We all make mistakes, the hard part is owning them. Last year I was taken in by the hype and wrote about how Iron Biby might make a surprising impact at that year’s WSM. I could not have been more wrong. Fast forward to 2019 and an underground buzz is growing about a new athlete: Larry Wheels. Just who is this guy and what really are his chances at becoming a new phenom in the sport?
Larry “Wheels” Williams is a Bronx NY native who started his lifting career as a young man using a broomstick and cinder blocks to perform basic movements that build size and strength. It certainly worked and he fell in love with resistance training and its massive benefits.
At just 22 years of age he astounded the powerlifting world with a record with a 2,275 pound total. Over the last few months Wheels has been spotted training with World’s Strongest Man Thor Bjornsson and speaking about setting goals of placing high in the WSM contest. The question is, though, “Does he really even stand a chance?”
Let’s examine Larry and the big contests to see just how he will stack up.
Is He Big, Strong, and Fast Enough?
At six foot one and about 275 pounds, Larry would typically be considered a colossal man, until you stand him next to the true giants of the sport. (His true weight is under speculation right now as he hasn’t had to weigh in for a contest. He has indicated he may be heavier but he is maintaining a lean physique and appears to be well shy of the 300 pound mark.) He is a couple inches shorter than Hall or Big Z and half a foot short of Shaw or Thor. These inches mean he has less potential to carry massive bodyweight that is necessary for today’s contests.
He would be remiss to stay as light and as lean as he is to compete in the open, as he looks more like a 105kg professional than an open weight competitor. That’s just not enough weight to do well internationally. Most likely, he will need to gain over fifty pounds of fat and water to be more competitive, and it doesn’t seem like he is moving in that direction from his recent pictures.
While Wheels has some of the best numbers ever seen on a powerlifting stage, Strongman is a much more dynamic sport that requires a full 60 seconds or more of full effort and multiple repetitions to place well. He hasn’t competed under these circumstances and the best gauge we have of his ability is what he posts on social media. This is just not a good way to get a grip on someone’s ability, as we all have met gym heroes that can’t perform under the stress of the unfamiliar equipment and cameras. While I don’t see him bombing events, his high level of muscular development doesn’t guarantee athleticism either. Add all these factors up I would wager that his first few contests will lead to lower placing than he would expect.
Due to grassroots movements in the United States and Europe, strongman began to grow as a competitive sport for amateurs during the mid-2000s. During this time the dominating champion was none other than Hall of Famer and five time champ Mariusz Pudzianowski.
Many may look at the ‘Dominator” and compare his physique and height to Larry Wheels. While they are similar, Pudzan went up in weight from 275 when he started to 315 when he retired. Additionally, Mariusz’s all time best power lifts (bench 640, squat 840, deadlift 914) are higher than Larry’s (bench 610 squat 820, deadlift 881); granted this was done at a higher body weight but it illustrates the extreme strength of this multifaceted athlete.
In the last decade the weights of the events have become much more challenging than they were just a decade ago; and so has that of the athletes. Men six foot four seem to be average now and they are all extremely fast and athletic, qualities yet to be determined in our young hopeful. For comparison, Mateusz Kieliszkowski placed second to Thor this year and stands six five and weighs 325 pounds. He has crazy brute strength but moves like a middleweight. From a coach’s standpoint it sounds like Larry has the minimum requirements to compete internationally but will not crack his way to the finals; yet.
When I see this young hopeful, I cut through the hype and look at potential. We have a young (24) year old athlete who is hungry, strong, and training with the strongest man on the planet! There is no way you can look at him and brush him off. If he shows promise during his debut at the upcoming LA FitExpo (January 26, 2019), I am certain this will light a fire in him to push even harder and become bigger! There will be a few talented amateur heavyweights there to push him to his limit and give us a better gauge for his abilities. He has a lot to learn as far as technique, stamina, and strategy go, and calming the jitters the first time he competes with these monsters. Fortunately that’s the best thing about strongman; you can talk about it as long as you want but eventually you need to take your place in line and see what you are truly made of.
In two or three years (if he sticks with it) Larry may have developed the skills needed to excel in the hardest strength sport on the planet. It’s will be no walk in the park for him as the field of Americans grows stronger and bigger in attempts to take the Crown from Thor. All in all I wish him well as he has attracted many new eyes to the sport, and hopefully this will translate to thousands of new fans ready to cheer all athletes on in their quest for greatness.
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.