The 2017 USA Weightlifting National Championships Ultimate Preview

On May 4th, USA Weightlifting published the latest version of the athlete start list for the 2017 National Championships, to be held May 11 through the 14th of this year in Chicago, Illinois.

As of this start list (which potentially can still change) there are 384 athletes registered for the three day event. Before any athletes even take the change, history has already been made.

With an equal amount of weight categories for women and men, this projects to be the first year in American weightlifting history where there are more women competitors than men. In fact, roughly sixty percent of the field is comprised of women. Another interesting fact is that the number of male entrants has decreased by 9% from last year’s National Championships while the number of female entrants is up 48%.

The National Championships will serve as the final qualification event for the Men’s and Woman’s teams that will compete at the Pan American Championships this July in Miami. It is also is the 2nd opportunity (of five total events) to qualify for the 2017 USA National Team to compete this December at the World Championships in Anaheim. Due to the finality of the Pan American team qualification, I will focus on that international event, closer to the World Championships we will showcase the qualification for that event.

In November of 2016, USAW published their path to the podium, which is a document that details how an athlete can qualify for an international team. Coming out of Chicago, 8 men and women will technically be on the Pan American team; along with a minimum of 4 alternates, and they will be ranked based on their ability to place and score team points. Three weeks prior to the competition, the final 8 team members and 2 alternates will be chosen by the Team Selection Committee. This committee will consist of USAW Technical Director Pyrros Dimas, along with Executive Director of Sport Lance Williams, Athlete Rep Allie Henry and Senior International Coach Leo Totten.

Pan American Team Rankings

Going into Chicago, the current rankings lists are below. Note, this is not an exhaustive list of all athletes who are not currently in the top 12 projections for either team. The current alternates are highlighted in blue.

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. Myself, and everyone at BarBend wishes the best of luck to all the athletes, coaches, and officials going to Chicago.


In the recent past, America has had solid depth at the ends of the spectrum – lightweight and heavyweight women – and this year suggests the same. Both of the top two ladies in this category are already in the mix for this year’s Pan American team based on recent results. The top entry total belongs to Kathleen Winters of Team Montana with 170KG. She won the 2016 American Open, where she snatched 78KG, just 5KG below the American Record set in Rio by Morghan King. At last year’s Pan Am Championships in Colombia she totaled 168KG to win the overall bronze medal in her category, if she lifts to her abilities it is difficult to imagine anyone knocking her off the team.

Attempting to do so will be Junior American Record holder Megan Seegert of Hassle Free BBC. She recently won the 2017 Junior National Championships where she extended her own American Record in the total to 164KG. She has the 2nd highest entry total at 162KG; however to make the Pan Am team she would need to defeat the seasoned Winters and total a minimum of 172 in the process. If she totals 165 or more, she would bump off Maddy Myers from an alternate position. That being said, Seegert is on the USA Junior World Team that will be competing in Tokyo at the end of June, she will be looking to improve on her 6th place finish from last year.

Look out for: Kaitlin Montague of Absolute Strength Gym in New Jersey. She won the University Championships in April and she finished in fourth place at last year’s National Championships. There are 7 women with entry totals between 145KG and 149KG, it will come down to who makes the most lifts to win a bronze medal; and Montague will be coming in on a roll after her victory in Gainesville.


On paper this category is the most fierce competition, with four women who can potentially qualify for a spot on the Pan American team. The top entry of 189KG is shared between American record holder Cortney Batchelor and potential future record holder Caitlin Hogan. At the first American Open Series event in Reno this past March, Batchelor extended her own record in the snatch with 87KG. Both women are within 4KG of 2008 Olympian Melanie Roach’s record in the total of 193KG, and there is a good chance one or both of them break it in Chicago.

Both women are currently on the team for the Pan Am competition, however looking to surpass them on the rankings list will be none other than 2016 Olympian Morghan King, in what appears to be her new weight category, an increase from 48KG. King is entered with 180KG, which is the third highest entry total. The most recent time she competed at a competition of significance was the Olympic Trials session at the 2016 Junior National Championships, where she totaled 184KG. Since the Olympics, she has spent a lot of time training in Arizona under 1999 World Champion Shahin Nasirinia. A huge 190KG total would be needed to surpass both Batchelor and Hogan.

