The 2012 Grip Nationals proved once again the Grip Sport is just as awesome, dynamic, and unpredictable sport as any other you may know.
This year, Nationals was held for the first time by Andrew Durniat at his gym, Durniat Strength, in Wooster, Ohio. Andrew just recently moved into his new location, which is a giant warehouse, just perfect for Grip Sport, Strongman, Powerlifting and Fitness. I was blown away by Andrew’s gym and when I complimented him on his amazing facility, he said thanks and then told me that he has been collecting, building, and amassing equipment for the last 10 or so years, all the while paying himself pennies, which has allowed him to have one of the most incredible gyms I have ever seen in my life.
To cut right to the chase, it’s a great place for the Grip National Championship.
I have been involved with Grip for many years now, starting out knowing nothing in 2003 and after all these years, I still continue to learn and marvel at everyone’s performance, watching people continually improve and seeing new faces come out and put forth impressive performances.
Check out Amy’s Write-up on Elite
This year, my biggest highlight was watching Amy Wattles, a high-performing women’s Strongman and Highland Games competitor, and someone who I have been distance coaching in Grip Sport, get on the platform for the first time and set at least two records. She set a new women’s US record in the Two Hands Pinch and established an all-time record in the Axle. The best part though was watching her enjoy learning a new sport over the last few months and then put her knowledge into action at the competition.
Another great part of the day was watching two Young Guns enter into the high-level ranks of Grip Sport. One was Cesare Ricchezza, a.k.a., Chez. This was the first time I’d seen him in person and most of the times I had seen him on video it was just his forearm and hand mangling some type of gripper. This boy is big and I think in time will be awesome at Grip Sport.
An even bigger “Dark Horse” at the event was Kody Burns, who attended with his Uncle, Girlfriend/Wife, and son. It was awesome seeing someone come with their family. Kody had qualified for Nationals by driving 12 hours from Ohio to Minnesota and competing in the Grip Decathlon at Adam Glass’s gym. That is dedication. Nationals was only his second competition ever, but Kody has been working for many years in quiet secrecy, unaware that there were Grip Sport Competitions being done all around him in what has basically become the new hub of Grip Sport, the state of Ohio. Kody showed his prowess with respectable gripper closes, a 200+-lb Two Hands Pinch, which is a serious milestone, a lift on the axle over 350-lbs, a great medley run where he showed very well-rounded grip strength, and a machine-like support grip, battling well over 30-seconds in the Frame Hold. I can’t wait to see what this guy is capable of. A tall build with almost no fat on his body, Kody has a great future ahead of him in Grip Sport.
I was also able to meet a long-time friend via phone and email, Ryan Pitts, owner of Stronger Grip Enterprises, and designer of some of the coolest Grip Training and general strength equipment you will see. This meeting was a long time coming, too-long actually. It was great to finally meet up with him and watch him push himself on the platform. He and I are pictured below with another new friend of mine, Mark Nolan.
Mark and I first chatted over a year ago, when he told me about an event he ran called the Pump-n-Run, and event combining the Bench Press and a distance run, which is a benefit he holds for victims of violent assault. He does this in memory of his sister, whom he lost to assault a few years ago. I have enjoyed getting to know Mark even more over the last few months, and we will be working together more closely in the near future on something which I will be announcing in the upcoming months. It was my pleasure meeting Mark’s lovely wife, Eleni, and his daughter, Melina, this weekend as well. Rest assured I was properly fueled for the competition with Eleni’s superb Greek cuisine the night before the comp, and Mark’s support during the competition was immeasurable and indescribable, in what proved to be one of my worst competitive days in all of my strength career. It just goes to show that anyone can have a bad day, but with the support of good friends like Mark, you can still salvage some much-needed points.
Speaking of support, I have to also give a shout out to someone who was able to rescue me from a whirlwind of frustration on Saturday, Sean “Doc” Dockery. Doc is my broadcast partner at Grip Strength Radio, but over the last couple of years has become one of my best friends. Doc does not compete at Grip, but you can find him at almost every single competition in Ohio, generally serving as head judge throughout the event. Somehow, he even managed to work in Twitter updates on the developments of the competition, which I saw later when I logged onto my account. I didn’t even notice his phone in his hand. It’s tough to put into words how valuable having Doc at a contest is, always on top of things in so many ways. And while he is not a regular competitor on the platform, he is an accomplished Grip Strength practitioner, being a master of the Blob for nearly a decade and more recently lifting the Inch Dumbbell and becoming the latest certified Captain of Crush, doing so with a complete Table No-Set close.
