COLUMBUS GROVE — Two Putnam County teens walked away from a national teen strongman competition in West Virginia the weekend of July 14, both national champions in their weight class, with one setting a new teen national record.
Gage Hovest, of Pandora, and Hunter Roethlisberger, of Columbus Grove, both 17, attended the competition with their trainer, Steve Schmidt, of Columbus Grove.
“It gets its start in Highland games, picking up stones before barbells and all that,” Schmidt said. “Generally, it’s five events. If there’s 10 guys, first place gets 10 points and the last place gets one point. It’s the total of all events.”
Events can include dead lift, where hundreds of pounds of weight are put on a barbell and the competitor lifts it from the floor to their waist; stone lifting, where competitors lift a stone from the ground to their chest and above their heads; and the Hercules Hold, where competitors hold a massive amount of weight stationary with either hand while the weight pulls against their grip.
There are levels to strongman competitions, from local area to national and international, Schmidt said. If a competitor does well at one level of competition, they can be invited too another level and work their way up. Roethlisberger first competed in a state level competition and moved onto the national competition.
Hovest said he’s always liked to lift weights and lifted as part of the workout for footfall. Hovest started training for the strongman competition in January after his chiropractor, Schmidt’s brother, suggested he should workout with him.
“I was just lifting with him and he said, ‘You know, you’re pretty strong. You should try strongman competition,’” Hovest said. “So we started training and I then did one during the spring and I really liked it.”
After competing in his first competition, Hovest began training for the nationals, he said. While there he set a national record in the Mouser Block press event for the teen middle weight class, pressing a 200-pound block, which looks a lot like a lock box. The heaviest block press he trained was 180 pounds, but during the competition, he felt he could press 200 pounds and pushed himself to do it.
“I missed it the first time, but I re-gripped and everything and got it the second time,” Hovest said.
He could have went for the record in the dead lift event, too, but decided to pace himself for the other three events after those first two instead of taking the chance of wearing himself down.
Strongman isn’t just about strength, but also about passion and thinking, too, Schmidt said. Hovest displayed not only strength in setting the record in the block press, but also the passion to tap into the reserve all strongman competitors have. They have to be willing to push themselves in competition and have the willingness to risk trying something they have never down before, but at the same time have the foresight to plan for each event. If someone wears themselves out early on, they will finish last in other events and miss out on points needed for the final score, Schmidt said.
Both teens said strongman is something they can see themselves sticking with over the years. With school approaching, Hovest will have football to focus on for a while, and Roethlisberger has track, where he competes in shot put and discus.
The three work out in a private gym Schmidt has set up in a shed at his home. Most fitness centers will not let strongman competitors work out at their facilities because their equipment isn’t specialized to handle the weights they work with, he said. Strongman training is very different than that of bodybuilders. Bodybuilders work on increasing aesthetic muscle, whereas strongman competitors focus on functional strength. While some competitors look like bodybuilders, the look doesn’t lend itself to the rigours of strongman competition, Schmidt said.
During carry events, competitors have hundreds of pounds pressing on their lungs while they walk a certain distance, and competitors can pass out and even drop the weight on themselves, Schmidt said. While accidents are not common, they do happen, and each competitor has to decided if they’ll compete through it or not. Unlike a lot of sports where athletes compete against other, in strongman, you’re competing against yourself and the event.
“That’s part of what I like about it,” Schmidt said. “Sure, you might glare at the guy next to you, but guaranteed after he finishes, he’ll come back and start yelling in your ear, motivating you to finish.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.