Breaking Down The American Open with Dave Spitz

Now that I’ve had some time to sit down and reflect (and get over a cold), I am able to digest this past weekends competition. Before jumping into each individual performance, I want to first give a huge shoutout to CytoSport, our partner in the war on mediocrity. Without a company like that helping us with both our supplementation and travel expenses, none of this would be possible. We are deeply grateful and proud to be a part of the CytoSport Team!

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One thing is abundantly clear... the competition at our national meets continue to get deeper and that is clear evidence of the growth and progress that USA Weightlifting has made over recent years. It takes a lot of work on both the logistical and management side in order to put athletes in a position to be successful and I truly appreciate all of the teams who continue to invest in our sport. I want to give a huge shout out to East Coast Gold, Mash, Catalyst and Juggernaut… my hats off to all of you!

As a team California Strength finished 3rd overall on the Men’s side and 5th overall on the Women’s side. We took a total of 18 athletes, 10 men all of whom managed to total and six out of the 10 managed to set new competition PR's. On the women's side, seven out of eight totaled with five competition PR's. We enter each competition with the intention of winning and although we fell short of that goal, we had a number of great individual performances across the board. Overall, this weekend served as a great learning opportunity and as confirmation that our team members responded to the training leading up to this meet.

California Strength Men's Team

Wes Kitts (105kg)

Starting with this competition to the end of 2017, my plan is to place as little stress as possible on Wes. The primary goal for the American Open was to put Wes in a position where he could set an American Record and start the process by where he becomes desensitized to the magnitude of this type of accomplishment. This is going to be a critical part of his development moving forward because I believe that he is capable of making numbers that are ultimately going to be competitive on an international stage. Setting a record in weightlifting is a uniquely pressure filled task, in comparison to sports like track & field or swimming where there is not a pre-determined fate tied to your performance. There is something unique in the anxiety that comes from knowing that the American Record is on the bar. The next step for Wes is to be able to capitalize on that energy and excitement in order to use it to further his performance.

When it came to my decision for the Snatch attempts, I wanted Wes to feel a steady ramp up into a crescendo like third attempt as apposed to taking two attempts at the American record. I instead wanted to put all of the pressure on that third attempt. He may have looked past 168kg knowing in his heart that he was destined for 174kg.

Afterwards, Wes experienced a massive cortisol dump and I could tell that he was completely exhausted. I knew that we needed to let him feel what it's like to clean & jerk after experiencing that massive cortisol dump in order to solve for that in meets to come. Purposefully I opened him with a 200kg Clean & Jerk which he made, then he took a great attempt at 206kg. We're looking forward to getting back to work and continuing his assault on his preparation for this Quad.

Ajay Goel (56kg)

Ajay is a veteran competitor for our team and he performed like we had expected. He went 6/6 making all of his attempts and scored critical points for the team. The best moment for me was right before his 6th attempt, when he came to me and confidently said that he wanted me to put whatever was needed on the bar in order to move up the board. After looking at the field, it was going to take 104kg to move up one spot (a 7kg jump from his previous attempt), which he made and resulted in a 7th place finish overall.

Mike Vaccaro (62kg)

This was Mike’s first national meet as a California Strength athlete and his first national meet as a 62kg lifter. He had to contend with the furthest travel by far and the most aggressive time change coming from Hawaii. This clearly had an effect on his legs and as a result we have learned what adjustments are needed to have him feeling strong in the future. He’s so athletic and we believe that he has a ton of upside looking into the future. He hit two great Snatches and one Clean & Jerk but it's clear that he is just scratching the surface as a weightlifter. Be sure to check out Mike's company LiftingAloha.

Stephen Ngo (69kg)

Stephen had a demanding meet from a psychological point of view. He had such high expectations after seeing the results of our recent training cycles but his mind wasn’t ready to cash the checks his body was writing. I know he is capable of making big lifts but after some extra excitement in the warm-up room, I made the decision to open him lower than we had originally planned. This turned out for the best as he composed himself, finished in 5th place overall and scored valuable points for the team.

Rob Blackwell (94kg)

Rob was the consistent, steady leader that he always is. Aside from helping expedite 'counting attempts' and helping me to make tactical decisions, he competed well. Most people assume that you can go up a weight class and immediately realize the benefits of increased strength. While there is truth to that in the Clean & Jerk, there is a delayed training effect that you must overcome in the Snatch. You struggle with bar feel as your positions change and as a result, timing changes as well. Rob hit a competition PR Clean & Jerk at 180kg and made a great attempt at 186kg. There wasn’t a question in anyone’s mind that he wasn’t strong enough to make those lifts but we have to continue to work on improving his timing and bar feel. 

