Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Battle for Grip Supremacy - By Dan Cenidoza

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on September 13, 2003

The line up was incredible, hardy handshakes all around. Men from all over gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to participate in what would be turn out to be a historical event in the strongman specialty division of grip sports. The prize table was loaded with everything from swords, to equipment, to autographed books and sat out front of a garage full of various shaped iron. The sun gleamed through the trees making for an incredible 75 degree Saturday afternoon in the country. The mood was set.

Besides rec. league lacrosse and games of pick-up basketball, this was my first competition. I was more anxious than nervous but with the adrenaline flowing like it was, I couldn't tell the difference. Going into the contest I knew I had little chance of winning and that was proven to me the night before when the Inch Replica was toyed with by several of the guys and nearly pressed overhead. My goal was to place in the top six.

12:00 sharp the first event begins... grippers.

To get an idea of the caliber of this contest, 9 out of the 12 competitors closed a #3 Captains of Crush gripper or higher! Awesome. Four of these men mashed the Beef Builder Elite gripper but first place went to Tommy Heslep with his tie breaking hold of 8.87 seconds. Second place was awarded to Dave Morton with 6.37 seconds, third to Rob "monkey paws" W. Vigeant with 5.42 seconds and fourth place to big Steve McGranahan. Fifth place was shared by "Napalm" Jedd Johnson and Rob "midget hands" F. Vigeant for their big efforts on the widest, hardest #3 gripper I've ever laid eyes on. Rick Walker and I both closed a single stamped #3 to bring us to the tie breaking hold with him mashing for 11.52 seconds and me barely edging him out with 13.90 seconds. (Think all #3 grippers are made the same... think again, there was a world of difference between the two that were contested.) Eighth place went to John Mannino with a PDA 387 close, ninth place shared by Canadian Jonathan McMillian and James "smitty" Smith with their filed #2 close. Tenth place went to "little big man" 16 year old Tommy Wilkins who was a hair shy of closing the #2.

10 minute rest period and on to the two-hand pinch.

At this point my adrenaline had leveled off and I felt relatively calm and focused. I was confident in my pinching strength and I knew, or I thought, I would place well. That was until big John called out 200 pounds for his first attempt! We had been talking a few minutes before and he said he'd be going for 300. I didn't believe he could do it, no way! Though he seemed confident enough, he missed his first attempt. I felt sorry for him since he wouldn't be able to lower his weight and it looked as if he was doomed for last place but it was a relief to know that he was human after all. So much for that, he pulled it on his second attempt but made too big of a jump to 227 and was done.

As for me, I played it safe. I was strategic with my attempts. I took modest jumps as I approached my previous best and slowly inched by it as I compared my weights to the other competitors. I wanted to do 1.25 pounds more than anyone I may have tied with, or lost to if I wasn't careful. I made my way to 192 pounds, 12 pounds higher than my best in training. We had two minutes for each attempt, I pinched and I pulled. It was not to be. I tried again... nothing. I remembered in training that I found I could do more when I focused my eyes as well as my attention on my hands. Up it went. I topped out at 192 with the crease of my thumb chaffed and hurting. 197 was not to be. I placed fifth behind Monkey Paws (212), Big Steve and Tommy (207), Midget hands (198.25), John and Napalm (197). Rick and Dave (177) shared 7th, Jonathan (172) at 8th, the little big man (132) at 9th and smitty (127) bringing us in at 10th.

10 minutes rest until thick dumbbell deadlifts.

By now I was dragging ass. It wasn't that I was fatigued, but the pinching had lasted what seemed like forever. Some of the guys had about 7 attempts before bowing out. The adrenaline had came and went and I was in withdrawal. A cup of green tea did me good before the next event. Maybe a little too good. I was rearing to go now. I had tried the bell out the night before and the handle felt smaller than the one I had been using in training. I guesstimated my handle at 2.5 inches of duct tape wrapping, this one felt like 2.3 but Rick assured us it was 2.5 inches in diameter. The handle definitely wasn't as slick as the duct tape, I figured I would do really good this time around.

I started modestly at 110. Cake, didn't even need chalk. Same thing with 120 and 130, which was my previous best in training. 140 went up just as easy and I confidently called for 150 for my next attempt. Big difference, big mistake. I let myself get a little too cocky, a little too confident and I just couldn't get that bell up. I gave it everything I had and I lost a nice chunk of skin off my thumb in the process. I placed 8th. Rob W. pulled 180, Big Steve got 165, Dave at 160, Jedd with 157.5, Tommy at 155, John had 150, Rick with 147.5, Rob F. shared 8th place with me at 140, Jonathan got 130, James 120 and little big man topped out at 90.

Things were not looking good for me at this point. The next event was nail bending, not my forte. Where most of the events big hands are an advantage, in nail bending you lose leverage. I knew I wouldn't place well in this event, I hadn't been training properly and I just plain suck at bending!

10 minutes rest and on we go.

I started off with the easiest nail available, the Ironmind white nail. Yes, it was easy. The green was a walk in the park as well. Next in line was the yellow nail, which I've never got past 30 degrees in training. Today was different, I gave it all I had it yielded to my will. You might not think a half an inch would make a big difference but the 6.5-inch yellow stopped me dead in my tracks. I gave it all I had and I was pretty sure I injured my wrists in the process. As I awaited my next attempt, I paid close attention to the style the other competitors were using to bend. I had never seen the technique that the others were using but everyone seemed to be using it. With the nail held high and strait up, they were using the strength of their opposite lat to pull the nail down away from themselves as they rotated their palm down. It made sense and when I tried it the 6.5-inch yellow that defeated me moments before, this time it gave.

