The Ultimate Preview to the 2018 USA Weightlifting National Championships

Entries are closed, and USA Weightlifting has published the latest version of the athlete start list for the 2018 National Championships, to be held May 24 through the 27th of this year in Overland Park, Kansas. As of this start list (which potentially can still change) there are 329 athletes with an active registration for the three day event. Just as last year, the number of nationally qualified and actively registered women is almost 50% higher than men.

Find out how to watch the 2018 USA Weightlifting National Championships here.

While the overall number of athletes has decreased by roughly 15%, a lot of that can be attributed to the timing of the event. Last week, 16 of the top American weightlifters — including teenage phenomenon CJ Cummings — competed at the 2018 Pan American championships. A month from now, 20 of the best junior aged athletes will be competing at the 2018 Junior World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Many of these athletes would be competing under normal circumstances in Overland Park; however not this year.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Details and numbers for the 2018 USAW Championships

The National Championships will serve as the second of at least five qualification events that will be utilized to select Team USA for the World Championships this November in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. In April of this year, USAW published their most recent selection process, which is a document that details how an athlete can qualify for an international team. This supersedes all previous documents they had published, and the first event it will be applicable for is the 2018 World Championships.

Last week’s Pan American Championships was the first event towards qualification; Wes Kitts and others are most likely locked onto the World Team based on previous results alone. However in addition to the National championships, the American Open Series II this July in Pennsylvania and the American Open Series III this September in Las Vegas will serve as qualification events. The previously mentioned Junior World championships will also serve as a qualification event, as well as any other IWF event that Team USA enters a team for competition.   

This article will attempt to showcase the top athletes in each of the 16 weight categories, as well as point out storylines and fun facts to keep in mind. I’m wishing the best of luck to all the athletes, coaches, and officials going to Kansas.

The Women

48KG

In the recent past, America has had solid depth at both ends of the spectrum – lightweight and heavyweight – and this year suggests more of the same. The top entry belongs to Kathleen Winters from Team Montana with 170KG. The 2015 National Champion was in the silver position last year after finishing with a 172KG total. She is a previous bronze medalist at the 2016 Pan American Championships, if she lifts to her abilities it is difficult to imagine anyone knocking her off the team.

Attempting to do so will be Katrina Kusick of Lift Lab, who has an entry total of 166KG. At the American Open 1 at the Arnold Sports Festival, Kusick snatched 74KG and lifted 92KG in the clean and jerk.

All of the ladies in this category will be chasing the two athletes who competed for Team USA at the Pan American Championships this past week, if they are contending for the World Team. Alyssa Ritchey of Team Juggernaut and Hayley Reichardt of Garage Strength where the first American athletes to compete in the Pan Am Championships. Ritchey snatched 78kg and clean & jerked 94kg for a total of 172kg, just outside the medals. Reichardt finished with a 166kg total, combining a 71kg snatch and a 95kg clean & jerk.

Look out for: Kelly Rexroad Williams of Williams Weightlifting in Georgia. The mother of two is a three time National Champion, and most recently placed 6th overall at the 2016 Pan American Championships. She also has competed at three World Championships and has a Junior World Championship on her resume.

53KG

On paper this category is the most competition, with four women who can potentially qualify for a spot on the World team. The top entry of 183KG belongs to former American record holder Cortney Batchelor. Batchelor, who was last year’s runner up, has competed at both the 2013 and 2014 World Championships and is looking to reclaim her place on the team. Her 84KG snatch record was recently beaten at the Pan Am Championships where Caitlin Hogan lifted 86KG in the snatch.

The second highest entry total belongs to Jessica Saxon of Philadelphia Barbell with 182KG. At last year’s National Championships, she totaled 173KG while winning the overall bronze medal. Within striking distance of the top would be Jourdan Delacruz and Olympian Morghan King; both are entered with 180KG. Delacruz won the 2017 American Open in Anaheim with a total of 188KG. The last time we saw King in a national competition, she was unable to make a total; that being said she did snatch 82KG.

At last week’s Pan Am Championships, Caitlin Hogan of Waxman’s Gym earned silver in the snatch with an 86KG lift and secured bronze in the clean & jerk with a 107KG lift. Her 193KG total won her the overall silver medal.

58KG

With Jessica Lucero moving up a weight class, the field hasn’t been more wide open in years. The top entry total of 194KG belongs to Jennyfer Roberts of Team LAB out of St. Louis. At this year’s Arnold Weightlifting Championships, she totaled 191KG with an 88KG snatch and 103KG clean and jerk. She placed 3rd overall at last year’s National Championships.

