ThanksGripping was an amazing event. I wanted to raise money for a great cause, put on a great grip contest, and introduce people to the niche sport of grip. To raise money for a great cause, we chose to donate to a charity that is very close to my heart—the Wounded Warrior Project. There are many great organizations out there, but this organization benefits an exceptional group of people. Many organizations help people who have suddenly become ill or fallen on hard times, but this organization benefits a group of people who willfully put their bodies on the line for us. I feel that fighting for your country is the highest calling a person can partake in. Because that isn't a path that I chose for myself, I do what I can to support those who haven't been fortunate enough to come out unscathed. We raised a little over $1,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

My goal was to put on a great grip contest. I surpassed that goal and had an amazing grip contest. This was all thanks to the help of Chris Rice, Jedd Johnson, and Andrew Durniat. These guys not only lent their knowledge in running a great grip contest but traveled from far away and brought many rare and extremely heavy grip implements. Jedd and I came up with a medley that was as hard as any in the world and it didn’t disappoint. No one completed all the events, and out of the possible 24 points, the best score was an 18. Every one of the medley events was a grip feat that only a few in the world can do, but we had to do them all in two minutes. And this was after competing in four max effort grip events beforehand. Needless to say, my hands and wrists will hurt for about a week.


I wanted to introduce people to the sport of grip who have never tried their hand at this fun and sometimes frustrating sport. I organized the open event by picking ten events, and I designated point values for chosen weights in each event. I made the one-point weights so that most people who train could complete them. The two-point weights were ones that a strong person could do, and the three-point weights were ones that only really good grip competitors could get. This introduced people to many events that they've never touched and showed them how hard a small weight jump can be for most grip events. It was a lot of fun to see people who have never been exposed to the sport learn and ask many questions about their grip strength. Strength contests can be dull for attendees. However, having the open division running while the pro division was competing gave the attendees something fun to do while they watched the pros compete. Overall, I was extremely happy with how this event went and will definitely do it this way again next year.

The open division was highly contested in the men’s category with the contest ending in a tie between The Spot Athletics' very own Nic Bronkall and Luke Rose. Nic end up winning based on our tie breaker of body weight, and Luke wasn't happy about this. Although this was our home turf, in this contest, The Spot Athletics showed itself to be the strongest grip strength gym in Ohio. The guys from Durniat Strength came down with owner and pro competitor Andrew Durniat and had a good showing, but they just couldn’t beat The Spot Athletics staff. Nick Pavato scored a 27 and Brandon Gerber scored a 26, but it just wasn’t enough for the 29 points that Nic and Luke each got. I'm now making the claim that we have the strongest grip strength staff of any gym in the country. If you disagree, come to the next competition and prove me wrong.

In the women’s division, there were several good lifters with Sharon Moss winning the competition with a total of 26 points. Little bitty Savannah Steamer, who will be interning at The Spot Athletics come January, and Stacy Lyons both scored a very respectable 21 points. Angela Koesterman scored 22 points to win the women’s masters division, and Chuck Pouzenik won the men’s masters division with a very respectable 21 points.

The pro division was highly contested, and the event was set up to challenge four different grip qualities, making it anyone's contest to win. The first event was the Rolling Thunder. I tried to do 250 pounds for about the fifth time and was again unsuccessful. I ended with a 241-pound lift on my left and 229 pounds on my right. I was very happy with my right hand because I hadn’t pulled over 215 with it on the Rolling Thunder since my bicep surgery. Andrew Durniat dominated this event with a successful 261 left hand and a 241 right hand. Andrew is definitely a class ahead when it comes to the thick bar lifts and it showed in this event for sure.

Next up was the anvil. I was extremely happy with a new PR of 207 pounds, but again, Andrew dominated with a 217-pound lift. At this point, Andrew looked like the clear favorite to win ThanksGripping, but you never know with the different components of grip. The two-inch pinch block was next and I got way too cocky on this event. I took way too big of a jump and it ultimately cost me some valuable points. I did an easy 106 and then Jedd Johnson, one of the best pinch grippers in the world, started talking trash. I jumped to 126, hoping to outdo him, but to my dismay, I couldn't do the 126 and missed it three times. So instead of taking a 5-pound jump and ensuring at least second in the event, I took a 20-pound jump and ended up in third.