For my next attempt all I had wanted to do was move up another place. Jed had failed at a 6.25 and I figured if I could "U" that one I'd edge him out. For a full two minutes I summoned every bit of intensity I could muster. Veins were popping, I was sweating profusely and screaming with effort and agony from the nail digging into my hands. The end result, 30 degrees maybe. Didn't matter much anyway because Jedd went on to bend 5.75" blue... and that only earned him eighth place! There was some serious bending going on! Big Steve put a hurtin' on the red nail, about 115 degrees! Rob F. bent a 4.5 blue, Tommy a 4.75", Rob W. got 90 degrees on the same, John made a "U" out of a 5 incher just barely beating Dave and Rick by a few degrees. Smitty, who has never successfully bent a nail before, slammed a 6 inch yellow nail and a blue nail! True, they're exactly the same, but the fact remains, he did it twice! Incredible! I was awarded 10th place with Jonathan taking 11th with a yellow and little big man taking 12th with a 4.5" green!

The final event was the farmers hold for time, 310 an arm and I was in eighth place, things were not looking good for me. I didn't worry, I was confident. I only had a few sessions to train the hold, but I felt I had accomplished much in my preparations. I needed to come in first... I was going to come in first! As everyone warmed up I paced back and forth asking the Lord to give me strength. I took a pull or two off the ground to prepare myself... I was so pumped! Rick had told us all he planned on winning this event and that he was shooting for 2 minutes. He saw me pacing and asked what I was going for. I told him 2:05. We chuckled for a second and I went back to my pacing.

During this time 7 guys had went before me. Big Steve held the lead with 37.40 seconds barely beating out Rob W. by .04 of a second!! This actually made the difference of first and second place overall! Tommy H. held for 5.10 seconds, and Rob F. who doesn't even train anything but his grip got 26.16 seconds! Dave held 28.00 seconds his first time touching this much weight barely losing to Jedd with 28.20. John had it for 26.16 seconds and I was up! I was so ready!!!

Approaching the weight I noticed that my fiancée wasn't around. I paced a little longer but I was starting to hold things up. I asked Jedd to find her for me, I didn't want her miss my last performance, which would turn out to be my best, and she confirmed later that she would have been upset if she missed it. Her and Jedd came around the corner and I stepped to the platform.

The weight was rested on cinder blocks so I didn't have far to pull. I was given the option of having it handed to me but I neglected. I asked the timekeeper to give me the time at 30 seconds and every 10 afterwards. I had high hopes on this one. I started my pull and began my hold. The weight felt good. I positioned myself in the hunchback and calmly held on. I don't remember all that went through my mind in what seemed like an eternity, all I recall is thinking WIN! Thirty seconds went by like nothing and then all of a sudden, it got heavy... real heavy. I began to strain. I felt my face contort and my neck begin to bulge. My eyes were shaking when the timekeeper finally called 40 seconds. I had to go longer! Everyone was cheering and yelling, yet everything seemed so quiet. My hands hurt and my arms felt like they were beginning to rip off. I managed another 3.06 seconds before I finally gave. What a relief it was putting that weight down and realizing that I had taken the lead. It was great, and I thanked God.

Next up was Rick, this was to be his event and though I wanted him to do well, I surely didn't want him to beat me. I walked back and forth in the outskirts as I was catching my breath. I heard the timekeeper call out 30 seconds, he still looked strong. I took my eyes away for a moment when I heard the weight come crashing to the ground. Total time: 38.58 seconds... I had retained the lead and beat Rick by 5 seconds! I was so happy! I glanced over the scorecard to see where that put me and I was one point away for being tied for 6th place with Jedd.

By this time Jonathan was well into his hold. He had been one that doubted his ability on this event but was going on strong! I realized if he placed above Jedd that would bump him down a point, tying us for sixth place! I ran over and started screaming at him to hold! I don't think he needed my encouragement because he stood there smiling, shaking his head up and down, grunting "yeah" with a cherry colored face. Would you believe it, the Canadian wonder, who at first was unsure of himself held on to 620 pounds for 32.94 seconds, eh! That was good enough to rob Jedd of a point!

After smitty and the little big man totaled 3.10 seconds and the event was finally over, I still paced back and forth, as pumped and as excited as ever. The night was not over, not even close. Rick had cash prizes for anyone who could deadlift the blob or clean and press the inch. The same held for a #4 close or a "U" of the red nail. I had little chance of any except for the blob and even though I had lifted it the night before, today's events proved to be take enough out of me to make all efforts futile.

Everyone moved to the garage for the awards. The keg was tapped and the pig stuffed with sour kraut and kielbasa slowly began to vanish. Final standings were:

1st place: Steve McGranahan with 23 points 2nd place: Robert W. Vigeant with 22 points. 3rd place: Tommy Heslep with 17 points 4th place: Dave Morton with 11 points 5th Place: Robert F. Vigeant with 11 points 6th place: Dan Cenidoza with 9 points 7th place: Jedd Johnson with 9 points 8th place: Rick Walker with 6 points 9th place: John Mannino with 6 points 10th place: Jonathan McMillan with 2 points 11th place: James Smith 0 points 12th place: Tommy Wilkins 0 points

We hung out in the garage until past midnight doing various feats of strength. I'm not sure if I had more fun competing or playing around in the garage. Big Steve broke wrenches and horseshoes and bent 100 penny nails into various shapes. 'Monkey Paws' did one handed chins while holding a 37.5lb blob by the face! Midget hands jumped from a bench and caught the rafters for some chins. Guys were lifting 120lb anvils by the horn, two at a time. Sledge hammers were levered and 4 inch thickbars were toyed with overhead. It was the perfect ending for a perfect day. Thanks to all those who were a part of it!

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