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October 04, 2020 13 min read

On August 29th, 2020 Full Circle Strength Systems had 6 competitors head west for a weekend of strength and power! Three were bound for Billings, MT and dominated in the strongman realm at Montana's Strongest 2020 while the other three landed in Kalispell, MT for an intense battle on the powerlifting scene. All came back victorius and hungry for their next war, none sustained injury. These are their stories: 

 

Montana’s Strongest 2020 – August 29, 2020 – Billings, MT

 “A few months back I was discussing progressing my strongman goals a little bit further with my training partners.  I have competed in three local events, finishing better with each competition (moving from 3rd, up to 2nd, and taking a 1st place on March 14, 2020 in North Dakota’s Strongest).  Being that I was qualified for Nationals with the 1st place win, however unable to go due to other plans (not to mention the cancelation due to COVID…), I found myself scrolling through the United States Strongman Association’s list of upcoming events.  I saw that there was one coming up at the end of August in Billings, MT.  A quick text to the training group determined we were going.

The event was the 1st Montana’s Strongest (I believe also the 1st event ran by the promoters). Training preparation was key, the events posted seemed to have some pretty heavy weights listed.  I was originally planning to go in as a Middleweight, and my partner a Lightweight.  It was a little tricky leading up to the event as the promoter decided not to release the names, number of athletes, or any changes to events/weights/etc.  Training went well and we came in feeling confident. Both of us needed to run through a pretty strict weight cut to make it to our planned classes, which later proved to be a bit unnecessary (I’ll go into this shortly). 

Events:

Event 1: Circus Dumbbell. Full clean and press for max reps in 60 seconds.

Event 2: Deadlift Medley. Deadlift 4 implements at different weights. Fastest time through, with 60 second time cap.  Implements included: Trap Bar, Frame, Axle Bar, and Wagon Wheels. 

Event 3: Yoke Carry. Fastest time through 50’ course.

Event 4: Tractor Pull. Pull tractor with shoulder harness and rope. Fastest time through 50’ course.

Event 5: Atlas Stones.  Originally this was planned as 4 stones in progressing weight over a yoke bar.  This ended up at a max rep in 60 second event.

Classes:

I had planned to be under 220 lbs for my Middleweight Class cut off.  As it turned out, there were only 18 athletes in total with me being the only Middleweight.  This lead to a consolidation of classes in which they placed me in the Lightweights, pitting me up against my training partner.  I later on got the idea that I should have requested to move up to Heavyweight, however at the time I was already too far into the competition. You live and you learn I guess.  Being 219 lbs on weigh-in gave me a bit of an advantage on comp day considering the lightweight cut off is 181 lbs. 

Competition:

Event 1: Circus Dumbbell. The weight assigned to our class was 120 lbs.  I had trained with this weight, as well as heavier, so my confidence was high. I was set to go 3rd out of 4 competitors.  Walking up to the dumbbell my buddy yells at me “do a bunch, but not too many!” Of course that lightened the mood and got me going. 13 reps later I had won the event.

Event 2: Deadlift. We ran through the course starting at the Trap Bar, then the Frame, Axle Bar, and finished with the Wagon Wheels. I don’t recall the weights, but this was an area that my partner and I had focused a lot of our energy. We were ready.  He ended up taking that event, finishing with a time of 14.44 seconds to my 14.67 second 2nd place finish.

Event 3: Yoke. This was one of my main concerns coming in. The original post stated this would be a 785 Hay Bail Yoke, which seemed almost unattainable.  After the adjustments for the day, it ended up with 485 lbs yoke. My time on this was 6.72 seconds, good for 1st place and after finishing I had to keep running because the yoke was sliding across the pavement behind me.

Event 4: Tractor Pull.  Here’s where things got a little tricky. This was something I had not done before. My thoughts were, “I know I’m strong enough and how much technique can there be?” Well turns out there’s a definite science to it. I ended up taking 2nd on this event with a time of 19.53 seconds for the 50’ course. Things learned: get down a little lower and shorter/quicker pulls with the rope. I overreached a few times and missed the rope as wells had the rope swinging too far side-to-side with my long pulls.