The second highest entry total of 189KG belongs to Stephanie Lemmen, last year’s bronze medalist in this category. Looking to challenge her for a spot on the podium will be Kaija Bramwell, who has the third highest entry total of 184KG. Bramwell was the best female weightlifter at the 25 and younger National Championships this past April in Utah. Bramwell finished in 8th place at the 2017 National Championships.

Look out for: Rhiannon Reynolds of the Weightlifting Institute, the 2015 National Champion at 53KG was 11th overall at last year’s competition. If she lifts to her abilities, she is capable to finding herself on the medal podium.

63KG

This is the new weight category of three time National Champion and American Record holder Jessica Lucero, and she becomes the automatic favorite to win the category. She is entered with the highest total of 208KG. The last time we saw Lucero compete on a platform of significance was at the 2017 World Championships; her first major event as a 63KG athlete. Unfortunately she was unable to post a total, and she will be looking to bounce back and make a statement in Kansas.

The second highest entry belongs to Kristin Pope of Ronin Weightlifting with 199KG. This total comes from the American Open 1 Series in Columbus, where she made four of six attempts and finished 4th overall in a jam packed session. At the 2017 National Championships she finished in 8th overall with a 193KG total. The third highest entry total belongs to Kelly Wild of Reisen Strength with 196KG.

Look out for: Allison Fleming of Florida Elite, she has a 190KG entry total at a 63KG athlete where she was the 2018 University National Champion last month. The 18 year old will be moving up a weight category, if she makes lifts she will be a threat on the podium.

69KG

As per many previous preview articles, 69KG has been the “Mattie Rogers” category over the last several years. That still holds true, however Rogers recently won a silver medal at the Pan Am Championships with a 229KG total and will likely not be competing this weekend.

The highest entry total belongs to Junior aged athlete Meredith Alwine with 213KG. She is a two time Junior National Champion and will be representing Team USA in July at the Junior World Championships in Uzbekistan. She won a silver medal at the 2017 Junior Pan Am Championships, and was 7th overall at the 2017 Junior World Championships – her international experience could be the edge that helps her win her first American Championships.

The second highest entry total belongs to Kate Vibert of Team Hercules at 208KG. The 19 year old was 6th overall last year in the 63KG category. At the 2017 American Open – Vibert and Alwine had an epic battle that saw Alwine squeak out a 1 kilo victory on her last attempt of the competition. The National Championship could come down to who make the most successful lifts.

The third highest entry total of 206KG is shared between Hunter Elam of Mash Mafia Weightlifting and Brielle Atkin of Average Broz Gym. Both athletes are known for an abundance of overall strength. If that can translate into good attempts on the platform, both are serious contenders to win medals. Elam was 6th overall at last year’s event, and was 12th overall, respectively.

Look out for: Erin Andica (nee Wallace), the 2013 National Champion in this category who is a two time National Champion and three time World Team member for USA. She lives and trains in Colombia, with husband Carlos Andica, himself a two time Olympic Team member for Colombia. She is entered with a 204KG entry total.

75KG

The top entry total in this category belongs to Shacasia Johnson of Florida Elite with 220KG. She placed 2nd overall at the 2017 American Open with a 219KG total, and was the silver medalist at last year’s National Championships with a 216KG total. The second highest entry total of 216KG is shared between Jessie Bradley and Tiffiny Wohlers. Wohlers finished in 7th place overall at last year’s event. At the 2017 American open, she had the same 216KG total as Bradley; however, Bradley edged her out for a Bronze medal by virtue of achieving the total first, which is the tie breaker. Bradley herself is an accomplished international athlete at the young age of 21; she has competed at 4 Junior World Championships and has won four medals at the Youth and Junior Pan American Championships in her career.

Olympian Jenny Arthur competed last week at the Pan American Championships, where she made four of her six attempts; this includes 108KG in the snatch and 127KG in the clean and jerk for a 235KG total. Her 108KG snatch equals the America record and she won bronze medals in the snatch and total; however she will not be competing in Kansas as a result.

Look out for: Quiana Welch of Team Juggernaut, who has an entry total of 214KG. She owns the previously mentioned American record in the snatch with 108KG, which she accomplished at the 2017 American Open. There is a good chance she will break her own record if she lifts to her abilities. She was the 2017 American Open champion and 2018 American Open Series 1 champion, and at both events she totaled 221KG.

90KG

The top entry total belongs to Marissa Klingseis with 239KG. She recently finished in 5th place at the 2018 Pan Am Championships; however at last year’s event she was unable to make a total. Klingseis, the 2016 National Champion in the 75+ KG category, no doubt will be looking to make a big come back and make a return to the world team. At the 2017 World Championships, she finished in 5th place with a 239KG total.  