The last of the pro events was the 12-pound Sledge “Choke” Quarter lift. In this event, you win by gripping furthest from the head of a 12-pound sledgehammer and lifting the sledge to an eighteen-inch box while keeping a quarter on the face of the sledge. I had only done this once before the contest with a 10-pound sledge and I was sore for a whole week. I ended up getting a good lift of 23 inches from the head of the sledge and was really happy with this, as the old world record was 22 inches. However, today, the event belonged to Jedd, as he did a herculean 24 inches. You can't comprehend how hard this event is unless you try it, and I recommend you do so to see how much strength it takes in your wrists. A special thanks to Matt Goodwin of elitefts™ who acted as the second judge in this event to make sure that the sledge never came in contact with the lifters forearm, which is a very important rule.


Last but not least, there was the ungodly hard medley. A big thanks goes to the guys from Durniat’s Gym, Nick Nosendaul, Chuck Pouzenik, and all those who pitched in to help get the medley set up. There were ten events. Some of the highlights included two Thomas Inch dumbbells loaded to 30-inch boxes, 10-feet walks while plate pinching 45-pound plates, a 350-pound double overhand axle deadlift, a pick up of two 55-pound anvils by the butt, and last but not least, two blobs loaded on to a 60-inch box. I saw several people go before me in the medley, and I thought that I had a good shot of coming in the top three. However, as soon as you think that, things change.

I started out with the hub lift, which I thought I would nail. I not only missed it with both hands, but my right hand snapped off of it, making my fingers numb and giving me a huge blood blister. Next, I went to the blobs and my hands were shot. I tried doing both at the same time for a bonus point, but this was pointless, as there wasn't any way that it was happening. I then got it with my left, and when I tried with my right, the numbness was killing me. I missed. I got really pissed and tried it again, but this time I used this awful curl abomination to help get it up. As I struggled and painfully inched closer to the top, I felt a big tear in my right bicep. "Not again," I thought. My heart went into my stomach, and I almost quit the medley. There was some cursing by me, and you could've heard a pin drop in the room because no one knew what to do or say. But out of nowhere, Jedd said, “You still have time.” That calmed me for some reason, and I went through as much of the rest of the medley as I could. I got several two hand deadlift type lifts and knew from those that the bicep couldn’t be too bad. Overall, it was a poor showing in the medley for what I'm capable of doing. However, the fact that I didn’t rip off my six-month-old repaired bicep meant that I was happy with the result. My bicep is a little sore but in a totally different place than the repair. I think it's only a scar tissue tear with a slight strain.

Andrew Durniat and Brad Ardrey crushed the medley, both putting in impressive performances, but Chris Rice, at 65 years old, nailed the two, 55-pound anvil lift. I could barely budge them. To me, that was about the most impressive accomplishment all day.

We scored all the events Strongman style. When the dust settled, Brad Ardrey won the first ever ThanksGripping. For all my troubles, I actually ended up in second, which was a total shock. I only lost by a half point and boy did that make me rethink many of my decisions on this day. Andrew Durniat came in third, but in my book, he was by far and away the strongest grip competitor at ThanksGripping. This goes to show you how vastly different the variety of grip strengths can be from person to person. You may dominate in one event but come in last in another. Ultimately, this is what hurt Andrew because Brad was in the top three for almost all the events. Although he didn’t win any, he was good in all of them.

At the end of the day, not only did I accomplish all my goals, but it went much better than I ever expected. A huge thanks goes out to all our sponsors—Whole Foods, 360 Cut, Fat Gripz, Europa, and especially, elitefts™ who provided awesome products for us to be able to give away to all the winners. Because of the generosity of Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill, we were able to give $50 gift cards to all the pro competitors who traveled from near and far to come help support this great cause. Of course, we all went to eat there after the competition. Due to this, we were able to enjoy the best part of any strength sport—great camaraderie and great stories...lots of great stories.

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