Look out for: Alyssa Ritchey. As of this writing she is currently scheduled to be competing in the 53KG category. She already is projected to be on the Pan Am team in the 48KG category based on her 172KG total from the American Open Series event in Reno. She might still drop down to 48KG, or she might want to challenge Hogan and Batchelor for greater-Los Angeles bragging rights.


On paper, this should be Jessica Lucero’s competition to win. She already is one of the most decorated 58KG athletes in American history with two National Championships and all three American records under her belt. At last year’s event in Salt Lake City, all she did was sweep the gold medals and American records with a 93KG snatch, 115KG clean & jerk, and 208KG total. I would expect another dominant competition from one of the top women in USAW. That being said, she currently is on the bubble for the team, a 205KG total appears to be the minimum she needs to comfortably earn a trip to Miami, in her home state of Florida.

The second highest entry total of 196KG belongs to Sarabeth Phillips, last year’s silver medalist in this category and a member of the New York Rhinos of the GRID league. Looking to challenge her for a spot on the podium will be Jennyfer Roberts, who has the third highest entry total of 190KG. She also is in the GRID league, competing for the Miami Surge, at last year’s National Championships she finished in 6th place overall in the 63KG category.

Look out for: Jacky Bigger, a former Lindenwood University team member, who has been training with Mash Elite in North Carolina over the past year. She is coming off of a surgery in the fall that kept her out of the 2016 American Open, however in October of last year she totaled 201KG at the Midwest Strongest Unicorn Competition in Ohio. A healthy Jackie is fully capable of being on the medal stand, and probably challenging Lucero more than anyone else.


Jordan Weichers of California Strength owns the highest entry total with 196KG. At last year’s event she totaled 192KG in the 58KG category on her way to the bronze medal. It will be exciting to see what she is capable a year later in a new weight class. Team Montana’s Brynn Murphy has the second highest entry total with 195KG. Jaclyn Long of RVA Weightlifting is third on the start list with 193KG. Long placed 3rd overall at the 2015 National Championships in this category with a 186KG total.  It is worth noting that a 204KG total would be needed to surpass Maddy Myers on the ranking list and move into an alternate team member spot. While I am guessing that Myers will be competing at the Cross Fit games, which are in the first week of August, she currently is on the bubble of making the Pan Am team based on winning the American Open with a 203KG total this past December.

Look out for: Kristin Pope of Team Juggernaut. She recently placed 2nd overall at the Arnold Weightlifting Championships with a 191KG total. She was 11th overall at last year’s National Championships in a very deep and competitive category, and will be hungry for a medal this year.


As per previous preview articles, 69KG is still the “Mattie Rogers” category until someone says otherwise. She is entered with the highest entry total at 225KG, however she owns all three American Records in this category, including the total record at 239KG. She is a reigning, two time National Champion and currently the 2nd highest ranked woman for the team and is almost certainly destined for Miami this summer and Anaheim in the fall. At last year’s Pan American Championships she set her American Record total and won the silver medal. In addition to many records, this past year she won the World University Championship as well as the American Open. I feel comfortable projecting more championships in her future.

The second highest entry total belongs to Hunter Elam at 210KG. A relative new comer to the sport, the 21 year old squats 170 like an empty bar. A 207KG total would move her into an alternate team spot for the Pan Am team. However to move into a spot in the top eight, she would need a massive 221KG total. While that is probably wishful thinking for Chicago, she has a bright future with lots more to come.  Danielle Hudes is 3rd on the entry list with 206KG. At last year’s event she won a silver medal in this category and is the 2015 American Open champion.

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 USAW. She lives and trains in Colombia, with husband Carlos Andica, himself a two time Olympic Team member for Colombia. She is entered with a 203KG entry total, which she totaled at the American Open where she won a silver medal.


The top entry total in this category belongs to Taylar Stallings of Florida Elite with 212KG. Stallings won a silver medal at the American Open, placing second behind Hay in that competition. The second highest entry total of 211KG belongs to Shacasia Johnson of Missouri, who is a bronze medalist from the 2016 Junior National Championships in this category.

223KG is the magic number right now to jump into an alternate team ranking spot for the Pan Am Championships, which she is fully capable of doing. The third highest entry of 210KG belongs to 2013 National Champion (and BarBend Contributor) Samantha Poeth of CHFP Weightlifting Club. She also is a two-time American Open Champion and four-time World University Team member.

