As we say goodbye to another year and welcome in 2019, I find myself going through all of the events I have been a part of in the last 12 months. 2018 was an incredible year of growth and we have faced challenges faced every step of the way. My small little weightlifting team that almost died out in my garage less than 3 years ago has now become one of the largest in the country, with national athletes at every meet and a community of people that is unlike any other gym I have ever been a part of. In the following pages, I want to share with all of you what we all have been a part of, and what SoCal Weightlifting has accomplished in 2018. I invite all of you to join me in this 2018 year in review from my perspective.
2018 started off with a bang when we brought 15 athletes to the double barrel meet in early February. To date, that was the largest amount of athletes that our team took to one competition and the first time the SoCal Coaches were all looking fresh to death. We had a lot of 1st & 2nd time meets for a lot of lifters. Some of the highlights from that meet that I have are Laura’s really close attempts at 70/90, Candice’s nerves & Josh’s famous 112kg CJ (funny to think 10 months later and he is almost snatching 112kg). This was also when I started having Sarah Tyler shadow in the back room. We swept that meet winning the Women’s overall with solid performances from all of the ladies including the heavy hitters, Toni, Kayla & Megan who all secured 1st place finishes. If I remember correctly, we scored 48 out of a possible 50 points for the women. The men, trying to keep up with the women scored 44 out of 50 points and took first place with Daniel, Cesar & Tommy all going off, despite Tommy only having 9 fingers at his disposal. Go ahead and ask him how he got the nickname “9 fingers.” Our team walked away with two new barbells, a full set of plates and a ton of pride. I remember on that 2 hour drive home, I started to realize that we were on to something special. I didn’t know what it was yet, but I felt it that weekend and it took most of 2018 for me to understand what was at work.
The next meet for SoCal was our home meet, the Spring Classic. This was a first time meet for Sheena, Audrey, Maddie, & Hunter. It was also Lucy’s 2nd appearance on the platform, and Sarah T’s return after an injury. During this competition, I learned that Audrey is definitely the master of staying calm in the backroom, Sheena competes with more grace than anyone, and that Maddie likes to give me heart attacks by running the clock almost down to zero. The biggest memory of this meet was definitely Sarah Tyler smashing a 91kg all-time CJ PR and qualifying for Masters Worlds!
Just a week after the Spring Classic, we found ourselves in Ogden, Utah at University Nationals with Megan, Kayla and Toni. Being at the venue brought memories of 2015 University Nationals where Kody and I showed up as two no name dudes a part of some no name club, SoCal Weightlifting. We walked out of there with a 2nd place CJ medal & 3rd overall. (PS retroactively Kody has since won 1st in the CJ & 2nd overall in my eyes; thanks Dosterchill).
I liked Ogden and was optimistic the weekend was going to turn out well. All three girls were looking great. Toni was coming off a huge peaking block, Kayla was on the end of a long 4 month training block that unlocked newfound strength, and Megan was using this meet to continue her prep for Senior Nationals the following month. Toni was the first to go early Friday morning at 8am. She finished the day with a 3 for 6 performance, 73/96 which I was very happy about given it was her first time on a national stage and it was so early in the morning. The biggest thing I took away from that meet with Toni was how enjoyable she is to coach at competitions. She finds the perfect blend of focus and fun. She listens very well and is in tune with how her lifts are feeling. Although it wasn’t the total she was searching for, I was proud of her performance.
Kayla competed on Saturday and had her best performance of the year. She literally had a perfect day going 6 for 6 finishing off with 79/106. Kayla’s performance started off with a conservative approach. We had no intention of any grand plans at this meet, it was really about making lifts, and that is what she did. She made all of her snatches going 74-77-79. The final attempt could have easily been 81kg or 82kg, but because of the long wait times, I decided to play it safe and go with 79kg. The CJ opened things up a lot more and we took her opener at 97 then followed it up with 101kg. At the point I realized that Kayla had a strong chance at the podium, so I jockeyed the cards around in the back before calling 106kg, a weight she had never attempted before. Kayla came out and rocked that 106 the second it broke the floor. She walked off with gold medal CJ & 2nd place overall. It was a perfect capstone to a excellent training cycle that was all about consistency. Nothing showcased that better than a 6 for 6 performance.
