern era, with bench pressers becoming increasingly and technically savvy in their approach with equipment and technique, where super-arches, to raise the chest to its highest possible point, combined with the maximum allowable grip of 81cm, and the tightest fitting and constructed shirts, allows lifters of this era to push a great deal of weight, and in fact, has indeed changed the lift entirely. In some cases, the stroke of the bench press form start to finish is just a few centimeters in distance. As this technological revolution takes place, one will more than likely witness a bench presser one day press [legitimately] more weight than the current world record in the deadlift. Interesting to see how the IPF Technical Committee views these technological advances and what recommendations will be forthcoming in the future. Now, onto the lifting highlights of the championship:

Saturday - Session I
The ladies started off first with some impressive performances being turned in by Maura Shuttleworth, Valerie Naymick, and Jennifer Hollier. Both Valerie and Jennifer stroked three successful attempts to win their class divisions. Jennifer defeated Kimberly Aanenson on bodyweight. Maura just missed a huge bench of 77.5kg. Plenty of strength to make the lift, just some technical difficulty -- she will make it next time around. Deb Hairston was impressive with her lifting and will break the IPF M2 record quite soon! Jill Darling of Alaska had to go to her third attempt, in order to get one on the board, missing her first two with 117.5kg on technicalities. Jill went on to attempt a huge 138kg on a fourth attempt for a world record, and nearly made it - very impressive to say the least. Bench worlds she will make this weight and more. In the 60kg class, Jennifer Robertson was able to just nip Jennifer Thompson for this year's national championship. Both will more than likely line up against one another at this year's worlds and we wish the two of them much success - Great job ladies! In the Men's category, Hung Pham, Peter Wong and Steve Petrencak won their classes going unopposed. However, the 67.5kg category witnessed newcomer Trey Collins win over last year's national champion Joe Smith, with a huge 202.5kg bench press. Look for this battle to ensue in future championships, as both are evenly matched in their respective abilities - Good work men!

Saturday - Session II No stranger to international competition, Priscilla Ribic, this year's Women's World Powerlifting Champion, easily won the 67.5kg class with ease. Her world record third attempt of 150.5kg was turned down 2-1, on a very close decision by the referees. As with Jill, she will make this and more at the World Bench Press Championships in Cleveland, where Priscilla will attempt to win both the IPF World Powerlifting and Bench Press titles in the same year -- a feat not matched or completed by any other female lifter in the history of the sport! Good luck to Priscilla Ribic! In the 75kg class, Christy Newman blazed through four (4) perfect benches in her patented super-arch style, to win strongly over Doan, Martinez, and Brooke Freiman. Christy's fourth attempt IPF world record of 160.5kg ranks as one of the all-time best lifts in the history of the sport. Great job and congratulations! After completing the lift and seeing the lights she was in utter disbelief and burst into tears… Unquestionably, it was real pleasures seeing Christy break this world record, and she is well deserving of it, considering the amount of time and effort she puts into the sport of powerlifting…! You go girl!! Special attention needs to be given to 16 year old Devon Doan, daughter of national and world champion, David Doan, who made an easy 125kg bench press on her opener; however, was not able to negotiate 130kg on both her second and third attempts. Look for her to be a sensational lifter in the open category in years to come…!

The men' lifting in the 75kg, 82.5kg and 90kg classes proved to be equally as exciting as the ladies, as veterans of previous bench press wars collided and clashed with one another for top honors and world team positions.

In the 75kg, a rivalry for the ages continued between Mike Hara, and seemingly ageless wonder Dr. Larry Miller that went down to the wire. Mike made a clutch third attempt, after missing his first and second attempt, to outlast Larry Miller, who was not able to get one on the board, but still took what was needed to win on his third attempt to beat Mike, but came up short. Interestingly enough, at the weigh-in, Larry turned in an opener of 230kg that he planned NOT to take; however, was late to the scorers table to make the change prior to the start of the flight. Unfortunate, as he was then not able to make an attempt to get into the contest, considering the fact the worlds are in his home state of Ohio. Nevertheless, he will be there to assist with the USA Team, and will serve as your primary meet director for this event. Notable was the effort displayed by Dr. Anton Reel, who at 84 years young, who continues to lift and compete at national level competitions with some lifters old enough to be his great-grand kids -- Wow!! What an accomplishment in of itself to be still lifting and competitive at this age. As they say, you are never too old to start! From my perspective, no one enjoys and appreciates the sport of Powerlifting, as much as the master lifters do, within the USA Powerlifting. Hats of to you guys and gals -- Great job!!