Grip Sport continues to evolve and break new ground. This year many new weight classes were developed. For the men, weight classes at 59k, 66k, 74k, 83k, 93k, 105k, 120k, and 120k+ were instituted, and Andrew included all of them that were represented at Nationals this year, while also including an absolute champion, based on one group of all the competitors. I thought this was a great way to run the contest, adding the flair of the newly instituted classes, while retaining the history of the way Grip Competitions have been run for the last decade as well.
While my numbers were down, for others it was a day of domination. Andrew set an unthinkable mark of a 206-lb (RGC) Gripper Close with the 20-mm block set and Adam Glass set a new record at the 105-kg weight class of 251-lbs in the Two Hands Pinch, while also making what would have been a good pull at 255 in an extra attempt once the event was finished. This just goes to show that there is even more to behold at future competitions. All the more enticing for new faces to come watch a competition with these guys involved.
There were many other people in the battle at Nationals. For instance, Austin Acree, who competed as a Novice in Nationals last year showed incredible improvement, moving his grippers from the high 140’s to the high 160’s and added about 12-lbs to his Two Hands Pinch in less than 1 year’s time. My long-time friend, occasional training partner, and continual email antagonist, Brent Barbe and his wife Mary Anne were there battling as always. Brent and Mary Anne, while competing at a high level in their divisions also are constantly helping out other people with their technique, strategy, and offering training tips all the while as well. Brandon Gerber, who set a record lift in the Two Hands Pinch for his weight class last year continues to improve and show that he is here to stay in Grip Sport, and Nick Rosendaul, who after me was probably the most senior of competitors gave an absolute awe-inspiring effort in the frame hold, taking first place in the event with a mark of nearly a minute.
In the end, Nationals was an awesome time this year for all of the competitors, including myself.
The events were Grippers with a 20-mm set, Two Hands Pinch, Axle Deadlift, Medley, and Frame Hold.
I have uploaded several of the videos I got from the contest to my YouTube channel.
There are just a couple of videos I would like to show you all. These are things I think anyone who competes can benefit from.
First off: No matter what happens, you can not give up in a contest after missing. As I have said before, Misses are Just Warm-ups. Many times, the difference between a missed lift or feat can be a millimeter off in your grip, a slight distraction that takes place, or a lack of warm-up. As an example I missed my first three of four attempts at 256-lbs on the Two Hands Pinch, a weight I have not missed on in about two years. I can’t point out one single change I made in my form or anything else for that matter, but on my 4th attempt, I was successful and got the event win.
Two Hands Pinch 256-lbs: 4th Attempt
The other thing I want to point out is that while your efforts and determination in training are important, the numbers aren’t always. In practice for Nationals, I trained the frame hold 6 times and I was never able to hold the target weight for more than two seconds on my apparatus. However, I never missed a workout on it and my consistency paid off, as I was able to produce a number I was very happy with at the competition, around 47 seconds. It is important to note that originally, I was going to have to hold 600-lbs, and I trained for that. At the competition, the weight was reduced to 500-lbs, but even when working around that weight, my best hold was 15 seconds. Don’t let your training fool you into thinking you can’t do even better once the adrenaline hits and the whistle is blown at the competition. Focus in and give it everything you have when it matters most.
Frame Hold: 500-lbs
But my biggest lesson learned was about my Axle Deadlift form. I was given some very good tips on my set-up from
Micaela Alvarez, a competitive women’s powerlifter. I can’t wait to try out some of her suggestions to make my Axle
pulls more efficient. I posted a ZERO for the Axle event, as I was unsuccessful in producing a legal lift. Micaela noticed some things that make perfect sense, but I was over-looking them.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also point to guys like Zach Coulter who would have loved to have been competing, but just didn’t quite meet qualification guidelines and then came to the contest anyway and assisted with loading, stopwatch, and other duties.
Also, Greg Gorecki, who was also close to qualifying put forth a lot of effort in many of the events, while also supporting me and the rest of the competing group throughout the contest. There were also many other people who Andrew recruited helping out by taking pictures, setting up, changing weights and doing many other duties who I do not know the names of. Thanks to all of you who had a hand in the success of the 2012 Grip Sport National Championships.
Here’s to another great season of Grip Sport here in the US, North America, and all over the world. The first contest I know of right now is World’s Strongest Hands 2012, a one-leg event taking place all over the United States, Europe, and Asia. That takes place on August 18th, and I would love to have about 20 people ready to throw down here at my place in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. For more information, go to this post: World’s Strongest Hands 2012.