By: Andrew Clayton and Jessica Putland
With the growth of strongman both by volume of contests and money offered at the highest level, it has become increasingly difficult to get all of the top names in one place to battle it out. The United States is a prime example of this, with more athletes from the United States than almost any other country in both the World’s Strongest Man Finals and Arnold Strongman Classic. This has left us wondering for the last decade of determining, “Who is America’s Strongest Man?”
American’s Strongest Man in recent years has been promoted by one of the major federations, Strongman Corporation. With access denied to those without a professional strongman card, that naturally has barred some – and still continues to bar some – top names from participation.
Along with the pro card requirements, increased opportunities offered in other American participating federations like Official Strongman Games and United States Strongman has pulled some strongmen to find alternative routes to “pro-status” and international connections.
Lastly, prior existing professional strongmen find it increasingly difficult to schedule America’s Strongest Man within their competitive schedules with an increased number of high level shows. Both the Arnold Strongman World Series and the Giants Live Tour have increased shows. Another rising show and newest attraction, Dubai, has the highest payout and subsequently bids for top names. With the top three shows in strongman being World’s Strongest Man, Arnold Classic Ohio, and Dubai athletes are hard pressed to justify the risk-reward of a National pro-show with no further direct advancement to those stages.*The winner of ASM qualifies for the Arnold Santa Monica* Additionally, recent years the overlap of dates with these shows has made it impossible for some top names to win their country’s strongest man. All this being said, America’s Strongest Man has never ceased to attract some of the strongest men in the world, and 2019 holds true to that.
With the weight classes at America’s Strongest Man and Woman – especially so with one of the largest and most competitive turn outs in 105kg strongman history – the Open class this year goes with little mention. Unrightfully so, because some of these men are in a class of their own. This year’s America’s Strongest Man will be taking place the same day as its 105kg counterpart in Kentucky, only in the much hotter Sunshine State at the Miami Beach Convention Center October 18th-19th. This show promises to be just as much a nail-biter as the other titles.
The events this year will surely be a test for all involved with medleys, heavy carries, max static and grip endurance events. The men will first face a press medley with log, keg, axle and finishing with dumbbell press. With the heaviest of implements relative to top pro weights being the 250-pound circus dumbbell, look for that to be the speed bump. The four implements will surely test the athletes’ proficiency with more than the stereotypical log press for max and will likely be won by someone who can press the implements in order they are set up to save time.
The next challenge is more straightforward with a 1100-pound yoke walk. The catch being no drops allowed, a rule becoming more common to speed up contests and hopefully cut down on slide penalty scrutiny. The key here will be steady pace and no mistakes. This event will unlikely be a favorite of any of the men.
The third event is seemingly the “popular” event of the last few years in strongman, max barbell deadlift. While suits are most likely not allowed, look for possible rule changes. The winner here will obviously be the best deadlifter, but strategy might come in to play to save the back for the last two grueling events. Pride is on the line with the top max deadlift, though, so we can expect a real battle.
The following event will have an endurance aspect with a 50 foot down and back farmer’s walk for a total of 100 feet with 380 pounds per hand. Again, the rules add a twist with only one drop per direction, something not often seen in other top level shows. While some might fail and be done quickly, the winner will demonstrate grip endurance and ability to reset confidently to make it the entire course. Look for order of competitors to be a big benefit to see the mark to beat and desired speed of turn around.
The final event is a stone-keg loading medley. The men will alternate stone and keg loads for a total of four implements ranging from 355 to 430 pounds. As with most of the events, the rules are specific with no standard tacky. Only spray tacky is allowed but cannot be on the contest floor. With these specific rules and alternating of loading implements we can expect to see someone win who does not need to re-tack towel or chalk and has tremendous crushing power for the stone load grip. Even so, this event will likely come down to a fast time despite the fatigue of the earlier events.
At time of this article, only three names have been confirmed for America’s Strongest Man, with some also on the fence. The trio includes Ohio native Josh Reynolds, Georgia boy Wesley Clayborn, and reigning America’s Strongest Man Trey Mitchell III. All three of these men are experienced in international level competition and are steadily improving year to year.
Josh Reynolds is the 2018 Amateur Arnold Strongman Classic runner-up behind Oleksii Novikov. Josh is no stranger to top level competition. Josh has taken a crack at the world record Circus Dumbbell press on the Arnold Classic stage, and he competed for a spot at World’s Strongest Man at Giants Live 2018 in Indiana. Josh competed last year at America’s Strongest Man and looks to improve on his placing over last year’s performance just off the podium. With a decade in the sport, Josh demonstrates durability and a commitment to his craft. With his pressing power the press medley should be up for grabs as well as a good shot at the farmers carry. Josh might also be the one to power through on the heavy yoke to snag valuable points to take the crown.
Wesley Claborn is a two-time podium finisher of America’s Strongest Man finishing in third in both 2017 and 2018. Regarded as one of the most underrated strongmen America, Wesley brings a quiet presence of sheer power and strength demonstrated in his almost monk-like execution of impressive feats like his keg load world record. Wesley, also a long-time competitor and pro since 2015, appeared in Giants Live Indiana in 2019 as well both Official Strongman Games. Wesley is known for his loading and deadlift power along with an increasing prowess on moving events and pressing. We can look for him to compete to win the press medley and deadlift. If history should repeat itself, he will finish with an aggressive and competitive loading medley to power him up the standings.
Trey Mitchell III is the dream of any strongman personified. After winning Nationals and going pro in 2017 he went on to win Official Strongman Games that December. In 2018, Trey qualified for World’s Strongest Man with a second place finish at a Giants Live and won America’s Strongest Man. The train did not stop. Trey went on to earn his way to the finals in World’s Strongest Man in 2019 and placed 9th as a rookie. As his track record shows Trey is the man to beat. Trey has collected the most experience of any of the field at high-level shows and his consistency is one to be noted. His deadlift power, loading ability, and come-from-behind performances might just back him one of the few to win ASM two years in a row. Look for Trey to be the last man standing on deadlift and push back on Wesley’s loading medley to cap another win.
Some other names that may appear include last year’s runner up Jacob Fincher and one of the recently crowned pro-strongmen from these year’s nationals Gabriel Pena.
Jacob Fincher won his pro-card on the Amateur Arnold Stage as well as placing second at last year’s America’s Strongest Man. An athletic strongman, Jacob posts a great overhead as well as quick feet that propel him up the standings in most shows. If Jacob attends, look for his athleticism to help his placing on the medleys and his working-man’s grip to crush the farmers carry.
Gabriel Pena has been battling for his spot as America’s Strongest Man for years. While having just won his pro card a few weeks’ prior at Nationals, Gabe is no stranger to heavy strongman events and fierce competition. Recent gym lifts show he is ready for this show. With a well-rounded strongman game Gabe could mix things up this year with a huge deadlift result.
So while America’s Strongest Man continues to be overshadowed by bigger shows and is seemingly forgotten about in the fabric of state-side strongman, there is no question that the talent that appears in any given year are of top caliper. In an ideal system it would be great to have all the big names in one place to find out the true America’s Strongest Man, (and hopefully a return of North America’s Strongest Man) but, that just is not possible at the current time. While there will always be debate of the strongest man in America, one thing is for certain: all these men seek the highest level of competition possible and victory on the world stage. Sooner or later these names will face those unable to compete in America’s Strongest Man and battle it out. For now, we wonder, “Who is America’s Strongest Man in 2019?” Find out October 18th-19th in Miami, Florida.