Nationals preview

The 2011 USA Weightlifting Senior National Championships start in only a couple days! Training for all of us is winding down as we "peak" for this meet. I have two workouts left - one at home and one at the venue - that are relatively light in order to keep everything sharp. Over the next couple of days athletes from all over the country will descend upon Council Bluffs, Iowa to fight for medals and spots on the Pan American and World teams.

The stakes are high this year. Not only is this the top meet in the U.S., and the only one in which you can claim the title "National Champion," but as we head into an Olympic year the people on our international teams will determine how many slots we get in the 2012 London Olympics. USAW has announced we're sending a team to the October Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico consisting of six men and five women and a full team to the November World Championships in Paris, France of eight men and seven women.

Here is a breakdown by weight class. All times are in Central Daylight Time; please note the start times have changed!

56kg men (Friday, July 15th, 11am; qualifying total 149kg):
It looks to be a tough battle for the 56kg first place with Anthony Hernandez of Crossfit Fairfax and Mike Graber of Team NJ posting similar entry totals of 181kg and 178kg. Jared Youmans of the Red Wing WLC is right behind them with 166kg, and even the remaining two competitors, Keith Connolly and Kevin Wu, have hit 153kg and 149kg totals, making this weight class very open for one of the younger lifters to sneak in and grab a medal or two.

62kg men (Friday, July 15th, 12:15pm; qualifying total 177kg):
Sean Hutchinson of LSU-Shreveport and Kyle Yamauchi of Team Hawaii are the frontrunners in the 62kg class, with Sean coming with a 250kg total and Kyle 238kg. Kyle became last year's champion after Sean won gold in the snatch but missed three straight attempts of his opener clean and jerk. Nghiep Dinh of the Phat Elvis WLC will be challenging them with a qualifying total of 216kg, and he is followed by several competitors close behind.

48kg women (Friday, July 15th, 2:45pm; qualifying total 94kg):
Kelly Rexroad-Williams
Kelly Rexroad-Williams is the easy favorite here with a posted 160kg entry total. She is a veteran of the World and Pan American teams, placing as high as 11th in the world. She is also currently in second place for the 2011 Pan American team and sixth place for the World team. It looks like there will be stiff competition for the remaining medals as Gina Guide of the Windy City WLC and Suzanna Sanchez of Coffee's Gym square off with Sandra Arechaederra close behind.

53kg A women (Friday, July 15th, 4:30pm; qualifying total 117kg):
Jackie Berube
Veteran Jackie Berube (beh-ROO-bee) of Pinnacle Weightlifting has dropped a weight class to challenge East Coast Gold's Hilary Katzenmeier for the 53kg title. Hilary is currently in fifth place for the Pan American team and third for the World team with her 178kg total, while Jackie is not high enough to make the team, even though she comes to Nationals with a 187kg qualifying total. Since USAW is currently bringing only five girls to Pan Ams, Hilary will be fighting to keep her spot. If both total here, Jacque Payne, Rachel Churchward, Rachael Bommicino, and Danielle Durante will likely be fighting for third place.

58kg A women (Friday, July 15th, 6:30pm; qualifying total 128kg):
Amanda Sandoval
Amanda Sandoval of Coffee's Gym and Rizelyx Rivera of East Coast Gold (we just call her SEH-lix) will rematch in a battle that Amanda has won at the 2010 Nationals and American Open. This time Rizelyx has a posted total as high as Amanda at 198kg, but she will have a tough battle as Amanda is extremely consistent and a great competitor having placed 15th at Worlds and sixth at Pan Ams. Both are just below making the Pan American team, but Amanda is second on the World team and Rizelyx is fourth. Battling for third place will be Samantha Turnbull, Arielle Lippman, and Stephanie Spencer.