Event 5: Atlas Stones. We worked hard on these in the weeks leading up to the event, thinking we had to load a 270, 290,330, and 380 stone. After the comp got started and everything had been adjusted, it turned into a cardio beat down of a 200 lb stone over a 48’ bar. Athletes were given 60 seconds for max reps. Being that I was the current leader in the comp, I got to go last in this event. Andy and I were neck and neck for the overall and I knew he was going to dominate at this event. I watched him knock out 14 reps of that bar so fast the guy returning the stone was out of breath! I knew I had to bring the best to try to get that many. I ended up getting 13 reps, with my 14th going over the bar just after time was up.  This gave me 2nd place on this event.

Final:

Both Andy and I won 2 events. The tie-breaker was the tractor pull. I grabbed the 2nd place finish on that event by a whopping 0.35 seconds (19.53 to 19.88) which gave me the overall win.

Impressions: Competing against my training partner was a blast. We had quite the crowd there to support us, which always helps light the fire. I also believe that our comradery and competition was a little bit infectious to the other athletes and helped motivate everyone.  I can’t help but feel that neither one of us belonged in the Lightweights, which will always burn at the back of my mind. We still had an amazing time.  The promoters did a good job with the majority of the event, but you could tell they hadn’t thought of everything. I know the next one will go even better and will definitely have some increased interest! The local news channel made their way over to do some interviews as well as shoot some footage of the events. Andy got to be featured on the news that evening rocking the Baywatch Bod.

Competing in Strongman is unique. I’ve played sports most of my life. I have never been involved in something that does so much for an individual.  Every single athlete that I have competed against has become a friend. This community is full of support for everyone. There’s hardly ever any negativity. If you’re struggling, every single athlete is doing everything they can to keep you going and get you to push your limit. Competition is tricky that way. Sometimes you root against the competition in order to make your path easier, not in Strongman. We are here to see amazing humans push themselves to their limits to do amazing things. To quote David Goggins, “this is a chance to be uncommon amongst uncommon men”. This statement applies so perfectly to Strongman.”

- Skye Olsen

 

 “Thank you Mitch and Lacee for providing a quality facility that allowed me to prepare for this event. You guys are the best!!

I participated in the first “Montana’s Strongest Man/Woman” event which was held in Billings Montana on September 29, 2020. It was a lot of fun for me. The people who sponsored and promoted the event were very helpful and put on what I consider an excellent show. There was a good crowd of spectators who were not necessarily there for any specific competitor support. There was an event organized by a different group that was using the same venue so we got some spectators who watched both events. That was a net positive for the Montana’s Strongest event. The organizers had a food truck on hand which had excellent food at a very reasonable price. There were around 20 competitors and there were 5 events. The weights and requirements for the individual events were set up very well for the competition that was there. The implements were good quality and there was plenty of help on hand to get things moved around and reset for each competitor and each different event. I really enjoyed the show and look forward to competing in the next show that this group organizes and puts on.

 Thank you again Mitch and Lacee!!”

 Casey Anderson

 

   “2020 has been a crazy year and its tough finding events that haven't been canceled because of the covid pandemic. My training partner Skye Olsen was talking about finding an event to go to since nationals were canceled this year. He found out our neighbor to the west was holding their first sanctioned event in Billings MT. He didn't have to mention it twice, we were signing up.

   This strongman would be my 5th event and all within 10 months. One could say I was getting a little obsessed! I started my strongman journey not ever thinking I would be competing but just using it to bring more variety and fun to staying in shape.

   I was in a motorcycle accident in 2014 and had 14 surgeries in 3 years. I was defeated mentally that I would never be able to be fit and competitive at anything again. After getting an artificial knee replacement in 2017 I decided it was time to start over. Not to let this accident hold me down. That’s when I started training at Full Circle Strength Systems in December of 18. I was so intrigued with what strongman brought for unconventional training and awe inspiring lifts I knew this is what I wanted to do.

