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Living Legends 2019 Andrew Pantke Trip Report


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Andrew P

Well this is weird writing up a trip report nearly a month after the event. Anyone who’s ever worked with me will know I’m one slow writer at the best of times. It’s been a pleasure reading everyone’s trip reports. It’s hard to catch all the things going on while judging/running the event. I don’t normally do trip reports but this one is special and I figured I would try my hand at giving some of you guys a look at this from the promoters point of view.

As you know this event was special in that it’s been 3 years in the making. After the 2016 Legends being an Olympic year it was decided to make legends happen rarely to keep the excitement and avoid the event becoming stale. Oh boy you guys didn’t disappoint. We had Thomas Larsen and Hilde Holtebu come all the way from Norway to compete. Aaron Corcorran came across the US from Arizona and Eric Roussin and Andrew Dube’ traveled down from Canada. Plus we had several cars worth of misfits from Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Grippers: I traveled down Friday morning with a trailer loaded with gear and Andrew Durniat helped us set up the upper gym for the Friday afternoon events of grippers and slim levers. For the gripper event we used the NAGS/GSI rated set for a 20mm block set. Thomas Larsen had possible the slowest close I have ever seen, best way I could describe it was it was a slow hydraulic close regardless of the gripper picked. Now Jedd is a nightmare to judge he’s super explosive and all over the place getting his closes on the second pulse. Aaron won the event with a 180 close dude get almost scary right before he closes a gripper. It’s the eyes, if you’ve ever seen it you know what I’m talking about.

Hammers: I selected the double slim off the floor for a few reasons. Sim is a literal living legend of the strength and grip world so thematically it was just too fitting to pass by. Plus the event is super easy to judge being you either got the hammer up or you didn’t. That being the case I totally miss the mark on were people would be opening and finishing that event. Back at an old Michigan Grip Contest my personal best was 28 Pounds on a pair of 31” handles not counting the handles or hardware and getting ready for the event I could get 20 pounds any day I tried. With that knowledge I figured we would see some levers in the 40’s with the bulk of the athletes landing in the mid to upper 30’s. Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  We had 5 athletes fail to hit the Legends class opener at 20# and with 2.5# jumps Jedd and Lucas tied for top place at 27.5#. There where a lot of variables at play here. The platform padding was ½” shorter than the pads in the warmup area and a few athletes missed that I wasn’t counting the hammer and hardware weight into the equation. At least at the end of the day everyone was on the same rig so it was difficult across the board. I will say it was clear who did and didn’t do there homework on the event. I’m glad Durniat suggested that we allow those who missed the 20# opener to try again to get something on the board, honestly that event kept me up all night Friday night so a little alteration to the plan was well worth it. We all took a vote and the guys where able to get a score so at least they where not out of the game mathematically. While this is still a favorite event of mine if we run it again going to have to put more work into communicating and standardizing the pads.

Axle: A classic event with a twist being a bit thicker than the standard axle. I created this axle for the 2016 event and with Durniat being a platinum level sponsor decided to bring it back as his event selection.  I was more than happy to go with that as the thicker bar would keep the top lifts to the 400 pound and under range keeping the event moving along and saving some of the guy’s backs for the long event. With the majority of the Legends class pulling 320 or more these where some big axle numbers for events that would even run a 2” axle. The duel at the end between Andrew Durniat and Eric Roussin ended in a tie at 374.8 pounds. I thought we might see a 400 pound pull this year but we will have to save that for another event.

Saxon:  Went with a little thinner Saxon at 2” over the 2.5” one from the 2016 event. Overall I liked this it appeared to fit well and I didn’t hear any complaining that the width was too narrow. The standout performance for me was Eric Roussin’s 125Kg pull. Eric’s known as a thick bar guy and I simply didn’t expect him to tie for second place. Aaron and Eric tied for second with Jedd taking the 1st place spot with a just shy of 300 pound pull. For the Lady’s we used a 2 handed flask and Hilde got a solid 70Kg pull before taking a shot at a new world record. She came darn close and I bet without the Jet lag she wil have a new record soon.