In the 82.5kg, Lance Kirchner, former three-lift IPF world record holder, moved up to take this class rather easily. Lance is a polished lifter with exceptional confidence and technique. To me, when watching him lift, the weights seem to glide right off his chest into the lockout position. His 240kg third attempt was very close, and he will make this at the worlds, with a possibility of much more, as he grows into this class. Andy Furnas lifted exceptionally well and made a limit lift of 225kg on his third attempt to place a close second to Lance. Andy has the tools to win this class in the future, and will be difficult to beat at the Master's World Bench Press Championships, if he opts to go and lift there. Joe DeMatteo and Marvin Coleman, both contenders were not able to get one onto the scorecard this time around; however, will be back to challenge again next year. Both Marvin and Joe will be attending the 2004 USAPL American Open as guest lifter(s) and will be taking shots at the world record there - good luck to both Marvin and Joe! Special note must be paid to Stephan Judah, who bench pressed 182.5kg, unequipped, at just 21 years of age, and Rudy Lazano who just missed a world record in the M3 with 170.5 kg, at 65 years of age. Great job to both gentlemen!

The 90kg class witnessed world champion and former world record holder, Joe McAuliffe take control of this class, and win it decisively, with three picture perfect text-book attempts in the bench press, before missing a fourth attempt at an open world record with 263.5kg. Joe will be hard to beat in Cleveland and we wish him much success! Bill Shalkowski picked his attempts extremely well, and placed second, and also had a close miss at the MI world record in the bench press. Bill is a technician and lifted extremely smart, taking an opener that he could handle according the conditions, and took successful attempts that were right on the mark - well done! Peter Grohoski of Pennsylvania placed third, and continues to improve and made a PR bench press in this class. Normally consistent Steve Spinelli had a tough day, and missed all of his attempts, along with newcomer Bianchi.

Sunday - Session I
The relatively small group of women started the day with Amanda Locklear and Kim Newman winning their classes unopposed. However, Deb Ferrell was able to finally get things started, when she electrified the crowd with her simply awesome lifting, when she broke the world record bench press, not only in the MI class, but the open category as well, with a super 182.5kgs. Look for Deborah to go 190kg at the World Bench Press Championships - Go Deb!

In the men's 100kg class, with Tony Succarotte not making weight and Dennis Cieri [nearly] decapitating himself on his opening attempt with 272.5kgs, when the bar slipped from his hands, the much anticipated match-up and grudge match between these two never materialized. (Special thanks here go to the spotters for a super job in catching the weight, and to Donavon Thompson and Cathy Marksteiner for assisting with medical issues. Out heartfelt thanks!) Amazingly however, after passing his second attempt, Dennis took his third attempt and nearly made it! Talk about determination and toughness - Dennis Cieri has it, and then some to spare. Dennis will be back and the rivalry between him and Tony shall continue way into the future. Consequently, with Dennis's bomb out, this left the door wide open for Charles Turco to win the weight class overall. Another lifter that deserves special recognition is Mario Rajos, who only days before the contest returned from combat duty in Iraq. Welcome home Mario, and thank you for your service to our great country - It is much appreciated and many thanks! Folks - Mario is a true iron warrior!

The 110kg class was very exciting to watch, as there were multiple candidates that could have easily taken this title home with them, and call it their own. Kevin Mayer, Ralph Young, David Doan, Tony Succarotte squared off for what was considered a no holds barred battle royal in this class that was really something to watch. Unfortunately, with the stakes being so high, this class saw the second highest rate of bombouts for the entire contest, with Tony Succarotte being the most notable of the five that were not able to get a lift in. Unfortunate to say the least!! In any event, with Succarotte out, Kevin Mayer stepped to the plate and took control of this class and stroked three picture perfect benches to win this class going away. Kevin was definitely on target with all of his attempts and was technically very sound all of the way to the bank - Ending with a very strong 290kg! A subsequent fourth attempt try at the open world record with 295.5kg was close; however was missed at lock out. Not to be overshadowed, Titan teammate Ralph Young made it a close race all the way to the finish. Needless to say, there was no way that Ralph was going hand the title to Kevin, and made it perfectly clear that this was not going to be a walk-over. Ralph paced Kevin throughout all three attempts, but came up a slight bit short at the end with his final attempt, which would have given him the win on bodyweight. Nonetheless, Ralph did end up with an M1 world record bench press with just his opener of 277.5kg. Both Lou Shavian and Greg Chun are both very strong lifters, and once they correct the technical aspects in their performances, will compete for this title.

