On February 8th, USA Weightlifting published the latest version of the athlete start list for the 2017 Junior National Championships; to be held February 24th to 26th of this year in Kansas City, Missouri. This will be the first USAW National event where the team at BarBend will be the Official Media Partner of USAW – and we will be on hand providing commentary and other media services throughout the weekend.
As of this start list (which potentially can still change) there are 406 athletes registered for the three day event, which will be a multiple platform event. This is the largest field of competitors in recent memory and there is a very good chance this is the largest field ever for a Junior National Championship.
While this number is dwarfed by the 700 athletes who competed at the 2016 Youth National championships, it does represent a 24% increase over the 327 athletes who competed at last year’s junior national championships. This tells us that the youth-aged movement of USAW is starting to get older and is advancing to the next age group of competition. This trend should continue to increase in the next few years as those 700+ youth athletes continue to grow and develop.
The primary reason is that this event will serve as the final qualification event for the junior men’s and women’s teams that will compete at the Junior Pan American Championships this May in Ecuador, as well as the Junior World Championships this June in Tokyo, Japan.
The current rankings for the teams after the 2016 American Open are as follows – Athletes highlighted in green are projected to be team members while athletes highlighted in yellow are projected alternates. The athletes projected placement is based on actual totals, which are listed on the left hand side. Athletes above the solid horizontal line are projected to win a medal at the competition, these number are all based on three year averages of the event’s place finishers.
This article will attempt to showcase some top athletes in each of the 16 weight categories, as well as point out storylines and fun facts to keep in mind. Myself and everyone at BarBend wishes the best of luck to all the athletes, coaches, and officials going to Kansas City.
The highest entry total in this category belongs to Josh Pineda, a New Jersey native who competes for the LSU-Shreveport weightlifting program, with 200KG (440lb). He is the defending Junior National Champion in this category, at the 2016 Junior Nationals he successfully lifted 84KG (185lb) in the snatch and 110KG (242lb) in the clean and jerk for a 194KG (427lb) total.
The second highest entry of 198KG (436lb) belongs to Antwan Kilbert from the Lift for Life Gym in St. Louis. Kilbert recently won a bronze medal at the 2016 American Open in Orlando with his total. Between the 2016 Junior Nationals in February and the American Open in December, his snatch increased by 20KG (44lb), he should give Pineda all the weightlifting he can handle if he wants to retain his title. Benjamin Lopez from Team Florida Elite is third with a 178KG (392lb) entry total, however four other entrants declared 170KG or more, so it should be a fight to the finish to be on the medal podium at the end.
The highest entry total belongs to 2016 Senior National Champion Jacob Horst from Garage Strength in Reading, PA. Horst, who totaled 251KG (552lb) at the American Open, recently snatched 120KG (264lb) in training. If he is successful on his opening attempts, he should easily walk away with another national championship under his belt. Alexander Reyes from Team Titan has the second highest entry total at 220KG (464lb). Reyes placed 5th at the American Open with a 231KG (508lb) total in the 62KG category. Samuel Rodriguez from Team Florida Elite is third with a 212KG (466lb) entry total, however four other entrants declared 200KG or more, this should also be a very competitive category to win a medal in.
This is the category of who I consider the most electrifying athlete in American weightlifting today, CJ Cummings. The last time we saw him on a national stage, he set a new American Record with a 183KG (403lb) clean & jerk in the 69KG category. All he accomplished in 2016 was win two World Championships and set the Youth World Record in the Clean & Jerk and the overall total on multiple occasions. At the American Open he snatched 138KG (304lb) for a new Junior American record, which also happens to be 3KG (7lb) away from a new overall American Record. The current record of 140KG (308lb) in the snatch was set at the 2015 World championships in Houston, TX by Alex Lee.
Off the platform, he has been instrumental in designing the new Reebok Legacy Lifter Olympic Weightlifting Shoe, and Eleiko has starting selling a t-shirt of his likeness in honor of his multiple world championships he won in 2016.
The second highest entry total belongs to Jordan Wissinger of Garage strength, with a 268KG (590lb) entry total. He placed sixth at the 2016 Junior Nationals with 262KG (576lb) total, and 4th overall at the American Open with a 270KG (590lb) total. Third on the entry list is Melvin Peete with a 258KG (568lb) entry total. Peete competed for Team USA at the 2013 Youth World Championships where he placed 29th overall in the 69KG category.