Megan was the final lifter for our team in the 90kg A session which was Megan’s first time being in the A session. A session’s are an entirely different beast. The competition is so tightly packed, the wait times from attempts could be 10+ minutes. Coming off of less than desirable performance at AO finals 2017, she had something to prove to herself at this meet. I talked through the plan with Megan a couple days prior and although she may have disagreed with conservative openers, she trusted my decision. We opened at 78kg for a solid snatch opener and then made 81kg on her second attempt. She pulled on 84 for her last snatch, but looped it out just a bit and it missed out the back. The CJ was an inverse of her snatches, getting called for a press out on her opener at 102, then making her last two lifts at 102 & 107. All in all it was a fantastic day and she walked away with 3 bronze medals and her first time finishing on the podium at a national event.
We had 4 short weeks until we were headed to Overland Park, Kansas for Senior Nationals, the pinnacle of national events for USA Weightlifting. SoCal Weightlifting took three athletes to Sr. Nationals: Wendy, Megan & Kody. Being a 53kg lifter, Wendy was the first to compete. Before I get into the performance, it is worth discussing the amount of hell I put Wendy through going into this meet. Wendy joined the club in late January and I really took my programming methodology to the next level with her. I was tracking volume, intensity and loading like never before. I had to make sure my programming matched her work ethic and skill level. I saw Wendy hit some big lifts in training leading up to nationals and I knew she was ready for PR’s. When it was time to begin our warmups, I remember watching her move with the bar and thinking how in shape she looked. She looked strong. She looked fast. Her movement was dialed right in. We opened higher than she’s ever opened and we found success with 67kg. We went on to make 70kg on her 2nd, and barely miss 72kg. Clean & Jerks went very well going 86-90x-90. Wendy finished out the day with PR 160kg total setting Competition PR’s in both lifts.
Kody was the next lifter to take the stage for SoCal in the 94kg B session. This was Kody’s first time at Senior Nationals and I have to say I was probably way more nervous than he was. Leading up to this meet, his snatches were spotty and we both weren’t that confident in them. Ironically, it was his snatches that faired better than his CJ’s. Kody made all three snatches finishing off at 129kg. Only 1kg shy of his all time Comp PR. Going into the CJ, I was feeling confident. His warmups were slightly rushed with only 10 lifters in his session but he was holding on. We called for 163kg for his first attempt. I am not sure exactly what took place in the following couple seconds, but Kody managed to get so off balance in the pull, he literally almost fell forward over the bar. Not at all what I expected for an opener at the biggest meet of the year. After that SNAFU, he managed to smash 163kg & 166kg finishing the day with a 295kg total.
Megan was the last lifter to compete that weekend. She had a rough bout of training coming off of her 3rd place finish 4 weeks ago, and was dealing with a back injury that was plaguing her lifts. All in all, she competed very well at her first senior nationals. After a solid warmup, her snatches looked good going 79-82-85x. The CJ warmup was tough. There was a very fast turnaround time and she basically had to start her CJ warmup right away. On top of that, a lot of the girls were jumping their openers so time was definitely against us. Unfortunately it contributed to a miss on her first attempt at 105kg. She came back and made 105kg on her second, but wasn’t able to lift 108kg on her third attempt.
We left Senior Nationals with three solid performances, all finishing in the top 20. Kansas was a blast and the entire weekend was full of laughs. I was fortunate to see all three of my athletes compete and do well, spend more quality time with my crew outside of the gym, and enjoyed watching Wendy bundle up on the couch after she ate her bodyweight in BBQ.