Look out for: Quiana Welch of Team Juggernaut. She has the distinction of being the American Open Champion in the 90KG category, which makes her the first woman to ever win a national level competition in that category anywhere in the world. She totaled 206KG in December and it will be interesting to see how she does in a lower body weight category, regardless of the fact she was a svelte 90KG athlete.


This is the newest weight category in weightlifting, as the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) approved its creation in September of 2016. The woman who wins this category, will have the distinction of being the first National Champion in this category in USAW history. Alexandra Ludwig of Waxman’s Gym has the highest entry total at 232KG and is currently projected to be an alternate for the team. If she can total 235 or more, she would surpass Mary Peck and move into the top eight women for a spot on the team.

The second highest entry total belongs to Samantha Kleinschmidt of Catalyst Athletics with 208KG. She placed 7th overall at last year’s national championships in the 75KG category. The third highest entry total of 203KG belongs to Deanna McGillivray of Black Box Brute Squad. She is a former handball player who recently totaled 194KG at the American Open Series I event in Reno. These three women placed first through third at that event.

Look out for: Emelie Parker of Team Little League Weightlifting. She placed 4th overall at last year’s national championships in the 75KG+ category, despite being disadvantaged by 10 or more kilos versus the top three athletes. She placed 5th overall at the 2016 American Open in the 90KG category.


The top entry of 255KG belongs to the reigning queen of American Weightlifting, Team Houston’s Sarah Robles. Robles became the first American weightlifter in 16 years to win an Olympic Medal last summer when she won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games. She is a four-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 second highest entry total belongs to Marissa Klingseis of 255KG Wesley Weightlifting, herself a Junior Pan-American Champion, Junior World Medalist, Senior Pan-American Championships medalist, and the defending National Champion in this category. While she is entered with a conservative 234KG entry, at last year’s event Klingseis totaled 257KG on her way to the championship. She currently is ranked in the top 12 women for the Pan American team, however a 246KG total or higher would move her into the top 8 women based on current rankings. Emily Malinowski of Dog House Weightlifting has the third highest entry total at 212 KG. She placed 5th at the 2016 American Open with a 208KG total.

Look out for: Vanessa Frost of Coffee’s Gym. She won the silver medal overall at last year’s National Championships where she totaled 211KG. I personally saw her compete in March at the 210 Weightlifting March Madness competition and she looks to be ready to go in Chicago.


The top entry of 239KG belongs to 2014 National Champion, Michael Fox. 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. If Fox, or any other athlete in this category, is capable of totaling 237KG, he would move into the top twelve ranking for the Pan American team.

Also in this category is the reigning American Open Champion, Brian Reisenauer of the Mash Mafia Weightlifting team, who has a 230KG entry total. At the American Open, Brian totaled 232KG. He recently has lifted 127KG in the clean and jerk during a training session, which is 1KG over the current record that was set in 2015 by Darren Barnes. We could be in store for a record attempt in Chicago. Andrew Cheung of Sense Gym Weightlifting has the third highest entry total at 220KG. He was a bronze medalist last year at the National Championships where he totaled 215KG. This summer, Andrew will be competing on Team USA at the Summer Universiade in Chinese Taipei.

Look out for: Keith Connolly of Cincinnati Weightlifting. The 32 year old accountant is a four time National medalist in this category. He is old enough to have actually competed with this author at several national events; however unlike this author he can still compete with the 20 year olds in both lifts.


The top entry of 263KG belongs to American Record holder Derrick Johnson of Texas Barbell Club. In addition to competing at International events for Team USA for over 14 years, Johnson is one of the youngest Senior International Coaches in the history of USA Weightlifting. In 2011, he was the weightlifting coach at Lindenwood University when three athletes under his guidance qualified for the World Championships – for three different countries! He would need to total 263KG to move into the top eight men based on the current ranking. His American record total in this category is 272KG, which he set at the 2014 World Championships, so he is fully capable of qualifying for the Pan American team if he lifts to his ability.

Tanner Graham of Arizona has the second highest entry total at 240KG. In January, he competed at the prestigious Iran Athlete Open and totaled 226KG in the 62KG category. The third highest entry belongs to Dean Otsuka from the Lost Batallion Hall in New York City. Dean placed 5th at last year’s National Championships where he totaled 223KG.