The second highest entry total belongs to Samantha Kleinschmidt of Catalyst Athletics with 215KG. She won a bronze medal overall at last year’s national championships in this category. The third highest entry total of 215KG belongs to Paige Scott of Life Lab. Scott won the American Open Series 1 event at the Arnold Championships this past year.

90KG+

While not entered with the top entry, this weight class belongs to the reigning queen of American Weightlifting, Team Houston’s Sarah Robles. Robles, who recently won the 2018 Pan Am Championships and the 2017 World Championships, became the first American weightlifter in 16 years to win an Olympic Medal when she won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games. She is a five-time National Champion and two-time Olympic team member, and she is within striking distance of the American Records in her weight category, which are currently held by another Olympic Medalist, Cheryl Haworth.

The highest entry total (on paper) belongs to Tiffany Vu with 223KG from Florida Elite. At last year’s championships, she finished in 4th place with a 214KG total; so needless to say her lifts have increased very nicely in the past year. Abigail Eagen of Waxman’s Gym has the second highest and active entry total with 202KG. She finished in 6th place overall at the 2017 American Open with that total.

Look out for: Shala McMillan of Florida Elite. The 19 year old has placed in the top ten place finishers twice at the Youth World Championships, and won a silver medal at the 2017 Junior Pan American Championships with a 221KG total. If she can total in that neighborhood, she can find herself on the medal podium.

The Men

56KG

The top entry of 230KG belongs to two men – the first being defending National Champion Michael Fox of Team Juggernaut. In addition to being a multiple time medalist at both the National Championships and the American Open, the Kansas native is also a former high level power lifter. The other being 2017 World Team member Brian Reisenauer. At last year’s event, the two placed first and second respectively.

The current American record in the clean and jerk is 136KG – which was set in 2015 by 4 time National Champion, Darren Barnes. Both Fox and Reisenauer have the potential to set a new record in the lift – it should be fun to watch!

Andrew Cheung of Sense Gym Weightlifting has the third highest entry total at 224KG. He was a bronze medalist last year at the National Championships where he totaled 222KG. Cheung competed on Team USA at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Chinese Taipei where he totaled 224KG.

Look out for: Darren Barnes of East Coast Gold. As previously mentioned, he is a 4 time National Champion, and is only 24 years old. He recently graduated from Lindenwood University, and if he is healthy and lifting to his abilities – another trip to the medal podium is very likely.

62KG

The top entry of 240KG belongs to American Record holder Darrel Barnes, the twin brother of Darren, who also represents East Coast Gold. Barnes placed 2nd overall at last year’s event, and is looking to win his second Senior age National Championship. Darrel is the 2012 National Champion in this category, and has represented Team USA on numerous occasions at the youth and junior level in international competition. This includes a silver medal at the 2014 Junior Pan American Championships and a top 10 performance at the 2013 & 2014 Junior World Championships.

Benjamin Lopez of Florida Elite has the second highest entry total at 232KG. He placed 9th overall at the 2017 American Open with a 223KG total. The third highest entry belongs to Dean Otsuka from the Lost Batallion Hall in New York City. Dean won a bronze medal at last year’s National Championships where he totaled 231KG.

Look out for: Chris Camenares of DC Weightlifting Club. He placed 7th overall at the 2017 American Open with a 226KG total; in addition he has medaled previously at the University National Championships.

69KG

The two highest entry totals belong to athletes who are both representing Garage Strength in eastern Pennsylvania. Jacob Horst, at 280KG won the 2016 Senior National Championships in the 62 KG category. His teammate, Jordan Wissinger at 275KG, actually defeated Horst at the Arnold Weightlifting Championships where they finished in silver and bronze positions, respectively. Horst represented Team USA at the 2017 Junior World Championships, where he totaled 248KG in the 62KG category; so it will be exciting to see how the bigger body weight helps his lifts. Wissinger finished in 14th place at the 2017 Junior World Championships where he totaled 281KG in the 69KG category.

The third highest entry belongs to James Corsitto of the Weightlifting Institute. The Long Island Native has a 273KG entry total, he will be looking to improve upon his 5th place finish at last year’s event.

At the Pan American Championships CJ Cummings won three medals, including gold in clean & jerk (180KG) and silvers each in snatch (144KG) and total (324KG). His snatch and total also set new senior and junior American Records in the 69KG weight category. Needless to say, when official American World Team rankings are released, he will be well positioned.

Look out for: Former American record holder Alex Lee out of Arizona. The 2016 National Champion has been an international level athlete for over a decade. His career has included a championship at the 2010 World University Championships and 12th place overall at the 2015 World Championships. If he is lifting to his abilities, his experience will definitely help him reach the top of the podium.

77KG

The top entry of 301Kg belongs to three time National Champion, Travis Cooper of East Coast Gold. The two-time Pan American medalist has taken some time off from competition since 2016, however his training appears to be going well and the seasoned veteran will be a serious contender for another championship.