We now find ourselves halfway through 2018 in the middle of June. It was time for our young guns to take center stage and show the world what they had been working towards. Josh, Joziah and I made our way to Michigan for Youth Nationals 2019. This was going to be a meet for the record books because of the two biggest uncertainties that were in front of them both. Josh trained like an animal all year long and wanted to accomplish the goal he set out on a year prior, winning a national championship. Would he be able to achieve this? Joziah on the other hand, was coming off an 8 month hiatus of training and touched a barbell less than 15 times leading up to this meet. I didn’t even consider us able to defend his national championship title from 2017, but was instead asking myself if this kid was even going to be able to perform?
I did my due diligence and knew where Josh’s competition stood. I knew Josh had a very good chance of winning a national championship if he made lifts on the platform. Josh snatched 100kg leading up to Youth Nationals & CJ 123kg, which would be enough to win. Josh was the last athlete to enter into the competition with the heaviest snatch opener at 94kg. Three white lights. There were two other athletes competing for the top spot against us and I entered into the mental chess match into the back room with the two other coaches. Unfortunately for them, I transform into Dustin Hoffman in Rain Main in competition. There was no way I was going to let these inexperienced coaches out maneuver me. After some back and forth jockeying, the next lifter snatched 96kg for his third attempt. Next on the bar was 97kg. Josh was called first because it was his 2nd attempt, and the other athletes’ 3rd attempt. We had the upper hand. Josh threw 97kg over his head and got rocked back to his heels. He dropped his head, sat deep in the hole and then stood it up. Three white lights with a legendary save. The next lifter missed 97kg. I knew that kid that had snatched 96kg had a stronger CJ than Josh, so we had to put some distance between us and him. We called for 100kg on his final attempt which Josh annihilated like a seasoned vet. Gold Medal Snatch & sitting in 1st with a 4kg lead. The CJ was another battle, and this time we had our work cut out for us. Josh opened lighter than both other contenders at 112kg and made it. One kid struggled with 114kg and ate up two attempts at that weight. He was too far behind to be in contention. It was down to Josh and one other competitor, the kid with the strong CJ. I was running numbers in my head and decided on 117kg for Josh’s 2nd attempt. I thought this was going to give him a good chance at winning but it really came down to what the other kid was capable of. Josh really struggled with 117kg having to triple bounce and then grind it up. He managed to secure it over his head in the Jerk for a successful lift and a 217kg total. The next weight on the bar was 119kg which Josh’s competitor made with ease. We loaded 120kg and before Josh took that lift, I told him “if you make this, you are the national champion.” He pulled on it with everything he had, caught bounce right away but stalled out on the stand up. No Lift. He came off the stage with his head down thinking it was all over. To my surprise, which I assume must have been a coaching error, the coach of the other competitor called for 122kg which would give him the gold in the CJ, but not in the total. The athlete smoked 122kg solidifying his gold medal in the CJ, but 1kg shy of Josh’s 217kg total. Josh became the 2018 77kg National Champion!
Next up was Joziah. With all the uncertainty and doubt that we both had going in, it is important to remember that the most powerful thing an athlete has is their ability to control their mind. We had less than 3 weeks of training after an 8 month lapse in training, but Joziah was a national champion. Joziah was the top ranked youth athlete of 2017. Joziah was an absolute freak and he knew how to compete. He had 4 years of experience under his belt at youth nationals which he could draw on. The warmups started off with a very unusual feeling. I was watching all the other competitors in the warmup pit and what I saw, did not line up with what the board was telling me. I predicted there was going to be a lot of shuffling. I decided to take the risk & get out in front of the warm-ups. Lucky for us, I gambled right and the entire warmup pit turned in mayhem in about 5 min. Almost every lifter was way behind in the count, except for us. Joziah stepped on stage for his 97kg opening lift perfectly timed. He made that lift and went on to 101kg. By this time, rushed warm ups caught up to everyone and there was a ton of misses. As the bar arrived at 103kg, I saw that Joziah was in medal contention with 2 other athletes. I decided to bump to 105kg and the other lifters followed. Joziah made 105kg to lock up 1st place momentarily. The last two lifters called for 106kg & 107kg and both made their lifts. We put the ball in their court, and they stepped up to deliver. The CJ was an exact copy of the snatch warmups, and we played it out the same way. Joziah came in conservatively with 128kg to get one on the board and secure a medal spot. After a few minutes Joziah was called out again with 133kg, an all time CJ PR by 1kg and made the lift, locking down 3rd place. That lift looked exactly like what you probably imagine an all-time CJ PR would look like with only 3 weeks of training. R-O-U-G-H. By this moment, we had far surpassed what my expectations where for Joziah at this meet and we had a choice: play it safe, or go for broke and the win. Naturally, we decided to go for it. I took my time, played with the cards then took a 10kg jump calling for 143kg! Mind you, Joziah has never touched anything close to this, but anything less would not have changed his positioning at all. Joziah ripped under that bar and caught it in the deepest squat I have ever seen from him. It took an eternity standing it up but managed to finish the clean. As he took a breath and initiated the dip, LIGHTS OUT. Joziah blacked out on 143kg and failed to complete the lift. 3rd place for Jo. But more importantly, a realization of how much talent he possessed to be able to battle it out on the big stage with minimal training. It was a defining moment for Joziah and speaks to the character of this young man.