In the podcast embedded below, BarBend Weightlifting correspondent Mike Graber joins JP Nicoletta and Anton Jefferson of OLIFT Magazine to preview the 2017 USA Weightlifting Junior National Championships. The Junior National Championships will serve as the final qualification event for American athletes who are aiming to compete at the Youth World Championships in Bangkok, Junior Pan American Championships in Equator, and Junior World Championships in Tokyo. The podcast also dives into the current standings for these teams and provides their opinions on what athletes may come from behind and earn a spot on team USA at these championships. There are a lot of storylines to follow along with, so listen as the commentators provide a guide line for all the excitement that will show up in Kansas City!
The top entry of 303KG (667lb) belongs to Mason Groehler of Mash Mafia Weightlifting. Groehler, a Wisconsin native, is also an accomplished international lifter. He placed 20th overall at the 2016 Junior World Championships, his third World Championship event. Additionally he has won a silver medal at the 2014 Pan-American Youth Championships, and scored valuable points for Team USA to earn 1 Olympic Spot at that year’s Youth Olympic Games. He has been routinely lifting 165KG (363lb) in training, and should be able to snatch victory if he lifts to his abilities.
The second highest entry total belongs to Dale Loch from Garage Strength. Loch recently made his international weightlifting debut at the 2016 Youth World Championships, where he placed 10th overall with his 283KG (623lb) total. Nikolai Kaganovitch of Team Titan and Nate Oelke of Armstrong Weightlifting share the 3rd highest entry total of 270KG (594lb), however right behind them are three other athletes who have declarations of 259KG (570lb) or more and medals in this category could easily come down to who makes the most lifts when the weights are this close.
Another seasoned international weightlifter, Omar Cummings, has the top entry total in this category with 304KG (669lb) declared. In addition to being the older brother of CJ Cummings, he is also an accomplished high school football player who recently signed a letter of intent to play at South Carolina State. Cummings placed 4th at last year’s Junior National Championships, however he has been a multiple medalist at the USAW youth and junior national championships in past years. In 2015 he won a bronze medal at the Youth World Championships in the 77KG category with a 287KG (631lb) total.
Josh Piasecki of Florida Elite has the second highest entry total with 292KG (642lb), which he totaled at the American Open where he finished 17th overall against competitors almost twice his age. The third highest entry total belongs to Kolton Koontz from Performance One Weightlifting in Mesa, AZ with 275KG (605lb). He was on the American team at last year’s Youth World Championships where he placed 12th overall with a 282KG (620lb) total. He recently has set a competition record of 290KG (638lb) in a local meet where he snatched 130KG (286lb) and lifted 160KG (352lb) in the clean & jerk.
The top entry of 315KG (693lb) belongs to Michael Cohen of Team Savannah. Cohen is the 2015 Junior National Champion and is a multiple time champion of the Youth National championships. An accomplished international athlete in his own regards, the 19 year old won a bronze medal at the 2015 Youth World Championships and was the 94KG champion of the 2015 Pan-American Youth Championships.
The second highest entry total belongs to Matthew Montgomery of the Lindenwood University weightlifting program with 286KG (630lb). Montgomery was 4th in this category at last year’s championships where he totaled 257KG (565lb). The third highest highest entry total belongs to Nicholas Bramble of the CHFP Weightlifting Club with 273KG (601lb).
The top entry of 320KG (704lb) belongs to Dylan Cooper, one of the newest members of the California Strength Weightlifting team. Cooper was the 2016 Junior National Champion in the 94KG category where he totaled 318KG (700lb). He has won a bronze medal at both the 2015 & 2016 Junior Pan-American Championships in the 94KG category, and he has competed at the last two Junior World Championships, placing 15th in 2015. He recently has snatched 137KG (300lb) in training, and he will be an athlete to keep a close eye on as he continues to grow into a larger body weight category.
Zachary Burks of the Wesley Weightlifting Club has the second highest entry total with 294KG (647lb). Burks is also an accomplished athlete at the international level; he placed 4th in the 85KG category at the 2015 Youth Pan-American Championships and 8th at that year’s Youth World Championships. He was 6th at last year’s Junior National Championships in the 85KG category, he is another athlete to watch as he continues to grow and mature at a larger weight category. Anthony Yurich of the Hassle Free Barbell Club has the third highest entry total at 280KG (616lb).