69kg men (Friday, July 15th, 8:30pm; qualifying total 215kg):
Caleb Williams of Coffee's Gym, Derrick Johnson, and Henry Brower of Team Savannah are all vying for the championship and a place on the World team where the magic number is currently 286kg for the eighth spot. Henry has won seven national championships and taken silver twice since 2002 and placed twelfth at Worlds in 2009. Derrick, a 2004 and 2007 champion at 62kg, has recently joined the 69kg ranks, and Caleb has taken a couple silver medals behind Henry in 2008 and 2009.

63kg A women (Saturday, July 16th, 1pm; qualifying total 136kg):
Lacking the star power of the 58kg girls, there is a packed house at the top of the 63kg class. Ashley Perkovich of the Calpians WLC is on top by a slim margin in the qualifying totals with 187kg. She is followed by Brianna Barnett of the Wesley Weightlifters with 184kg and Jessie Humeston of the Front Range WLC, last year's silver medalist, with 179kg. Jessica Gee, Vanessa McCoy, Megan Kranz, Gwen Sisto, and Katie Uhlaender are all challengers.

77kg A men (Saturday, July 16th, 3pm; qualifying total 244kg):
Chad Vaughn
Perennial 77kg top dog Chad Vaughn, two-time Olympian (best finish 19th place), five-time World team member (best finish 12th place), and five-time Pan American team member (one-time gold medal winner) is the runaway favorite in this class. He's already ranked third for this year's Pan Am team and second for the World team, so for him this meet is mostly a formality. Mike Cerbus of Team Pendragon will be challenged for silver by Adam Beytin (me!) of East Coast Gold, Philip Schneider of Team Pendragon (last year's C&J bronze medalist from out of the B session), Jonathon Barnett of Team Texas who has dropped down a class, and unattached upstart William Bybee.

69kg women (Saturday, July 16th, 5pm; qualifying total 141kg):
Danica Rue is in a tough position. She is one place off from making both the Pan American and World teams. While she currently needs to increase her 206kg total by 1kg to make either team, that number may increase throughout this meet. Even if she does make 207kg, any of her challengers - Sarah Bertram of the Heavy Athletics WLC and Aimee Anaya Everett of Catalyst Athletics - are close enough that they could also take her spot away. Anybody who hits 207kg or more in this class may still have to wait for the conclusion of the 75kg and 75+kg classes to know for sure if their spot is secure. If any of these lifters fail to post a total, Allie Henry, Maegan-Lee Snodgrass, Jocelyn Forest, and Arlene Ward will be happy to take their medals.

85kg A men (Saturday, July 16th, 7pm; qualifying total 253kg):
Kendrick Farris
Zach Krych
The 85kg A session has USAW's best male competitors in world competition with three lifters far ahead of the rest of the class. Kendrick Farris, 2008 Olympian (eighth place), 2010 Pan American champion, and #2 and #1 on the Pan Am/World team lists, remains the favorite with his 352kg total. Right behind him is Zach Krych of Team Minnesota who, after shattering his wrists, vaulted back into the limelight during the 94kg battle in the 2010 American Open. All who saw it will remember the three top 94kg lifters completing lift after lift in the combined 85kg A/94kg A session, but what was most incredible was Zach, after all three had finished, coming out to make the final clean and jerk at 192kg and beating all of them with his 344kg total.

Right behind Kendrick and Zach is Matt Bruce of the Gayle Hatch WLT. Matt, who lost to Kendrick by one kilo in this event in 2009, seems to have permanently moved up from 77kg where he used to battle with Chad Vaughn. Matt's qualifying total is only 330kg, but he will likely be a direct threat to Kendrick and Zach. Since we can only take two per weight class, the top two lifters here are virtually guaranteed spots on both international teams.