Halfway through the year, 2018 was already shaping up to be the biggest year of my life. July brought about another major step forward, hiring Kody as our first full-time employee. Kody was my very first athlete and first coach, so it was fitting to bring him on as the first full-time employee. Our club grew to over 70 weightlifters and we had our sights set on closing the year out at 100. Also in July, we hosted the Southern California Championships which was a huge success. By this meet, our club had the reputation of the best meets in SoCal and all the volunteers worked hard to maintain that reputation. We had a plethora of athletes that competed at this meet as well. With over 120 athletes in attendance, it was the largest meet we ever put on, and the biggest meet in all of SoCal in quite some time.
July went by like a blur which lead into August, a month of big life decisions for me (and Sarah). We were at a point in our business where we saw a lot of success. Our focus shifted away from ourselves to that of our employees. Kody was plugging away, Spencer and Mark were taking on more roles & responsibilities, and we knew that our staff was going to be one of the the most important assets to us. We were challenged by our business coach to take a month off to see how the business faired. That is pretty much what happened with a 10 day trip planned in early August to visit Sarah’s family in Canada, then a 16 day trip to Europe. The Europe Trip came about by Sarah Tyler qualifying & registering to compete at Masters Worlds in Barcelona. We landed in Barcelona in mid-August and spent the next 7 days falling in love with the city. The people, the food, the lifestyle, everything about that place is amazing. If you ever get the chance to go, do not pass it up.
As far as the competition goes, Sarah T was on top of the her game from start to finish. The meet itself had its own set of unique challenges. Two competition platforms going at the same time, and 43 competitors at once! With only 12 warmup platforms, you can only imagine the amount of chaos in that warmup room. Sarah kept her composure through it all and had a successful warmup session for her snatches. The first weight on the bar for her was 73kg for a solid opener, we went to 76kg for a 1kg comp PR and she smoked that. Her 3rd attempt was 79kg which she also made with three white lights and a 2nd place finish in the Snatch! She had nearly an hour before her CJ opener so we hung out for 40 minutes than began the warmup. Everything went just as smooth as her snatches and we opened with a solid 85kg. We jumped to 90kg for her 2nd which secured a 3rd place finish overall! Her final lift was a big PR attempt at 95kg but she left the jerk a little too far out in front. The second SoCal athlete to take the international stage (talk to Josh about his world championship if you don’t know) and we walked away with a bronze medal!
After Barcelona we were off to Rome with Sarah T and her family accompanied by Danny Ear of Onyx Straps for a few days. We did touristy things like visit the Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain & the Colosseum. We spent the days touring the city, consuming pasta by the pound, and drinking wine the way you guys consume bang energy drinks. We talked about life, training, the gym and just enjoyed a break from the fast pace life we all know so well. After 4 days in Rome, Sarah and I said our goodbyes to our friends, rented a car and traveled south to the Amalfi Coast. The last leg of a 16 day trip. We spent 4 days in Amalfi. Every minute of it was amazing. The locals were amazing, the scenery was incredible and it will go down in memory as one of my favorite places on earth. As you all know, it was the place that I locked down the love of my life for good! (No we don’t have a date set so don’t ask!)