Look out for: Darrel Barnes of East Coast Gold Weightlifting. 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.


Two athletes in this category share the highest entry total of 270KG, James Corsitto from Long Island, NY of the Weightlifting Institute and Michael Szela of Illinois from Little League Weightlifting. At last year’s National Championships, Szela finished in 4th place with a 279KG total while Corsitto finished in 7th place at the 2014 National Championships where he totaled 254KG. Both athletes have had injuries in recent years that has set back their training and competing at the national level, so it is great to see them back at the pinnacle of American weightlifting.

John Stang, the 2016 Junior National Champion, has the 3rd highest entry total at 265KG. He recently has moved up to this category from the 62KG category, and it has been doing wonders for his lifting. He routinely squats in the neighborhood of 220KG and then some, he has clean and jerked 150KG on a routine basis on social media, and it will be exciting to see him compete with more seasoned athletes in the A session of the competition.

Regardless of who wins, this will be the first year since 2010 when an athlete not named Alex Lee, CJ Cummings, or Caleb Williams is the 69KG National Champion. While we will miss seeing the three at the National Championships, it is great to see new athletes showcased. I also have a feeling we will see all three of them compete again in weightlifting in the near future.  

Look out for: Alvin Tajima from Marin Heavy Athletics. Tajima recently won the American Open Series I event in Reno, where he totaled 267KG. He is coached by former Junior American Record Holder Jasha Faye, and if he can maintain or improve upon his results from Reno, he has a great chance to stand on the podium. Last summer he spent six weeks in Poland training with their National Weightlifting Team. This included 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Bartłomiej Bonk and European Medalist Arek Michalski. He still receives coaching from Irek Peplowski, one of the national team coaches who was on staff in Rio for Poland.  


The top entry of 320KG belongs to Angelo Bianco of Average Broz Gym in Las Vegas. Bianco won a silver medal at the 2015 National Championships where he totaled 324KG in this category. In November of last year, he swept the silver medals at the World University Championships where he totaled 315KG in Mexico. Also in 2016, he won a bronze medal at the IWF Russian President’s Cup where he totaled 327 as a (very) light 94KG athlete.

Currently there is already a 77KG athlete projected to be on the Pan American team for USAW, Harrison Maurus, based on his results from the American Open where he totaled 328KG. Maurus is not on the start list for the National Championships, probably because he recently won the Youth World Championships with a 332KG total and he is building up for Miami. To be the second 77KG athlete on the team, Bianco or anyone else would need to total a minimum of 322KG to jump into the top eight men based on current rankings.

The second highest entry total of 300KG belongs to Nicholas Dondzilla of Team LAB. Nicholas recently won the 2017 University National Championship in Gainesville, where he totaled 291KG to win the Championship. He was 6th overall at the American Open where he totaled 290KG this past December. The third highest entry total of 294Kg 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 where he made the total.

Look out for: Lewis Jacob “The Rabbit” Wyatt of Mash Mafia Weightlifting. He was close behind Akalegbere at the Arnold Championships where he totaled 292KG. He finished in sixth place at last year’s National Championships where he made four of his six attempts and finished with a 280KG total.


The top entry of 320KG belongs to James Tatum of East Coast Gold, himself a multiple World Team Member in the 77KG and 85KG categories for Team USA. At last year’s National Championships, he totaled 341KG on his way to his 2nd National Championship. Since then, he finished in 6th place at last year’s Pan American Championships where he earned valuable points towards sending Kendrick Farris to the Olympics. He also won a silver medal at the World University Championships, where he totaled 329KG. He currently is projected as an alternate for the Pan American team, based on his 326KG total from the American Open. To jump into a spot in the top 8 men, he would need a 339KG total based on current rankings.

The second highest entry of 316KG belongs to John Downey of Catalyst Athletics. At last year’s National Championships, he competed in the 85KG category where he won a bronze medal with a 306KG total. He repeated with another bronze medal at the American Open in December, where his total improved to 316KG. 2015 National Champion, and last year’s silver medalist, Anthony Pomponio has the third highest entry total at 315KG. In 2015 he went to China and placed 6th at the IWF Grand Prix. More recently, he became a dad in April when his son, Rocco, was born.