94kg A men (Saturday, July 16th, 9pm; qualifying total 283kg):
Phil Sabatini
The only thing missing from this Jon North and Phil Sabatini battle is Jared Fleming. Jared, my ECG teammate who beat them both at the last American Open, placed seventh at Junior Worlds less than two weeks ago in Penang, Malaysia with a 351kg total. Jon, of California Strength, has traded places with Phil, of East Coast Gold, at several big meets. Both of their totals have been increasing - Jon hit 341kg and Phil hit 338kg - and Phil is the defending national champion. Both of them are right under qualifying for Pan Ams; 344kg is their magic number, but only one can go unless they also beat Jared. They may also have a surprise waiting for them, as Coard Wilkes of the OBX WLC is a young guy with a 330kg total, and Travis Cooper of Team Georgia is right there with 322kg.

75kg women (Sunday, July 17th, 11am; qualifying total 148kg):
Erin Wallace has some breathing room in the 75kg class, but she may need to increase her 216kg total from the American Open if she wants to retain her spot on the Pan Am and World teams. But even with her lead, Kristin Newman of United Barbell, Samantha Zimmerman of the Gayle Hatch WLT, Lindsey Valenzuela of the Phat Elvis WLC, and Jamia Jackson are all not far behind. Regardless of the winner, it will be quite a fight for the remaining medals.

105kg A men (Sunday, July 17th, 1pm; qualifying total 285kg):
Donnie Shankle of California Strength also has a big lead in this class. He currently has no total for an international team placing, but with his big 369kg qualifying total he doesn't even have to come close to that to guarantee himself a spot on both teams. Looking for silver medals will be Yasha Kahn of Boston Weightlifting, Donovan Ford of the Hassle Free BBC, David Garcia of the Hassle Free BBC, Garrett Walters of East Coast Gold, Jamie Beard of Team Savannah, and Kaleb Whitby of the Dynamo Sports Club. There will surely be plenty of jockeying for position with all those lifters at similar weights.

75+kg women (Sunday, July 17th, 3pm; qualifying total 157kg):
Sarah Robles
Sarah Robles of Team Arizona is currently the top U.S. female lifter, sitting atop both the Pan Am and World team rankings with projected placings of first and eighth. Her winning this championship is almost a foregone conclusion as long as she is healthy and hits a few attempts. A bigger competition will be between Chioma Amaechi of the Hassle Free BBC and Holley Mangold of the Columbus WLC. Chioma is just barely holding on to spots on the international teams and will likely need to increase her 231kg total in order to keep them. Meanwhile Holley could unseat her, as her own 225kg total is within easy striking distance.

From a strategic standpoint they are both in luck; since they are the last women's session their coaches will know exactly what total they need to make those teams. These lifters may take riskier attempts as international team membership might outweigh any medals they receive.

105+kg A men (Sunday, July 17th, 5pm; qualifying total 286kg):
Pat Judge
This will be the session that everybody is waiting for. Looking at the rankings, Pat Judge is the favorite with a monstrous 396kg total. He hasn't posted these numbers in a qualifying meet yet, but anything close to that will guarantee his spot on the Pan Am and World teams. He has already won the last three national championships, taken bronze twice at Pan Americans, and done as well as ninth at Worlds.

But also in the class is Pat Mendes, the lightning rod of U.S. weightlifting, who will challenge Judge for the championship. Mendes made a name for himself when his training feats were broadcast throughout the internet. He has yet to hit the same numbers in qualifying competitions, as he pulled out of the 2010 American Open for a shoulder injury and was still recovering at the 2011 Arnold Championships, but his 382kg total there was good enough to put him first on the men's Pan Am team and third on the World team. Mendes will be under pressure from Zach Schluender of TSU Iron Dogs, who has a 374kg total and sits at fifth place on both international teams. Since only two 105+kg lifters can go, Zach and Judge could take Mendes's spot by beating his 382kg total.

None of these lifters has a guaranteed spot yet, so this should be an extremely exciting event. Following close behind is Cameron Swart of Team Houston and Shane Maier of the Windy City WLC with totals above 360kg.


There is a webcast, but unfortunately it only appears to be scheduled to show Saturday's lifting.

I have embedded the streaming video on my front page: You can also watch it at

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