Other notable performances were turned in by the ever steady Gary Pamplin, who never ever seems to miss an attempt. He will no doubt make an excellent addition to this year's Master's World Bench Press Team. Also, kudos also go out to veteran master competitors Joe Yanovitch of Florida, who knocked out a beautiful 140kg bench press at 71 years old, and to Sheldon Levy who is still recovering from surgery last year, and lifted very well too. Sheldon assisted me with the Jury duties much of the day previous to him competing and it was a real pleasure to work with him - Sheldon, thank you for taking time out to assist with the contest!

Sunday - Session II
This session proved to be the most of exciting of the entire event, with several lifters opening with quite a bit of weight over the existing IPF world single-lift records in both the 125kg and 125+kg classes. However, once the lifting was under way in the 125kg class, some of these openers proved fatal, with several lifters opening near their maximum in order to place as high as possible, which unfortunately caused them to bomb! Prominent to this situation were Colin "pooh bear" Rhodes, who had is partner shine a physicians flash light into his eyes before proceeding out onto the platform. Horace Lane and Brad Klinger also fell victim to the standards and were not able to get one on the board as well. Season veteran Scott Lade (Slade) took advantage of this opening, and was able to get one attempt in with 297.5kg to secure the win, before taking a shot with 318kgs to break the existing world record. Close, but not on this day - Look for Scott to make this at the Bench Press World Championships! As a side note, if there ever was a guy built for bench pressing it is Scott Lade - he is compact, and has all of the necessary tools and levers to produce some great lifts. Following Scott was Geoff Plante, who made a solid and terrific 265kg on a second attempt to secure a possible birth on the USA Team. Placing third, Patrick Anderson has made significant gains in the past year and with a little more training and specialization in the bench press can and will challenge for this title in the future. Pat's final attempt at 267.5kgs, to overtake Geoff was extremely close and could have gone either way. Both Pat and Geoff will be way over 272.5kg, by this time next year. Ludlum, Dr. Hartle and Palmer were not that far back and battled for the remaining positions.

In the 125+kg class, Tiny Meeker, holder of the top bench press of all-time, with a USA Powerlifting American Record of 744lbs, came to the meet ready to make history, by being the first ever bench presser to [officially] break the 365kg/804lb mark. However, this was not to be the day, and Tiny came up short on his first two attempts with 347.5kg/766lbs, before missing with a VERY close 365kg/804lbs on a third attempt that was nearly locked out. Nonetheless, after witnessing his performance, it is plainly clear that Tiny has both the power and strength to make these lifts. Once he overcomes the small technical adjustments, he will go on to make much bigger lifts in the future. Tiny was followed by training partner Booby Leitz, and Seattle Seahawks Strength Coach, Bill Gillespie, who both opened near their maximum, and bombed as well. Bill was really hoping to break the world record, and will take another shot at this record at the American Open Championships that will be held on December 11 & 12, 2004, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Come and watch history be made. With these three lifters scratching from the contest, allowed the day to belong to Lance Karabel. Lance lifted within his means and took home the national championship title as well as the USA team slot for the World Bench Press Championships. Interestingly enough, Lance's third attempt at the 320kg was very close, and I have been told that he will make this weight by the time worlds roll around. It will be something to see all four of these gentlemen square off against each other for another shot at this title next year, in St. Louis, Missouri. Notable in this weight class, was also Frank Beeler's performance and new M2 master's world record. This was very nice to see happen, considering only three of the eleven starters were able to get an attempt in. Needless to say, Frank will be very difficult to beat at this year's master's world bench press championships. Congratulations Frank - Great Job!

Officials and Staff:
Again, like at the Men's National Powerlifting Championships, just only two months ago, I had the pleasure of working with some true professionals. I would like to commend the officials and the staff for an absolutely professional job with their respective duties and assignments. The referees worked together and produced a simply flawless event, free of injury and misloads. Overall, the officiating was of high-quality with some lifters being caught off guard with the high standard and application of the IPF rules. With such a high level of officiating, a lifter going to the world championships will be more than ready for IPF refereeing. Special thanks go out to Joe Marksteiner - IPF Cat II, Cathy Marksteiner - IPF Cat II, Larry Miller - IPF Cat II, Pat Chidester - National, Gerry Chidester - National, Debra Alexander - National, Kim Beckwith - National, Gregory Page - National, Christy Newman - National, Wade Hooper - National, Sheldon Levy - National, and Ron Buech - State. Also, I would like to recognize and thank Anthony (Tony) Marksteiner for coming to the event, and assisting with the computerized scoring program that was designed by his father Joe, a mechanical and aeronautical engineer by trade. Overall, the program worked very well and everyone was quite pleased with the results. Joe will be rolling this program out in Cleveland. The spotters and loaders included Wade Hooper, Tony Cardella, Curt St. Romain, Joe Gremillion, Eliot Feldman, and volunteers from the Phantom Corps Powerlifting Team. Key and important, I would like to publicly commend all of the spotters and loaders for their superior and professional work on the platform. Their alertness saved quite a few lifters from serious injury. So, on behalf of the organization, Larry Maile, Johnny Graham, and I, we would like to thank you for your excellent work!

