I have only been involved in grip for about three months. Give or take a few days, I had the honor of qualifying for the North American Grip Sport (NAGS) Championship. When I tell people that I compete in grip they kind of look at me funny, almost the same way I looked at JL Holdsworth when he told me the same thing. How my journey into grip got started was when JL brought a Thomas inch replica to the gym and encouraged me to pick it up. When I went to pick it up, I got it right to below my knees when it dropped. JL looked at me and told me I needed to compete in grip.

That following weekend I traveled up North to Wooster with JL and Brad Ardrey to watch them train with Andrew Durniat to prepare for the Mighty Mitts competition at The Arnold. I need to tell you how awesome Andrew’s gym is. When I envision a gym, this place is pretty close to how I would model mine. It was there that I fell in love with the sport. When I returned home that day I quickly went online to look up grip training and competitions. I soon found out that the NAGS championship would be held in Wooster at Andrew’s gym. As I continued to read I found out that I could qualify by picking three feats from a list of lifts and sending the video in to Andrew. Well I quickly hit my three feats and training was under way for Nationals.

The day of competition was finally here. My training went well and I was feeling good going into the competition. I didn’t know what to expect, as I haven’t competed in an event like this in some time. I packed up my bags and headed up North with my other half. Since the scale at work and at home was reading different numbers, I had to watch my weight to make sure I would make the cut for the 230-pound class. I withheld from eating or drinking anything until after the weigh in, just to play it safe. Upon arrival I weighed in, made weight, and quickly filled my body with fluids and food. A grip contest is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The competitors are extremely helpful and friendly. I felt like we were all just one big group of friends having a good time. The competition quickly got underway.

The events were:

  1. 20mm block set gripper-max effort both hands
  2. 2 hands pinch-max effort
  3. Double overhand axle deadlift-max effort
  4. Grip medley
  5. Wrist roller-pulling back

First Event: 20mm block set gripper

I had been training grippers and working on setting them, but never once used a 20mm block to set it leading up to the event. This was my fault for not really knowing and understanding the event. Right hand was up first. I hit my opener, but I knew using a block to set was going to be a challenge for me. Using the block and trying to set with my big hands kept leading to the gripper slipping in my hands and when I would go to close the gripper my fingers would curl over the front of the gripper making it impossible to close. I wasn’t happy with how my right hand finished but onto the left. This is where I ran into problems. On my first attempt, I set the gripper in my left hand, slid the block through, and proceeded to close the gripper.  After closing the gripper the judge looked at me and told me I hadn’t set the block properly and the close didn’t count. I was extremely confused, but remembering what Andrew said at the start of the contest, the judge has final say. After missing the first attempt, it appeared my left hand wasn’t going to cooperate and I mentally started to doubt myself landing me a zero on the left hand which proceeded to set the tone for the rest of the contest.

Second Event: 2 hands pinch-max effort

I began to get in my own mind. Mentally, I wasn’t there for the 2-hand pinch. I hit my opener no problem. When the weight went to 172.38 pounds, I missed it the first time, which was fine, as I knew it was a weight I could get. On my next attempt, I picked it up, hit the bar, placed the apparatus back down, and felt good knowing I hit it. This was until the judge told me lift was no good and that I had not touched the bar. I walked over and spoke to a few of the guys who were watching and they stated I hit the bar. I did not understand why the lift didn’t count. Again, I was left confused and doubting myself.

Third Event: Double overhand axle deadlift

Thick grip is one of my stronger grip qualities, so I felt good going into this event once I calmed my mind and told myself to finish strong. My warm ups felt good and I really liked the bar they had us using. I hit 349.77 pounds with no problem. But here is where I made a mistake. A few weeks ago I hit around 365-370 pounds at the LTTS, so I waited till the weight got to around 363 pounds. As I pulled, everything felt good until the bar got just a little bit in front of me, and I lost the lift. Now the problem was that once the weight was on the bar, we couldn’t go back down in weight; so either I had to take the attempt again or wait and just attempt a higher number. I waited so I could recover a bit and catch a breather. The weight got to 376 pounds and I felt good mentally as I approached the bar. As I began the pull, everything felt good until my weight shifted and it rolled right out of my hands. I passed on my fourth attempt. Watching Durniat pull 468 pounds was unbelievable.

Fourth Event: Medley

This was a scary looking medley. There were some extremely difficult things and it was haunting. We had four minutes to lift as many objects as possible. I felt good going into the medley as this is my favorite event. I attempted most of the objects, but some of them I didn’t even consider. I ended up scoring 28 points which was the highest until the top guys went: Eric, Andrew, Jedd, Brad, JT, and Brent. I was happy with my medley performance and felt I could hang with some of the well known names. Jedd, Brad, and Andrew’s attempts at the medley just left me with my jaw on the ground. I have a lot of work to do but had to remind myself these guys have been doing this for a long time.

Fifth Event: Wrist roller-pulling back

After watching Paul Knight smoke this event, I felt confident going into it until it was my turn to go and I quickly realized this thing wasn’t going to be easy for me. For some reason my hands kept slipping on the smooth surface and I just couldn’t maintain a strong grip with the apparatus. I wasn’t going to quit and ended up finishing with a less then stellar time.

Not sure where I ended up overall, but I’m pretty sure it was at the bottom. The zero on my left-hand gripper pretty much killed my chances at a top-ten finish and a top-five in my weight class like I was shooting for. I allowed that zero to get into my head and set my tone for the day. It was a learning experience and I had to keep reminding myself I only began training grip a few months ago and that I was competing against the best in the business. I had an off day, and well, we all do. I will take what I can from it, learn, and move forward. It was a great experience, an honor, and a privilege. I got to meet some amazing people and had a lot of fun. Time to get back to work on my weaknesses and my strengths to get ready for World's Strongest Hands and ThanksGripping here in the coming months.

I’d like to thank my mentor, JL Holdsworth, for everything he has done for me and continues to do for me. I’d like to thank Andrew Durniat for being awesome in his willingness to help me and answer all questions I had regarding grip and training. Also, to my girlfriend, my mom, and to the rest of my family, thank you. Your support is unreal and without it I would not be where I am today.