The top entry of 320KG (704lb) belongs to Ryan Sennett of East Coast Gold. Sennett is the 2015 Junior National Champion, and a multiple time champion in the youth categories. He owns both the snatch record of 142KG (312lb) and total record of 314KG (691lb) in the 16 & 17 year old category. Internationally he won the 2014 Youth Pan-American Championships. He won a bronze medal 2015 Junior Pan-American Championships, and he was the sole American male to compete in weightlifting at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
The second highest entry of 303KG (667lb) in this category belongs to Marcos Bribiesca of Panhandle Power in Amarillo, TX. He is a three-time Youth National Champion, and he placed 11th at last year’s Youth World Championships where he set the Youth American Record clean and jerk in the 16 & 17 year old category with 173KG (381lb).
One of the fiercest battles of the weekend is expected to occur in the lightest weight category. The 48KG category can boast two of the best Junior American woman with both Hayley Reichardt and Megan Seegert competing.
In October, Reichardt became the first American female to win a medal at the Youth World Championships. Seegert currently owns all the Junior American records in this category while they share the 16 & 17 year old age group youth records in this category. Both women are entered with identical 162KG (356lb) entry totals, which is one kilo below the current record of 163KG (359lb). At last year’s Junior National Championships, Reichardt narrowly edged out Seegert by 2KG to win the championship in her hometown. Seegert’s junior record in the snatch is 73KG (161lb) and in the clean and jerk is 92KG (202lb). If these woman lift to their abilities, there is a great chance that some or all of these records will fall.
Shannon McNames of East Coast Gold has the third highest entry total at 159KG (350lb). The twenty year old from Pennsylvania recently placed sixth overall at the American Open, however if she lifts to her abilities she will be in a prime spot to win a medal and possibly surpass Reichardt and/or Seegert if they have a bad day on the platform.
The top entry of 174KG (383lb) belongs to Jourdan Delacruz a former resident athlete at the US Olympic Training Center (USOTC) and the owner of all three Junior American Records in this category. Her records consist of a 79KG (174lb) snatch, 95KG (209lb) clean and jerk and a 174KG (383lb) total, all of which she set in September 2016 in New Orleans. On the international scene, she won a silver medal at last year’s Junior Pan-American Championships and placed 5th at the Junior World Championships, needless to say if she lifts to her abilities this should be her competition for the taking.
A’Leah Ross and Sydney Shopp are tied for the second highest entry at 145KG (319lb). Shopp recently placed 10th overall at the 2016 American Open where she totaled 154KG (339lb). Ross won a bronze medal at last year’s Junior National Championships in this category where she totaled 145KG (319lb).
The top entry total of 175KG (385lb) belongs to Taylor Turner, a member of Florida Elite Weightlifting who trains with the Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Program. At last year’s Junior National Championships, she was the runner up in this category with a 163KG (359lb) total. She totaled 175KG at the American Open in December where she placed 5th overall while competing in the B session.
Sydney Goad of Coffee’s Gym has the second highest entry total of 171KG (376lb). She is the daughter of Olympian Robin Goad and USA World Team member Dean Goad. At the age of 20, she has already represented the USA on 2 Youth world teams and 2 Junior World Teams. Last year she won a silver medal in the 53KG category at the Junior National Championships. At the American Open, she made the move up to the 58KG category, and the new weight category is already starting to show some results. In training, she has recently snatched 77KG (169lb) which represents a 4KG improvement since December.
The third highest entry belongs to Kaija Bramwell of Performance One Weightlifting with 168KG (369lb). Another lifter with international experience, she competed at the 2013 Youth World Championships and won a silver medal at the 2014 Youth Pan-American Championships. In 2014 she also won the Youth National Championships, and in 2015 she won an overall bronze medal at the American Open Championships. This will be another category that comes down to who has the most completed lifts.
The top entry in this category belongs to none other than Maddy Myers of the Invictus Athlete Weightlifting Club with 206KG (453lb). At the young age of 20 years old, Myers already has an extensive resume in strength sports. She has been the best lifter at the past two Junior National Championships, and she has won the past two American Open Championships. She owns the American Junior records in the clean and jerk and overall total in both the 58KG and 63KG categories. Internationally she has placed 9th overall at the Junior World Championships and is the reigning Junior Pan American Champion.