Anvil:  For those that don’t know the history this tool was developed for the 2016 event. Darrin Shallman has a 173 pound anvil with a nasty large horn on it that we had scanned at a local foundry then cast and set at the matching angle. Now the Joliet anvil is of a similar weight and we had nearly everyone lift over 173 during the event and the legends guys going 198 plus. The event ended in an epic back and forth with Thomas Larsen and Lucas Raymond breaking the world record of 112kg by getting a 115 pull, then a 120 pull with finally Lucas pulling ahead with 125kg.

Inch: So when I started looking for sponsors right after the 1st legends I got tossed a bit of a challenge. Andrew wanted to have the 2.375” axle and Jake wanted to showcase the Inch Dumbbells. Right or wrong I didn’t want to have the contest be all thick bar virtually the rest of the events are to balance out those two events. So we brainstormed back and forth how to do this with going for reps, carries and finally settling on the loading to a platform similar to how strongman does atlas stones. I already had the steel 180 bell from experimenting having steel poured into our 172# Iron mold. While the end product was cool it wasn’t feasible to keep doing this from a production standpoint. So I talking around I knew we need something bigger than an Inch to challenge these guys. Crazy problem to have I know. So Jake went ahead and had a pattern developed for a steel 200# bell. Now to put some real crazy into the equation we needed something even bigger. Molds are pricy so we didn’t want to upfront a 225# mold at the same time as a 200. So we decided to build one using the Pro dumbbells. Aaron was kind enough to provide the machined hemispherical center plates and the final device was 223# (Close Enough J). Now the lighter 75 and under bells where from the collection of the late great, Don Larken and had a 2.25” handle. Don was a major influence on many grip guys in the Michigan area. Now the stage was set for some epic thick bar runs. Hilde and Melissa both where able to get a 85# pro dumbbell with the 100# inch giving them trouble getting to the 21” platform. Our open class men where starting to show the fatigue with the whole class topping out at the 125# bell with Steven Samaniego (Pork chop) and Gary Stuart both finishing at the 9 second mark. The Legends class had everyone getting the 150# bell to the platform with several guys getting air on the Inch dumbbell just missing the platform. Aaron and Lucas both got the Inch to the platform. According to Luke this was the 1st time he got the inch in a contest medley. Eric and Thomas Larsen both got the steel 180# inch to the platform. Think of the 180 Steel bell as a hard Inch not the hardest in the world but definitely on the hard side of the scale. Andrew and Jedd where both able to defeat the new 200# Sahlaney bell; side note I got to give Jake credit for the custom paint job that bell it come out looking sweet. Andrew was first in the lineup and after the 180 bell took his time to get the 200 finishing in a quick 31 seconds. Jedd went last and proved that his thick bar still sucks with knocking out each bell like a damn machine up to the 200# bell in 15 seconds. Seriously watch the medley run on YouTube it’s stupid fast for the level of bells lifted.

Final event Blobs. Now this one took some serious time to develop. About two years out I sourced a Blobzilla to act as the big heavy weight blob the event then by chance when York did the liquidation of the legacy dumbbell I was able to get the 120 and 110. However these things where stupid slippery, I mean think of covering the blob in grease and you’ll have an idea how slick that paint was. After some internal debate about not wanting to modify the factory finish I decided to paint strip the legacy blobs. I’m glad I did. When grabbing then with the slick paint the first thing that went through my head was “Not a snowballs chance in hell” after it was “hey this is wide, heavy and nasty…. but totally doable”. So now I had a good collection of blobs the tricky part was figuring out the order. We must have run half a dozen test runs with Dave Thornton, Kody Burns and Rob McMurren as my main guinea pigs. Now I was close to an order but Jedd was able to finalize the lineup for me at the Final Gripmas in Crooksville the December before. The lady’s tied on the half a York 65 with Hilde finishing her run 5 seconds faster than Melissa. Open class saw the half a 80 blob as the top end lift for that group with Tom Flesher, Andrew Dube and Pork Chop finishing within 3 seconds of each other. Legends class was up next the vast majority of the athletes where able to dominate the Blob 50 which is a respectable blob lift. Now we had several Blob specialists in the group Lucas was able to get past the half a 120 that stopped most of the class and was even able to get the Fatman blob to the platform. Jedd and Thomas Larsen both where able to sweep the entire 8 block medley tossing the Blobzilla up to the platform.

