8 Historic Moments From 2021 USA Powerlifting Nationals

A lot of history was made at the powerlifting meet in Daytona, FL.

USA Powerlifting (USAPL) Nationals is one of those meets that is circled on the calendar of many American powerlifters as well as fans of the sport. Aside from the comradery of being around high-level performers, USAPL Nationals serves as the opportunity to be declared a national champion. Lifters can also qualify for the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Championships, which is another hallmark meet.

The 2021 edition of the Nationals, which took place June 14-19, 2021, in Daytona, FL, featured several big moments that will surely go down in powerlifting history. Here are eight such moments (in no particular order) that stood out.

Amanda Lawrence’s Domination at 84 Kilograms

In the women’s 84 kilogram category, Amanda Lawrence was already favored to win, but no one could’ve seen what she was going to do by the end of her meet. She not only won her national title in her category, but she also did so with a dominating victory of over 100 kilograms. Winning one’s division by 50 kilograms is enough to raise eyebrows in powerlifting, so a 100-kilogram win is rarified air. The summary of her lifts is below.

  • Squat — 240 kilograms (529 pounds)
  • Bench Press — 130 kilograms (286 pounds)
  • Deadlift — 255 kilograms (562 pounds)
  • Total — 625 kilograms (1,378 pounds)

Heather Connor Sets Three American Records

When Heather Connor isn’t busy molding the minds of her students, the 4’10”, 100-pound school teacher moonlights as one of the most successful 47-kilogram powerlifters on the planet. And she just made closed the gap between herself and Chen Wei-Ling. At USAPL Nationals, Connor set three American Records, won her fourth National title at 47 kilograms, and set two unofficial worlds records in the deadlift (a record she already owned) and the total (which belongs to Wei-Ling). Here were her stats from her USAPL Nationals performance:

  • Squat — 143 kilograms (316 pounds), new American Record
  • Bench Press — 72.5 kilograms (160 pounds)
  • Deadlift — 192.5 kilograms (424 pounds), new American Record
  • Total — 408 kilograms (900 pounds), new American Record

Taylor Atwood Nears 850-Kilogram Total at 74KG

On the same day that Connor put on her performance, Taylor Atwood also set three American Records to officially claim all four (bench, squat, deadlift, and total) at 74 kilograms. Having already owned the bench record, this gives Atwood all four in his category. He also won his seventh National title.


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A post shared by Taylor Atwood (@t_atwood)

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Keep in mind, Atwood became the first 74-kilogram powerlifter to total 800 kilograms in October 2020. He officially lifted 812 kilograms, so this new total means he’s put 26 kilograms onto a total that no other lifter in his weight class has yet to hit. His total and squat are also unofficial world records. Check out his numbers on this career day.

  • Squat — 303 kilograms (668 pounds), new American Record
  • Bench Press — 195 kilograms (430 pounds)*
  • Deadlift — 340.5 kilograms (750 pounds), new American Record
  • Total — 838.5 kilograms (1,848.5 pounds), new American Record

*Atwood owns this American Record at 199 kilograms, set in 2020, but did not break it at this meet. 

Russel Orhii Breaks American Squat Record for Men’s 83 Kilograms Category Twice

On the morning of June 17, 2021, the American squat record for the 83-kilogram category was 312 kilograms (set by Russel Orhii in 2019). By the end of the opening lift at Nationals, Orhii padded onto that record. As a matter of fact, he did it twice. The record of 314 (692 pounds) kilograms was set on Orhii’s second attempt, and that lasted as long as it took for his flight to be completed.

He returned to the podium for his final lift and bumped it up to 323 kilograms (712 pounds). By the end of the day, he had also bench pressed 192.5 kilograms (426.6 pounds) and pulled 327.5 kilograms (722) pounds) as well. He went eight for nine that day.

Jen Thompson Wins Her 50th National Title

When Jen Thompson started competing at major powerlifting events, Bill Clinton was still President of the United States. Twenty-Two years and four Presidents later, Thompson claimed her 50th National level victory on June 16. The powerlifter who turns 48 at the end of June competed in the women’s raw Masters (40-49) 63-kilogram weight class.

Her bench press of 125 kilograms (275 pounds) was enough to give her the victory. This at the time was the latest in an incredible career that includes numerous national and world titles as well as records.

Then Thompson Sets Masters Bench Press Record

But wait, Thompson wasn’t done. She then went on to set yet another American record. Her week included competing in the women’s equipped bench-only meet in the 69-kilogram category. Her final attempt of 142.5 kilograms (314 pounds) proved a challenge, but she overcame it and claimed a new American Record. The lift can be seen in her post below.


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A post shared by Jen Thompson (@jenthompson132)

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61-Year-Old David Ricks Refuses to Slow Down

As impressive of a career as Thompson has had, Dave Ricks’ career goes back even further. When he took part in his first meet, the Pennsylvania State Collegiate Championships, the year was 1981, and Ronald Reagan had just been sworn in to his first term as Commander-in-Chief.

Forty years later, Ricks is now established in the Masters Over 60 category, and at this year’s Nationals, he set two American records in the 93-kilogram class. His squat of 317.5 kilograms (yes, that’s 700 pounds) and bench press of 202.5 kilograms are both American records for his age group. He also pulled 282.5 kilograms, which is still very respectable for any lifter, much less one in his 60’s.

Grant Higa (+120KG) Wins Men’s Masters 50-59 Title 

Strength sports enthusiasts may know Grant Higa better by his nickname “Higa Monster”. He is known for his performances in the weight room of “The Cage” at the Arnold Sports Festival and Mr. Olympia events. He competes in both strongman and powerlifting, with his focus recently being on the sport with the big three lifts.

Higa competed in the men’s Masters 50-59 division and won the over 120-kilogram national championship. The summary of his meet is below.

  • Squat — 315 kilograms (694.5 pounds)
  • Bench Press — 210 kilograms (463 pounds)
  • Deadlift — 305 kilograms (672.5 pounds)
  • Total — 830 kilograms (1,830pounds)

Furthermore, he will now move on to the IPF Classic where he gets the opportunity to compete for the Masters 50-59 world title.

Featured Image: @jenthompson32 on Instagram