We were back at home for 10 short days and then off to Las Vegas for AO 3, the biggest meet ever in the history of Weightlifting. 1,653 athletes registered & over 300 coaches made for one hell of a weekend. We had 21 athletes compete which called for 530am wake ups three out of the 4 days for me. The entire weekend was a blur. To avoid boring all of you and avoiding a severe case of carpel tunnel, I am not going to recap every lifters performance. What I will say is that I stumbled out of that meet on less than 20 hours of sleep over 4 days more beat down than ever before. But it was all worth it to be a part of the amazing weekend with all of you. All of my athletes performed exceptionally well and I was so proud of all of you. I knew after that weekend that the reputation of SoCal Weightlifting made it past the OC bubble. Everyone in our little sport knew who SoCal Weightlifting was. One piece that is definitely worth mentioning, is that at the conclusion of the meet, it was clear that Joziah achieved a 4 year long goal of making an international team. As my first athlete that I developed from the beginning, it was a very moving experience me. The trials and tribulations he and I have been through were all worth it to see him securely ranked 6th on that team.
We had a quiet October & November with a couple local meets here and there but it was another defining moment for Sarah and I with some major advancements in our business. We officially brought on Spencer full-time, and Sarah T part-time making more fantastic additions to our staff. Mark and Lucy also officially stepped into intern positions. We hit our goal of 100 weightlifters, making SoCal Weightlifting one of the largest private Weightlifting clubs in the entire country. The next big advancement was myself becoming the president of the Southern Pacific Local Weightlifting Committee (SPLWC), and Sarah S becoming the Secretary/Treasurer. This was a personal project that I have been working towards since May of 2018 and it was amazing to see it all unfold the way I hoped. This is an unpaid, volunteer position and I am responsible for helping grow the sport of Weightlifting at the local level and providing support for our athletes and coaches within our LWC. The SPLWC is one of the largest in the entire country and with close to no leadership or organization in the last few years, our LWC is in despair. We definitely have our work cut of for us in the following year to reestablish our LWC as a dominant force in Weightlifting.
Another new development for Sarah and me was becoming part-owners of Onyx Straps. I have watched my good friend Danny run Onyx Straps for about 3 years, always interested in helping him out. After our time together in Europe and discussing all the areas in which we can help, we struck a deal and jumped on board with him. There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon for this small company, including a major announcement that will be made next week.
The final piece of achievement for us was being awarded Client of the Year by our business development group NPE. Out of the hundreds, if not thousands of gyms that NPE works with across the globe (4 major offices in LA, Orlando, London & Sydney), this was a massive achievement. We told our story on a live webcast in front of hundreds of viewers, about the challenges we faced and how we worked through them. For those of you that are not aware of my past, or the origins of the club, I encourage you to watch the video posted below.
Client of the Year Video. - Scroll down to the middle of the page to find our video
The year was almost over, but not until we made it through the Winter Classic & AO Finals. The Winter Classic was bigger and better than any previous meet we hosted in every way. We had over 140 registered athletes, making it the largest Weightlifting event in SoCal that I could find on record. We had rockstar volunteer staff that by this point, were seasoned vets. They kept our meet on time and running smooth over both days. We had a total of 25 athletes compete, more so than any meet SoCal WLC has entered into. Lucy stepped up big time and helped me coach every single athlete start to finish. Make sure you show some gratitude for the amount of work she put in. If you are ever lucky enough to have Lucy count for you, be assured that you are in good hands. She handled the weekend like a pro and I am honored to have her in the backroom with me.