Overall it was a fantastic event and I got to give thanks to the people that made it happen.

Darrin Shallman for being a great friend and a constant sounding board, not only does he put up with my crap but he came down and helped with setup and judging the event. Thanks man.

Eric Roussin and Canadian Grip Sport for sponsoring the bulk of the cash prize as well as being a fantastic competitor.

James Retarides for announcing the event, and kicking the quality of the show up a couple of notches.

Jake Sahlaney for dealing with all the “fun” the foundry gives us. That 200# bell is a thing of beauty and I already got ideas for how to paint my next one.

Andrew Durniat and Josie for being a world class host for the event, not only did he give us free reign of his gym he babysat my dog Saturday night. Thanks for getting me into the competitive side of this sport; I’ll always be thankful for that.

Andrew Dube and Josh Henze for providing some sick prizes for the event.

Greg and Sue Leitheiser for taking care of the kiddo’s during the event so Kate and I could focus on the contest.

My parents for assisting in the event and manufacturing the bulk of FBBC’s products, and picking up dinner Saturday night.

Jedd Johnson of Diesel crew for sponsoring the event and helping with the promotion. We were on This Week in Grip, and across social media thanks to Jedd. To top it off, he also put on a dominating performance and taking home the event win.

All the athletes that took the time out of their lives to come to Wooster Ohio and participate in the event thank you for making it possible. Some of you came a long way and hands down Thomas and Hilde win the travel award.

Aaron, he helped with the scoring sheet and also puts up with me bouncing ideas off of him all the time.

Had to save the best for last a big thank you to my wife Katie, she runs the scoring system, herds cats, lets me get equipment I have no right owning and allows me to spend the time keeping FBBC and this event moving forward. Not to mention she has the power to kill this at any moment yet doesn’t despite the hours invested and the behind the scenes bitching from me.

So if you’ve read this far you’re probably wondering where does this leave the next Living Legends of Grip. To be honest I don’t fully know yet, going into the event I had hit a level of burnout and exhaustion and just wanted the thing done and over with. If you’ve ever put on a large event you can relate to what I’m getting at. Part of that I believe had to do with the 3 year gap. That’s a long time to think about an event and while I had time for the preparation it was also more than enough time to triple guess every step of the way.  But during the event there was two things that got me excited for the next go around. First it was just being back in Wooster. It was like coming home after being away for several years. Some of you might know the first grip contest I ever participated in was a Novice only event that Durniat hosted back when he was in the Tennis center. Just being back in that environment was a new jolt of motivation. Second and the biggest thing was after the contest several of us went the JAFB for beers and the ideas started flowing and the concept of bringing back the Legends as headline athletes just rang as the correct way to do this. Thinking back I had way too many conflicting objectives for this contest in my head at the same time for it to be as exciting to me as the 2016 event. Don’t get me wrong this year ran more events, better and faster, than we did before. Yet the spark was missing, for me at least. This contest was supposed to be something special, something where we can push the envelope, and break the rules without the need to follow constraints placed on us by an organization or venue. Next time where going back to having LEGENDS not just a Legends class, individuals that are the best at what they do, and are ready and willing to throw down a challenge to anyone that’s got the guts to come and take that title away from them. That’s exciting, that gets the blood boiling, when you don’t care who shows up because you just want to see what the headliners can do. That’s a contest that’s worth having. So for the next one, it’s back to basics, if you’re a Legend and ready to make a statement to the world, we will be in touch. And don’t be afraid to contact me. Part of being a Legends is the willingness to put yourself out there and not be content being the strongest guy on the Internet.

Andrew out.

Edited by Andrew P
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