USA Powerlifting would like to take this opportunity to thank the following sponsors for their contributions, which made this contest a success. They are as follows: Inzer Advance Designs - John Inzer/Peter Thorne; Titan Support Systems - Pete Alinez; Advocare; Xperience Video Production; and Larry Stephens Photography for the contest photos. If you are interested in getting a hold of Larry for photographs of this championship, he can be reached at: 254.535.6663.

World Bench Press Championships - Cleveland, Ohio
As a reminder, this championship served as the official qualifier for the IPF World Bench Press Championships that will take place on December 4 & 5, 2004, in Cleveland, Ohio, under the direction of Kings Gym and Dr. Larry Miller. Not to be left out, the 2005 IPF World Bench Master's Press Championships will take place on April 21-24, in Nymburk, Czech Republic. Dr. Mike Hartle will be coaching the Open Bench Press team and Kevin Farley will be coaching the Master's Bench Press team. Information for the coming world championships in Cleveland, Ohio can be found on the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) web-page, which can be found here: World Bench Press Championships

I would ask that if you have time to attend and support the USA Team at this year's World Bench Press Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, please do so! Your attendance and sign of support will in fact make a major difference for our lifters. Also, if you are interested in volunteering for the event, contact Dr. Larry Miller at: Drbench@aol.com

I am sure that he would appreciate the assistance!

Drug-testing Resume:
At this championship, I pulled thirty (30) athletes for drug-testing, with three (3) tests being Out-of-Competition Tests (OCT) on lifters that are USA World Team members, preparing to lift at upcoming world championships. With 20% of the athletes being tested for prohibited substances at this championship, this exceeds the organizations current mandate of testing at least 10% of the lifters in each contest. Moreover, of these thirty (30) tests, eleven (11) of the samples taken were sent directly to the UCLA laboratory (only IOC certified lab in the United States) for analysis, and the other nineteen (19) tests were sent to Quest Labs in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once the tests are complete, and the results returned to the USAPL National Office, athletes, coaches and administrators will be able to view the examination results, on the newly created USAPL Drug-testing database. As of the writing of this article, there are currently some 500+ test results logged into the database. Special recognition is in order to Dr. Larry Maile, and Tony Cardella, as well as to the USAPL Executive committee for making this a reality. This will eliminate the ongoing speculation of who was and was not tested and the results to the tests being performed at the meets within the USAPL - No other drug-tested organization in the USA offers such a service. Being a transparent and democratic organization, I applaud the efforts of USAPL Administration for making this database a reality. Great job!

Final Comments and Thoughts:
This venue next year shall probably witness one of the best Men's National Powerlifting Championships in the history of the sport, as lifters will be vying for a spot on the USA team that shall lift at the 35th IPF Men's World Powerlifting Championships and the IPF Pan-American Powerlifting Championships in Miami, Florida, during November 2005. Also, Johnny has received the IPF bid to host the World Master's Championships in 2006, utilizing this same hotel and venue. In addition to this, I would like to publicly thank Dr. Larry Maile, the USAPL President, for flying from Alaska to attend this event. Larry, again, held another question and answer session, during one of the breaks between lifting. These 'Town-Hall' like information sessions provide an excellent opportunity for members of the federation to have their voice heard on matters they are concerned with, as well as ask questions directly to the USA Powerlifting leadership. So, if you have a national championship coming to your area, and wish to speak with the leadership of the organization, please stop by, meet your elected officials, and become involved with the dialogue to move our sport forward. On a final note, it was a pleasure to attend this championship. Again, our compliments to Johnny Graham for putting on one of the best directed meets I have ever been to in the 30+ years that I have been involved with the sport. In any event, I look forward to seeing what is in store for us in Cleveland!! And, I wish all the athletes much success with their training and preparations for this event, as we gear up for the biggest show in bench pressing in the world! Key and important, for those viewing the IPF World Bench Press Championships for the first time ever, you will be introduced to the strongest and best bench pressers ever seen! Good luck to Team USA at the World Championships!

Robert Keller
IPF Category I Referee
Technical Officer
2004 USAPL Bench Press National Championships
Killen, Texas

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