Jose Juarez wrapped his hands around the steel bar, rocked on his heels and braced his forearms to lift his final deadlift of the 2017 Raw Monster Deadlift Competition.
Juarez, a Navy petty officer 2nd class, took a deep breath and, with both arms straining, triumphantly completed his deadlifting goal of 300 pounds.
Service members and competitors cheered from the sidelines as Juarez placed the bar back on the lifting platform with a relieved smile on his face.
Juarez was one of 17 participants who competed Friday at Murphy Field House.
Sylvia Garcia, the fitness coordinator at Gaffney, organized the event.
“This is a community morale builder,” she said. “Everyday folks can test their [strength]. The deadlift is a basic measure of power and is a less technical lift.”
The competition drew novices as well as pros with both women and men competing.
“We have a pretty cool variety of people performing today,” Garcia said. “Just under half of the people here have never competed.”
This was Juarez’s first time competing in a powerlifting event.
“I work out at Gaffney pretty much every day,” he said. “I wanted to use this event to get my confidence up so I can work up to a professional level.”
Before executing his final deadlift of 300 pounds, Juarez was getting in the zone on the sidelines.
“I’m extremely nervous,” Juarez said before his name was called to complete his turn.
The 90-minute competition was a “raw” event, Garcia said. “Raw” means that participants were only permitted to use a lifting belt and wrist wraps.
“What we saw today was their real strength,” she said.
The 17 competitors were divided into two groups. Each person had the opportunity to complete three attempted deadlifts at varying levels of difficulty.
Once the bar was loaded with the correct weight, the participant had one minute to execute the lift.
If the competitor completed the deadlift, Garcia, who was acting as judge, would signal a downward movement with her arm and say “down.”
That person would have one minute to submit his or her next lift attempt.
Winners were determined based on how much weight they lifted relative to their body weight. These rules mirror official USA Powerlifting competitions.
“I know how to put together and run an event like this,” said Garcia, who was a USA Powerlifting official for six years. “This event wasn’t sanctioned, but if anyone goes on to compete, they’ll know what to expect.”
This was the second lifting competition Garcia organized. The first was the St. Patty’s Push and Pull competition last year.
“Whatever kinks we had, we were able to smooth them out this year,” Garcia said. “The event was wonderful; it went very smoothly. There was constant communication behind the scenes, and the staff did an amazing job.”
To ensure the success of this event, round weight plates and a bar specifically for deadlifting were used.
Senior Airman Matthew Lawson of the 94th Intelligence Squadron came in first overall for the men, lifting 555 pounds. He competed against five other participants in the 175- to 200-pound weight class.
Johanna Wilson came in first overall for the women, lifting a maximum of 300 pounds. She was the only woman competing in the 175.1-pound and up weight class.
“I’m so excited! I wasn’t expecting to win,” said Wilson, a Glen Burnie resident.
A first-timer, Wilson was nervous coming into the competition.
“I lift often but don’t compete,” she said. “I thought. ‘Let’s give this a try.’ ”
Watching Wilson compete and win is one of the reasons Garcia enjoys putting on these events.
“She surprised herself,” Garcia said. “She surprised us, too. It was cool to watch.”
Lifting Up The Community
Offering these events to the community helps foster camaraderie and provides an opportunity for people to try something different, Garcia said.
“This gives people a reason to train in the gym,” she said. “What we witnessed today were people discovering themselves as competitors. They surprised themselves.”
First Lt. Leyla Kosakowski of the Public Health Command-Atlantic signed up the day before the competition.
“I wanted to try something new,” she said. “This is my first competition and I haven’t done deadlifts in awhile.”
Kosakowski aimed to deadlift 300 pounds but fell short of her goal. If she enters another competition, she knows
what weight to shoot for.
“Next time I won’t jump to 300 pounds,” she said “I think I would have been good with 280.”
Another first-time competitor was Staff Sgt. Monroe Staples of the Asymmetric Warfare Group, who deadlifited 540
pounds on his third try.
While this was his first competition, Staples is no stranger to deadlifting. He deadlifted 555 pounds during a deployment and is active in the gym.
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous,” he said between his deadlift attempts. “I was mostly excited.”
Staples encourages anyone thinking about competing to try it out.
“Have fun,” he said. “Nobody here has a rivalry. It’s all about camaraderie.”