Look out for: Colin Worm of West Michigan Muscle. He placed 4th overall at the 2016 American Open with a 313KG total. After getting that close to a medal, I’m sure he will bring his top game to Chicago.


The top entry of 370KG belongs to American record holder, and 2014 National Champion, Colin Burns. After several years of going back and forth in owning the snatch record, and losing it to other athletes; Burns re-took possession at the American Open where he snatched 173KG. His 371KG total from the American Open currently ranks him first overall of all American men for the Pan American team. Since the American Open, he placed second overall at the Arnold Weightlifting Championships.

The second highest entry of 357KG belongs to Nathan Damron, an American record holder in the junior category. Internationally, Damron won a silver medal at the 2016 Junior Pan American Championships, and three times has placed in the top 10 at the Junior World Championships. He currently is ranked fifth on the Pan Am team, and looks good to be going to Miami this summer. If he can stay close in the snatch with Burns, he will be able to challenge him in the clean and jerk to potentially win the competition. The third highest entry total of 340KG is shared between 2010 National Champion Phil Sabatini and DJ Shuttleworth of Garage Strength. They finished fourth and tenth overall at last year’s National Championships, respectively.

Look out for: Robert Blackwell of California Strength. Blackwell won a silver medal overall at the 2014 National Championships while competing in the 85KG category. He has slowly been growing into the 94KG category, and so far it looks to suit him. Additionally he been a corner stone barbell specialist for the Los Angeles Reign of the National Professional Grid League (NPGL).


The top entry of 375KG belongs to D’Angelo Osorio of Hassle Free BBC. Osorio, a former resident athlete at the US Olympic Training Center (USOTC) is having a comeback year so far in 2017. He was victorious at the American Open Series I Event in Reno earlier this year, which ranks him at 8th right now for the Pan American team. He won a bronze medal at last year’s National Championships where he totaled 363KG. An accomplished international competitor, he 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 360KG belongs to Ethan Harak of Strength Guild Weightlifting. Harak was fourth last year at the National Championships where he totaled 346KG.

Look out for: 2012 National Champion Ian Wilson of Hassle Free BBC. Wilson is one of the few Americans to win international medals at the Youth, Junior and Senior age categories. This includes a silver medal at the 2011 Youth World Championships, a bronze medal at the 2014 Junior World Championships and a silver medal at the 2014 Senior Pan American Championships where he set a new American Record in the snatch with 173KG. In recent years he has battled several injuries that have hampered his competition, but if healthy he is the most dangerous weightlifter to compete against in the United States.

105KG +

The top entry of 380KG belongs to Caine Wilkes, the strongest Graphic Designer in the world. Wilkes is a four-time defending National Champion, and if he lifts to his abilities he should win his fifth title. At the 2014 National Championships, he totaled the illustrious 400KG, which put him in a selective category of American men to have ever done that. He has competed for Team USA on three World Championship teams and two Pan American teams. He was the Pan American Champion in 2014 and a silver medalist in 2016. He currently is ranked fourth on the Pan American team.

The second highest entry total of 343KG belongs to Jason Kristal of California. In 1999, he placed 5th overall at the Junior World Championships in Savanah, Georgia. His total of 365KG still stands today; 18 years later, as the current Junior American Record for the total in the superheavyweight division. He is a multiple time medalist at the Senior National Championships, and recently won the Masters National Championships in the 35-39 year old division.

The third highest entry total of 340KG belongs to Javier Pagliery of Florida Elite. Pagliery recently won the University National Championships with a 332KG total, which earned himself a second trip to the World University Championships. At the 2016 World University Championships in Mexico, he finished in 8th place with a 345KG total.

Look out for: Jason Starks of California Strength. At the 2015 National Championships, he finished in 3rd overall with a 344KG total. What makes that more impressive, is that days prior, he won the Masters World Championships that had been taking place in Dallas, TX prior to the National Championships. At age 38, Jason shows no signs of slowing down. There is regular video of him on social media pushing teammates Rob Blackwell and Wes Kitts in the gym.

Featured image: @mattiecakesssss on Instagram

Editor’s note: BarBend is the Official Media Partner of USA Weightlifting. Unless otherwise stated for special projects, the two organizations maintain editorial independence.