  Fast forward 18 months later and I am in Billings Montana going for a three state win. I had won light weight in Minneapolis in February, won light weight in Williston, ND in March and hoping for a win in Montana.  The pandemic once again took its toll and there was not enough competitors in light and middle weight so they were combined. Now the announcement of competing against my bigger stronger training partner was a reality and the three state sweep was going to be that much harder to achieve.

  First event was circus dumbbell and I knew Skye was going to crush me in it so I had to give it a 100% and try to do damage control. I ended up getting 8 to his 13 but good enough for a 2nd place finish.

  Second event was deadlift medley with 4 different lifts. The weights were not too bad with the heaviest at 475 I knew if I was quick with the transition between lifts I would have a shot at the event win. I ended up completing in just over 14 seconds for the win.

  Third event was the yoke carry. Once again training with Skye I knew his capability on this lift and I had a small chance of taking this event. I did pull a second place with a 9 seconds finish to his 6 seconds.

  Fourth event was tractor pull. This was an event I have never done or really trained for. It was fun to do but took a 3rd place finish. I was struggling keeping the rope tight while transitioning hand to hand.

  Fifth event was atlas stones. The weights were changed last minute to only 200lbs and over a yoke bar. The weight was not an issue so I knew I would have to go strong for a minute straight to pull a win out. I sprinted as fast as I could for a minute and ended up getting 14 reps to Skye’s 13 and it was enough to squeak out a win.

  In the end I lost to my training partner the World’s Strongest Banker, Skye Olsen. He took away my trifecta, but I wasn't disappointed at all. He brought out the best in me and we both had a super fun day. The first Montana strongman was a success, the promoters were easy to work with and the event  flowed very well.

 I have to give a big thanks to Mitch and Lacee Hughes for always being very helpful, informative and for having an amazing training facility at Full Circle.  Next event Oktoberfest in Williston.” 

-Andy Njos

 

 Glacier Old Dogs Powerlifting – August 29, 2020 – Kalispell, MT

 “USPA Powerlifting is known for harnessing impressive strength amongst it’s athletes as well as it’s organizational reputation. The state representatives are held to a high standard as are the judges and all staff associated with a competition setting. Donny Tudahl is a high caliber representative, judge, host, gym owner, coach, and athlete. He put together this unique formatted contest to showcase the strength in Sub-Masters and Masters divisions and prove that age is not a limit to strength potential. Thank you, Donny, for putting your heart and soul into every competition that you are a part of, it does NOT go unnoticed.

When our friend and gym member (Scooter) presented Mitch and I with this opportunity to compete we didn’t hesitate to oblige. We had only heard great things about the promoter of the show and location (Beast Athletes) and we are not the type to back away from a challenge. The challenge being that this would be our FIRST ever Full Power meet. After competing in Strongman for more than a decade, and thanks to Covid-19 for taking away our World Championship competitions for 2020, we decided to step out of our comfort zones. The upside, we get stronger and train toward a goal. The downside, we get stronger and train toward a goal, but the competition gets cancelled. All-in-all we were going for it. So, training commenced, and we were lead in the right direction by our dear friends and coaches Adam and Kim Derks, owners of Derks Strong.

This training block felt GOOD. Without sounding condescending, it was a nice break to our bodies from the day in, day out, grueling sport of Strongman. That shit will beat you up. Everything hurts after a while, but this training seriously felt like a vacation for my body. With the confidence of hitting good numbers, consistently, in training I felt ready to take on the platform.

I tell people I had a “unicorn” day on August 29th. Meaning that everything went as planned. I went 9/9 on my lifts and PR’d each one. I ended the day with an 1157 total comprised of a 402 squat, 253.5 bench press, and 501.5 deadlift. My biggest accomplishment is that DEADLIFT. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been chasing that 500lb benchmark for a while now. I will never forget that moment.