Jason Starks (105kg+)

Jason is an inspiration and is one of the most beloved members of our team. He is such a positive force for all of our athletes and is always a huge asset at these competitions. He continues to defy logic and reason... to be in your late thirties and total 351kg is incredible, especially while working a full-time job and maintaining a family life. In this competition, he was physically capable of more after snatching his opener with ease but made a slight mental error that resulted in a second attempt miss. His third attempt was turned down by a soft elbow but he bounced back to Clean & Jerk 191kg for a competition PR!

Jake Pudenz (105kg+)

Jake, like Rob, was asked to move up a weight class so he is a light super weighing in at just over 112kg. He is still getting accustomed to the way the bar feels at a larger body weight and increased strength levels. He was only able to Snatch his opener, taking three attempts to do so but he came back and Clean & Jerked an all time PR at 192kg to take a bronze medal in the Clean & Jerk. The future is bright for this young man!

Nathan Loe (105kg)

This being Nathan’s first National meet, going 4/6 puts him in a great position to compete well in meets to come.  He competed hard and learned lessons that will pay off in the future, we counted on him to support the team in every way that he can and he did exactly that.

David McKellar (94kg)

David is still very young in the sport and will learn to balance life with the importance of treating each competition like a business trip. He has a lot of promise and we expect him to play a major role in the years to come.

Dominic Stolle (77kg)

Unfortunately for Dom, he grew out of his weight class and his lifts are caught in between. In terms of competition, he snatched like an asshole but we look forward to him having success in the years to come as he adjusts to his weight class. We made one tactical error during his session, having two lifters going at the same time, we did not make a declaration within the 30 second window and he was forced to take 141kg after making 140kg. It's challenging as a platform coach to keep everything in focus but you have to do it if expect your athletes to be successful.  I look forward to getting him comfortable in a weight class and figuring out the best way for him to realize his potential.

California Strength Women’s Team

Michelle Giannino (48kg)

Michelle went 4/6 and a hit both a Personal Record Clean & Jerk and Total. She competed extremely well and was disciplined with her weight cut after having some trouble at National Meets in the past. She was accountable to our team and such a position force for everyone all weekend, I can't thank her enough for her role in the teams success. A special shout out to her boyfriend Alex Lee, who was there to support both her and our team the entire weekend.

Nicole Lim (48kg)

Nicole quite simply had the best meet of her entire career. There are a lot of young, talented athletes on the scene today but she has learned that only she can control how hard she works and that dedication showed this weekend. Not only does she work full-time, commits to training every day and maintains a balanced lifestyle but continues to bring joy to everyone who has the opportunity to watch her compete. She is the happiest, most energetic lifter every time she steps out onto the platform. Most importantly this weekend, her courage was noticed by everyone on the team and that inspired many to follow suit.

Rachel Bommicino (53kg)

Rachel snatched 70kg for the first time ever in competition which was a huge goal of hers for the past 5-6 years. She struggled a little on her Clean & Jerks but hung in there and scored valuable points for the CS Women’s team. Thank you for your positive attitude and courage.

Paige VanLint (75kg)

Paige is another one of those people like Nicole Lim, who works full time but still manages to make it into the gym after hours or before opening in the early morning to train. That takes a huge amount of mental toughness and that showed on the platform this weekend.  She went 4/6 and took a PR Clean & Jerk attempt that didn't quite stick but she has gained valuable experience that will help in future competitions.

Rachael Stull (69kg)

Talk about a young CrossFit athlete who is still so new in this sport (Olympic weightlifting) but came ready to compete. This was only her second national meet and she showed great improvements in her composure and mental toughness.  Anyone who saw her lift this weekend knows that there is so much more in the tank.  I look forward to watching her go for many big attempts over the next few years.

Brittany Davis (75kg)

Brittany finished 8th overall in her first national meet and went 3/3 in her Clean & Jerks which showed incredible poise and maturity. She looked so strong on the platform this weekend and has such a bright future ahead of her. The most important takeaway from this meet was that she made a commitment to training with California Strength for the remainder of this Quad. That is what we look for in our athletes, commitment.

Jordan Weichers (63kg)

Jordan moved up a weight class for this meet and that is never without its challenges. She showed incredible courage after missing her 3rd attempt in the Snatch, in such a way that would have resulted in a breakdown by a less composed lifter.  She was shaken but continued to execute, setting Personal Records in both the Snatch and Total. Meets like this are perfect dress rehearsals for how we have to behave at larger meets, when the moments are big and everything is on the line. She will impact the national stage for many years to come.

See the full team results from the 2016 American Open below!

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