Amidst the drama and excitement that comes with the week that was the 2023 TYR Wodapalooza (WZA), it’s inevitable that impressive feats are achieved, but even well-known athletes doing great things can get lost in the fray.
The selections below are athletes who flew mostly under the radar but competed in both the elite Individual and Team divisions at the 2023 WZA, made the cut — therefore did all the workouts — in each division but did not finish on the podium in either division.
- Individual Women — Fourth Place
- Elite Female Teams (P10 Performance) — Seventh Place
Michalyshen missed the Individual podium by 11 points. As dramatic as the scoring was for the two-part, back-to-back final events, it felt even closer as the dust settled. She wound up fourth overall — an impressive showing — and what stood out was her consistency.
Michalyshen’s only poor individual performance came in the “Back to the Future” event when she finished 18th. She ranked fourth through 12 on all eight of the other scored events. Her worst finish was better than Dani Speegle’s and better than two of Emma Cary’s. The difference was Michalyshen couldn’t quite punch through with top finishes.
While Speegle had four top-two finishes and Cary had three, Michalyshen had zero. If Michalyshen can convert a fourth or fifth into just one top-two finish, she would’ve landed on the podium. Two years ago, Michalyshen won the Rx division in Miami. In 2023, she’s knocked on the door of the podium for the elite division, a pretty positive progression.
- Individual Women — Eighth Place
- Elite Female Teams (P10 Performance) — Seventh Place
It just so happens that the second female athlete on this list is one of Michalyshen’s teammates from the female Teams divisions: Andrea Nisler.
Nisler often competes on a team during the CrossFit Games seasons — 2020 was an exception as there wasn’t Team division competition at the Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic; she qualified as an Individual as well. She ranked sixth at the 2022 Dubai Fitness Championship and eighth at the 2023 WZA.
What stands out is that Nisler’s team did well as it did with not one but two changes to the original roster. Losing her long-time teammate, Taylor Williamson, led many to think they may not make the final cut to 10 teams. However, both she and Michalyshen weathered the storm of two competitions extremely well.
They parlayed their fitness and experience into an excellent performance highlighted by fifth place on the swimming relay and eighth place on “Holds and Climbs.” They blended their capacity for aerobic work (swimming), gymnastics (rope climbs), and weightlifting (a trio of cleans, shoulder-to-overhead, and thrusters with three different weightlifting implements).
- Individual Women — 11th Place
- Elite Female Teams (Invictus) — Ninth Place
Much like Nisler, Weiss’ primary focus in high-level CrossFit competitions has more often than not been in the team division. Twice now this offseason, however, she competed as an Individual (the first was at the Zelos Games).
Diving deeper into her performances across the board, her worst finishes were in the strength events (We Have Lift Off; 30th, Rings and Squats; 29th). The rest of her event finishes range from third to 16th, including four top-10 finishes. Her overall fitness continues to elevate, and even though she’s taking a hit, her strength numbers are coming along too.
- Individual Men — Sixth Place
- Elite Male Teams (Le Boiz) — Sixth Place
Mathew had an incredible CrossFit Games performance in 2022, taking 14th after receiving a backfill invite out of the Granite Games semifinals. Would able to back it up in the offseason?
Twelfth place at the 2022 Rogue Invitational was about as expected, given the overall quality of that field. Sixth place in the elite Individual field at the 2023 WZA was a strong performance that included seven top 10 finishes, including a second-place finish on “Rings and Squats” to open the competition. That workout devastated many of the athletes, but Mathew handled it well.
Perhaps more impressive is what Mathew did with his team. After eight-time CrossFit Games athlete Jonne Koski was forced to withdraw due to illness, Will Kearney, who ranked 10th at the Torian Pro semifinal, stepped in. Their third teammate, James Newbury, has a history of success in the sport. He’s a four-time Games athlete but doesn’t train to be elite in the sport like he used to. He was 17th at the 2022 Toria Pro.
Against this caliber of field, Le Boiz finished eighth with a last-minute replacement and an athlete whose top priority is no longer top-end competitive fitness. It speaks volumes about Mathew’s overall fitness.
- Individual Men — 15th Place
- Elite Male Teams (The Three Wizards) — Ninth Place
Muscarella is likely the least well-known of the four under-the-radar athletes named. He’s not necessarily one of these up-and-coming youngsters in the sport, but he seems to be in the prime of his career.
At 29 years old, Muscarella has strung together a fourth-place finish in the Team division at 2022 WZA, a 12th-place finish in the online Zelos Games, a 15th-place finish in the Individual field, and a ninth-place finish in a much more stacked teams field at the 2023 WZA.
More than the final placement, however, it’s the ability to hold up through the volume of competitions and get the job when needed. With the cutline looming, Muscarella loaded 415 pounds for a front squat double and gave his team the boost they needed to make the finals later that night. It wasn’t the heaviest front squat, but the necessity for it was substantial. Performing when it matters most is an important skill to have in CrossFit, and Muscarella displayed that he’s capable of that.
What These Performances Mean Going Forward
Michalyshen and Mathew will look to build off of their 2023 WZA performances and qualify for the Games in 2023. Mathew has solidified himself as a threat in North America come time for the semifinals. Michalyshen took a step back at the 2022 Games (31st place) relative to her rookie year in 2021 (25th place). Her 2023 WZA performance can only boost confidence as she pursues reversing the trend this season.
Nisler has what it takes. The CrossFit Mayhem Freedom team that she’s won two Games championships with is not running it back in 2023, but her performances in Miami affirm she can be a major factor in a Teams podium run for 2023 if she so chooses. Her recent activity on social media suggests that will be the case.
Weiss and her third-place Games team (Invictus) from 2022 said they intend to run it back in 2023. She isn’t the only one on her team who has been busy this off-season. Jorge Fernandez was at Rogue, Devyn Kim joined Weiss in Vegas for the Zelos Games, and all four teammates competed in Miami (though only Weiss did so for both Individual and Team competitions).
Lastly, Muscarella’s performances set him up to pursue his first trip to the CrossFit Games. It’s never easy to make it in North America, but he showed glimpses this week of what it takes to flirt with a top-15 Semifinal performance. When one is that close, a couple of breaks in his favor and he could punch a ticket to Madison.
Featured image: @sydmichalyshen on Instagram