I think the biggest takeaway from this experience is that I (and my coaches) created a plan and stuck to it. Even though this was a different sport than I’ve been doing, the basics are all the same. You train specifically for your discipline. You train SMART (don’t risk potential for injury). You train consistently (do what needs to be done when you need to do it and for as long as it needs to be done). You follow the rules. You focus on one lift at a time. You do not get ahead of yourself (don’t plan any competitions or goals until the one you are focusing on is over). You do not change anything about your plan unless there is a blatant risk of injury, or some type of equipment or bodily mishap/malfunction. Make your goal clear, write it down every day, do something that gets you closer to that goal every day, and see it through to the end.

I loved this experience and I literally can’t wait for the next. It was inspiring and motivating to arrive at a competition with the team that we had. Mitch was bound and determined to help me as much as he could even when he needed to be beginning his warmups and he never once missed a chance to watch any of my 9 attempts on the platform. He’s seriously just the best! Scooter kept us in good spirits and helped remind us that we were all strong enough to make our presence known and that we had the best damn team in that building. The major bonus of the day was meeting and competing with his dad, Scott Sciaretta. To see Scooter and his dad jab at, but still encourage, each other all day was one of my favorite memories of the entire weekend. We made new friends at this contest, like always happens at strength sport events, and reinforced relationships with others that make this journey more of an enjoyment every time we step in the gym. Thank you to everyone involved. You all did your part in making this experience one to look back on and smile, whilst yielding my super sweet tomahawk for winning the Open 90kg class and Submasters 90kg class AND best overall female lifter! Wooooo!”

-Lacee Carr Hughes

 

“So over the weekend (8-29-20) I competed in my first USPA full raw powerlifting meet. Most of you will laugh thinking, that was my first and you’ve done like 50 strongman meets, yup, first powerlifting competition! I trained hard, feel like I played it smart as training for powerlifting is a lot different than training for a strongman meet, but different in a fun way. I competed in the sub masters class and SHW open class and won both classes and had the highest total out of everyone. I’m not going to give exact numbers, because I don’t know and frankly doesn’t matter, but finished with a 672 squat, 418 bench and 700 deadlift, whatever that totals is less than 1800, but more than 1700. My goal was to squat 705, I missed my first due to excitement, so my 2nd attempt became my 3rd  at 672, goal was to hit an easy 440 bench, which I did , but I red lighted it and ended with 418 (2nd attempt) and deadlift goal was to hit 680 which is 5 lbs above my strapless PR, and hit 683, for my 3rd and took a 4th at 700 and was successful. Over all it was a great experience and great competition held by a knowledgeable athlete Donny Tudahl out of Kallispell at his local gym Beast Athletics. I would compete again in full power and plan to. My next competition coming up is a strongman meet in WI called Static Monsters where there will be a max log and max 18” deadlift on Oct 24th and the Olympia which I qualified for with my wife Lacee (whom was with and killed it, but read her post above mine) which will be in Las Vegas on Dec. 18th and 19th and I will be only pulling there. So this first USPA meet was exceptionally fun since my wife Lacee competed and our gym member/good friend Scooter (who also wrote on this blog) was also there doing his first powerlifting meet as well! I’d say to anyone wanting to compete, is to just jump in and go give it hell. You never will know if you keep waiting for that perfect day to compete, those days are far and few between so just go do it and you never know you could love it and be hooked for life like us!”

-Mitch Hughes

 

“Competing in the Glacier Old Dogs powerlifting competition at Beast Athletes in Kalispell, MT was an event I definitely won’t forget. It was an honor getting to represent FCSS in my first powerlifting meet. An added bonus was getting to share the platform with my father, Scott Sciaretta, as well as the best gym owners/friends around, Mitch and Lacee Hughes. My training intensity is on a whole other level now! I’m hungry! I can’t wait to compete again, and I’m definitely lucky to be able to train in a facility that has the equipment and atmosphere I need to reach the next level! Let’s go!”

– Scooter Sciaretta aka Tony Madagascar aka Evelyn’s big daddy