In my 77kg class Chad Vaughn, unsurprisingly, did not make an appearance, but it promised from the start to be a tough battle with six strong competitors including me. Mike Cerbus was likely the incoming favorite and Jake Rubash was back, but Chris Gute and James Tatum of the new Muscle Driver USA (MDUSA) team joined us as well as Ian Droze, all looking for totals from 280kg stretching towards 300kg and possibly above. James came and talked to me before we started, a really nice guy, and of course I already knew Jake and Mike. Caleb Williams had put his name in to bump up to 77kg for the meet as well, but he ended up not making it.
|Video from American Open webcast - my snatches start at 6h4m50s and my CJs start at 7h33m10s|
It's difficult for me to say what happened with everyone else because I'm generally not paying attention to them during the actual meet. We were planning on opening light with the option to go heavier due to some tougher recent training. Snatch warmups went well enough to open at 121kg, strong but not perfect. I followed with an extremely solid 125kg and finished my first AO/Nationals snatch trifecta with a final success at 129kg, a very small 1kg PR at a national meet. It was not enough, however, to merit my first snatch medal, as Cerbus, Tatum, and Rubash each snatched 132kg, 133kg, and 135kg respectively. Here is the webcast video of the snatch session starting with my opener: http://www.youtube.com/embed/0Z1XZmWvoVc&t=6h4m50s
I felt great for the clean and jerks. I seemed to have peaked just right for this meet, with strong snatches I had not been making in training for a long time, and CJ warmups were similarly good. We opened only a little conservatively, enough to move into third place, with 158kg. After an easy clean (not perfect, but much better than I had in a long time) I dipped, drove, and locked out the jerk overhead, a little loose in the shoulders, but still solid and easy as I stepped forward to steady it. Only after I dropped it and I heard the announcer say it was turned down that I had any idea there could have been a problem, and believe me I usually know. Unfortunately that meant the smart move was still to take 158kg again, which I did, and after another easy clean and a near-perfect jerk they finally gave it to me.
After that, Cerbus, Gute, and Droze all tried 160kg, but none made it, locking me into third on bodyweight over Cerbus. Rubash did make 160kg, increasing his lead over me, 295kg to 287kg, so I jumped to 166kg to try and improve on my placement while, in the meantime, Tatum made 163kg to go six for six. I was prepared, confident, and ready as I walked out on the platform, but I couldn't escape the old clean technique I had been trying to reform. There's a great photo of me on hookgripdotcom's facebook page pulling 166kg all the way to my chin but it's no good if you can't catch it.
I'm not alone in saying that, if you make all your lifts, you're going to do well. Tatum pulled out first place by a kilo with his perfect 296kg performance, and while Jake missed both his openers he did go heavy enough to take second, and I went home with the bronze - and technically the bronze CJ medal, even though they were not given out. Even after it's over I think this was definitely my best national performance, consistent to the point where I had an opportunity for my own first six-for-six result. I don't know for sure if my first jerk was legal; it doesn't really matter at this point. I do know it's legal for the shoulders to move as long as the elbows remain locked. Here's the video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/0Z1XZmWvoVc&t=7h33m10s
Other than that, I had another OTC visit in September, where once again I was beaten into submission. Sadly I think I am overambitious in trying to do 12 sessions in that week with all the extra work added on, so in the future I will have to cut back. As always I received great technical and other advice, and since then I continue to improve in measurable ways.
One of the more interesting things I've started working on is my grip. I began to get the impression that it might be lagging behind for the weights I'm pulling, and there's a strong possibility that I and others wouldn't be able to readily identify if that is a problem. At my request I received some [Captains of Crush grippers from IronMind](http://www.ironmind.com/ironmind/opencms/Main/captainsofcrush.html) as holiday gifts which I incorporated with whatever other variations of hand training I could think of. When I first tried them I could not close the 1.5 gripper with either hand and the 1 with only my right. At this point I can handle both with my right fairly easily and usually also with my left, which gets more attention since it's non-dominant, plus I can do fun things like pinch two 10kg plates together with each hand and walk around. The number 2 gripper is now in the mail, and I may soon have a nice camera situation where I can do better lift analysis.
As a consequence of taking third place I am currently ranked 17th on the Pan American Championships list. Only eight males get to go and only two per weight class, so it's only in a fantasy scenario where that's enough to make the team. The annual Arnold Championships are coming up in Ohio, which will be the next qualifier, and there I have a legitimate shot at making the team. Pulling ahead of Tatum would put me into 5th in line, meaning four other lifters would have to come into the picture. Last year I totaled 300kg AND 299kg in separate meets weighing a scant 79.5kg and 78.92kg, and not only am I stronger than I was then (my squats keep going up o_O) but I am continually improving technically. Could this be my first international trip?? I definitely think so!