The competition year came to a close in Milwaukee at the AO finals. We took two athletes to this, Quinn & Megan. Quinn competed Friday night and there was so much to learn from this. After a perfectly timed warmup session for his snatches, he came out and smoked his opener at 118kg. We bumped to 121 for his next attempt which he got called for a press out. On a short clock, he took 121 again and missed it behind. I checked the clock after his last snatch and realized he was going to be one of the first athletes to take a CJ. That meant we had less than 10 minutes to complete his entire warmup! Our original plan (which was a 25 minute CJ warmup) went right out the window and we start taking CJ attempts immediately. Quinn basically did an EMOM warmup taking his last lift with 2min left on the countdown timer. He had to take a big 10kg jump from last warmup to opener and the fast paced tired him out too much. He missed the jerk. After a 3 min break, he was able to come out and make his 2nd attempt at 135kg and that was all he could lift that day. The big takeaway for me was that as an athlete, you have to be in shape to handle super fast warmups. Luckily for Quinn, who is more built like a mix of a gazelle and a ballerina, he was able to stay on pace to some degree but ultimately it affected his performance. So for all of you still reading, think about that next time you are in training sucking down another Bang energy drink watching the clock pass by. If you cannot take 90% lifts within 60-90seconds of each other. You are not in good enough shape.
Megan was bumped into the 87A session on Sunday mid-day. Megan started her 15 week prep for this meet after AO 3 and what seemed to be one of the best cycles of her life, ended with a big uphill battle in the final weeks leading to the meet. In the preparatory phase, she snatched 83kg for a triple, hit a behind neck Jerk at 120 for a double and hit a 2RM CJ at 113kg. Surely she was on track to hit big numbers. I made the mistake of adjusting her peaking cycle which lead her to peak too early for this meet. The final weeks leading into the meet, she wasn’t capable of hitting 90% lift consistently. We both went into AO finals concealing our fears and praying it would all come together. In her words, everything felt heavy that day. I would agree that they weren't her best lifts ever, but I was pleased with the speed of her movement. We charged through the snatches finishing off with 86kg, 1kg shy of her all time PR which was not a bad finish at all! The Clean & Jerk was smooth and steady all the way to the last lift. She opened at 108kg and smoked it. She made 111kg on her second attempt (a new competition PR), and was called for a press out on her 3rd at 114kg. She finished the day with a 197kg which tied her all time best. Given the circumstances going in, I was ecstatic about her performance. I witnessed a different Megan than at previous meets. She handled her self like pro. You could tell her experience was finally starting to give her confidence and a sense of calm in competition. Although she was shy of her goal of totaling 200kg, she set herself up for a strong 2019.
2018 was the biggest year of my life. I have seen my small Weightlifting club grow from my garage to a thriving business that supports a full-time staff of 4 and a part-time staff of 4. I have been fortunate to meet so many amazing individuals that have joined the ranks of SoCal Weightlifting. We have radically transformed our methodology and shifted our focus, all with the hopes of providing a better service for all of you. What wasn’t covered in this 2018 review, was all of the in-betweens that get left off the page. It’s the memories like the summer time bonfire with 40 people huddled around the fire. The time after our meets, when the clean up is done, we’re all utterly exhausted, and yet still want to hang out with each other for another two hours. The daily conversations that I enjoy with each person in our gym. The collaborative efforts that we all contribute to in order to create a unique place inside of our walls. Each and every person in our gym has a special place in my heart. I value every single person that is a part of our family. Three years ago, I had a vision of what SoCal Weightlifting could be. Somewhere along this journey, this club has passed from my tight grip into the hands of all of you. You are the ones now that make SoCal Weightlifting so amazing. This club, this gym has far surpassed what I thought it was capable of. This club is a complete organism in and of itself. We are a chaotic motley crew of people from all walks of life. We are engineers, teachers, welders, managers & students. We are scientists, doctors, marketers, husbands and wives. We are fathers, mothers, and friends. We are all SoCal Weightlifting.
As we set our sights on 2019, lets continue to strive for excellence in all areas of our life. I encourage you to constantly look to find areas of improvement. Go out of your comfort zone and push yourself to grow. Take satisfaction in the small victories day to day. Learn from your failures and find humility in your success. Take pride in who you are and what you are working towards. Let’s make 2019 an even better year than the last!
Seeing you all in the training hall!