The second highest entry total of 300KG belongs to Nicholas Dondzilla of Team LAB. Last year’s silver medalist, Nicholas won the 2017 University National Championship in Gainesville, where he totaled 291KG for the win. He was 2nd overall at the American Open where he totaled 293KG this past December. The third highest entry total of 292Kg belongs to Nu Akalegbere of El Jefe Barbell Club. A former high level Power lifter, Nu finished in 4th place overall at the 2017 Arnold Weightlifting Championships.

Look out for: Phil “Jake” Johnson from south Loop Strength and Conditioning in the Chicagoland area. A 2007 National Champion in the 62KG category, his international weightlifting career has included representing Team USA at three Junior World Championships and once at the Senior World Championships. He is a serious contender to end up on the medal podium.

85KG

The top entry of 324KG belongs to John Downey of Catalyst Athletics, last year’s fifth place finisher in this category. He won a silver medal at the 2017 American Open; this weekend he will have his eyes set on gold. He also won a bronze medal at the 2016 National Championships.

The second highest entry of 322KG belongs to Charles McDonald of East Coast Gold. At last year’s event he failed to post a total, however he finished in 4th overall at the 2017 American Open where he was successful in all six of his attempts and won a bronze medal in the clean and jerk. Dakota Carlson of Team Juggernaut and Jared Richmond of Sayre Park Weightlifting have the third highest entry total at 320KG. Carlson finished in 4th place at last year’s event while Richmond was 8th overall.

Team USA had two athletes compete at the Pan Am Championships in this category: Harrison Maurus and Jordan Cantrell. Maurus totaled 348KG while Cantrell totaled 338KG. Both athletes achieved totals that will make them hard to surpass on the ranking list for the World Championships.

Look out for: Tom Summa of Mash Mafia Weightlifting, who is entered with a conservative 305KG entry total. He has been on several junior aged international teams in recent years, and his results have included top 10 place finishes at the 2016 Junior World Championships and 2016 Junior Pan American Championships, respectively.

94KG

The top entry of 330KG belongs to Jason Bonnick of Florida Elite, last year’s bronze medalist where he totaled 342KG. At the 2017 American Open, he won a silver medal overall and was the highest placing American in the competition where he totaled 347KG.

The second highest entry of 350KG belongs to Nathan Damron, an American record holder in the junior category. Internationally, Damron was 8th overall at the 2017 Senior World Championships and 6th overall at the 2017 Pan American Championships. His career also includes a silver medal at the 2016 Junior Pan American Championships, and three times he has placed in the top 10 at the Junior World Championships. The third highest entry total of 345KG belongs to 2010 National Champion Phil Sabatini, who won a silver medal at last year’s competition. An interesting fact is that both Bonnick and Sabatini are master’s aged athletes (over the age of 35 years old) and seem to be getting better with age.

Look out for: DJ Shuttleworth of Garage Strength. At last year’s event he was unable to post a total, however at the 2017 American Open he totaled 337KG to finish in 5th place overall; he also won a silver medal in the clean and jerk.

105KG

The top entry of 360KG belongs to D’Angelo Osorio of Hassle Free BBC. Osorio, a former resident athlete at the US Olympic Training Center (USOTC), is also the defending National Champion; last year he totaled 376KG which included a monstrous 211KG clean and jerk. The current American Record of 220KG, which was set in 1999 by Olympian Wes Barnett, is within his sights. An accomplished international competitor, Osorio has been on two Junior World Championship teams for Team USA, and he won a bronze medal at the 2014 Pan American Championships.

The second highest entry of 330KG belongs to Jake Baker of Delta Weightlifting. Baker won a silver medal at the American Open where he totaled 336KG, and another silver medal at the University National Championships in April where he totaled 339KG. Joshua Uikilifi of The Sports Palace has the third highest entry total at 327KG. He finished in 6th place overall at last year’s event with a 321KG total.

At the Pan American Championships, Wes Kitts was victorious, winning gold medals in total (384KG) and clean & jerk (212KG) and a silver medal in the snatch (172KG).

Look out for: Zackary Burks of Wesley Weightlifting, the 20 year old has an entry of 319KG. He has several international competitions on his resume, including a 14th place finish at the 2017 Junior World Championships.

105KG +

The third highest entry total of 350KG is shared between Jacob Pudenz of California Strength and Keiser Witte. Pudenz won a bronze medal overall at last year’s competition with a 331KG total.

At the Pan American Championships, Caine Wilkes swept silver medals; lifting 183KG in the snatch and 219KG in the clean & jerk for a 402KG total.

Featured image: @chuckiewelch on Instagram

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