Her 120KG (264lb) clean and jerk is within 6KG (13lb) of breaking the current American record, which was set in 2013 by Geralee Vega. Off the platform, she is an accomplished mountain climber and competed at the 2016 CrossFit Games on Team Invictus which placed 14th overall. Needless to say, she is the top female coming into this competition and is most likely to win a 3rd best lifter award.
Kate Vibert of Team Hercules has the second highest entry total with 184KG (405lb). She won a bronze medal at the Youth National Championships in 2016 in the 69KG category, then at the American Open in December, she moved down into the 63KG category and placed 11th overall out of the B session. While dropping a weight class, her overall total increased by 17KG (37lb) which is impressive! It will be exciting to see how she continues to develop with more time in this category.
Taylor Babb, who is unattached from Tennessee, has the third highest entry total at 180KG (396lb). At the 2016 Youth National Championships – she was victorious in this weight class in the 14 & 15 year old age group. She successfully made all six of her attempts and set a new American youth record in the snatch at 77KG (169lb). She finished in 19th place at the recent American Open, where she did actually compete with women that were twice her age. Her individual snatch of 82KG (180lb) tied for the 10th best in her category.
In this category, the top entry total of 194KG (427lb) belongs to Meredith Alwine of the Takeover Weightlifting Club. At last year’s event, she won a bronze medal in this category with a 169KG (372lb) total. At the 2016 American Open, Alwine dropped into the 63KG category and successfully lifted 108KG (238lb) which tied for the 2nd heaviest lift in the 63KG category. If she is able to lift 194KG, she would earn a spot on the Junior Pan-American team and most likely the Junior World team as well.
The second highest entry total of 191KG (420lb) belongs to Athene Schrijver of Myles Ahead Weightlifting. At last year’s event, she won a bronze medal in the 63KG category, and set 7 new Youth American Records between both lifts and the total. She has won the Youth National Championships three times and four time medalist of that event. She placed 7th at the 2016 Youth World Championships in her first international event.
The third highest entry total of 180KG (396lb) is shared between Celia Gold of Redzone weightlifting club and Madison Stembo of Garage Strength. Gold won a silver medal at last year’s event in the 63KG category where she totaled 176KG (387lb). Stenbo won a silver medal in this category at last year’s event. She is a five time Youth National Champion, she placed 8th at the 2016 Youth World Championships and 4th at the 2015 Youth Pan-American Championships.
Not surprising to anyone who knows weightlifting, Jessie Bradley of Power and Grace Performance has the top entry total of 205KG (451lb) in this category. Bradley is a former USOTC resident athlete, who has won the 2015 American Open and the 2016 Junior Pan-American Championships. At the 2016 Junior World Championships, she 210KG (462lb) on her way to an 8th place finish.
Juliana Rotto of Garage Strength has the second highest entry total with 203KG (447lb). She was 5th at the American Open and at last year’s event, she placed 5th in this category with 175KG (385lb) total; this year she will be looking to win some hardware. Caitlyn Lambert of Proven Strength Weightlifting has the third highest entry total with 186KG (409lb). She competed at last year’s event, however did not post a total.
Rebecca Walker of Performance One Weightlifting has the top entry total with 185KG (407lb). At last year’s event, she placed 5th in what was then the 75+ KG category. If she wins this competition, she would achieve history as the first ever 90KG Junior National Champion in USAW.
The second highest entry total belongs to Kaitlyn Cooper of 4 Star Strength with 180KG (396lb). She placed 8th overall at the American Open with a 184KG (405lb) total. The third highest entry belongs to Sage Tills of Proven Strength Weightlifting with 176KG (386lb). She placed 5th at last year’s Youth National Championships.
Shala McMilan of Florida Elite has the highest entry total with 219KG (482lb). At the 2016 Youth World Championships, she finished in 5th place overall and won a bronze medal in the snatch with an even 100KG (220lb) lift. Shala also placed third overall at this past American Open. She currently owns 7 Youth American Records and will be the lady to beat in this category. If she wins this competition, she too would achieve history as the first ever 90KG+ Junior National Champion in USAW.
Kaitlyn Jarrett of the Reading Barbell Club owns the second highest entry total 207KG (455lb). She won a silver medal at the 2016 Youth National Championships in Texas. The third highest entry total belongs to Shay Carlock of Heart and Barbell Club with 195KG (429lb). She placed 8th at last year’s event with a total of 175KG (385lb), and was 3rd at the 2016 Youth National Championships, right behind the two ladies mentioned above.
Featured image courtesy of Sam Viglienzone