2012 WNBF Worlds
November 10, 2012
2012 marked my return to the Worlds stage after sitting out 2011 due to the birth of my daughter. I took advantage of my first prolonged offseason by training hard and heavy for more than a year, building up to squats in the low 400s and deadlifts in the upper 500s. I tried a couple of new approaches in my contest prep this time around, namely squatting twice per week and implementing a new version of HIIT cardio - on the stationary bike - that I had not tried before. Once again I dieted for 26 weeks to get into contest shape, and again slightly bumped my food up over the last month leading up to the show. This was the first time I have competed at Worlds where the weight classes were set in advance, with the Lightweight cutoff being 165.2 lbs. When I sent in my entry form, I indicated that I thought I would be in the Middleweight class. About a week before the contest, I was surprised to find that my friends Kurt Weidner and Vaughan Twigger from my old gym in VA had been quietly prepping and were also doing the show!
The venue for the World Championships changed to Atlantic City this year, which was a cause for concern when Hurricane Sandy went through the area about 2 weeks before the contest. However, the contest went on as planned, and I arrived on Thursday prior to the show. I was surprised to find when I weighed in that I was only about 2 lbs over the lightweight cutoff. After waiting for an hour to polygraph and peeing multiple times, I decided to strip down completely and see what the scale said. After kicking the scale around to several different places on the floor, I was happy to find myself in the lightweight class once again. Generally speaking, it's better to be the largest guy in one class than the smallest in another! As I looked over the competitor list, it became clear that the WNBF continues to do a great job at bringing in international competitors, making the "World" title much more meaningful. My class alone featured 12 competitors from 5 different countries, and a total of 34 competitors from 8 countries were seeking the title this year.
The lightweight class featured many faces new to me. Last year's class winner, Leonardo Casagrande from Italy, and last year's class runner-up, Anthony Langevin, were both back, and I also saw that Tyler English, who took 3rd in the Middleweight class in 2010, had managed to make the lightweight cutoff as well. One new aspect of this year's competition was that the amateur contest was held on Friday, and the WNBF then allowed individuals who won pro cards at that show to compete with the pros on Saturday. This was the case with Patrick Harris from the Barbados, who won the bantamweight class at the amateur show and then jumped right into the pro show a day later. As we walked out onstage at the Trump Plaza, I was happy to be back onstage at the World level. As competitor #1, I was on the very end of the lineup when we went through our first series of quarter turns. However, when the head judge made the first callout of 6 competitors, I was the first one moved and was placed in the middle of the stage, which is always a good sign. The competitors around me were moved quite a bit, and ultimately it seemed as though Patrick Harris and Tyler English were my closest competition. I felt the mix of poses called and the speed of the round was just about perfect, and I felt very confident about how I presented myself. As the round moved on, I found myself moved to the end of the lineup, and I could only hope that this meant the judges had already placed me where they wanted me and needed a closer comparison of the other competitors. As we walked offstage, I was interviewed by Nancy Andrews (4x World Champ and head judge for the women) who noted the dramatic improvements to my physique since 2010. It was a very gratifying thing to hear, since I had worked so hard and dieted for so long to get back to the stage.
As I rushed out to see the middleweight class, it became clear that this was once again the best class in the show. Last year's champ Shevon Cunningham was back, and quickly took a spot in the middle next to Hayzer Cayli, the Australian who had finished 2nd to Martin Daniels in the HW class in 2010. I had spent a while chatting backstage with Hayzer before the show got started, and knew he was on his game when he started to apply his Dream Tan. His condition was much improved over 2010 and while he carries a large amount of well-balanced muscle all over, his quads are simply massive. I was also very impressed with Trevor Sajdak, who looked to be the most conditioned of the group, Miles Stovall, the 2010 MW Worlds champ, and Gregg Rando, whose upper body mass and symmetry are among the best in the WNBF. This class was so good that the very impressive newcomer from the U.K., Milan Panek, seemed to get a bit overlooked, and my friend Vaughan Twigger, who had won a WNBF overall title in 2011, didn't seem to be in contention despite his remarkable size and structure. To me, the battle for the class was between Shevon and Hayzer. Rando was not quite lean enough to challenge the top of the pack, and although Stovall's structure and presentation is fantastic he lacked the muscle density of the top 2. Trevor's conditioning was probably the best in the class, but he couldn't quite match Shevon or Hayzer in size or structure, and was also hurt by some poorly executed lat spreads during the comparisons. Both Shevon and Hayzer looked incredible, with great size (they both probably could have been HWs!) and overall balance. In my eyes, the slight edge went to Hayzer just because his legs (especially quads) were fantastic and he was a tad leaner than Shevon. I am always impressed by the amount of mass that Shevon packs onto his frame, and his exceptionally complete physique still made a compelling case for the top spot in the class. I thought it would be close between those 2 for a spot in the overall posedown.
As the heavyweights took the stage, it was my first chance to see last year's overall champ Rich Gozdecki in action. His legend had spread quickly in the natural bodybuilding world: nearly 230 lbs in contest condition, taken down the almost-unbeatable Martin Daniels in his class last year, and won a World overall title on his first try. I had met him backstage before the show, and he's a very friendly guy with a kind word for everyone. He looked huge in clothes, and onstage his size was just as overwhelming. I had seen Martin Daniels make others look small, but he didn't look quite as massive standing next to Rich. My close friend Kurt Weidner looked great, in top condition as always, but was fighting for 3rd place at best as the top 2 quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field. Kurt seemed to be battling with Gavin Gibson, a very good competitor from the U.K. who had also earned a pro card at the amateur competition a day earlier, and Anthony Monetti, who has made impressive strides in his physique since his days on MTV's "True Life." Gavin has a very balanced physique with good definition, and seemed to have a symmetry advantage over Kurt, while Monetti brought his best package to the stage that I've seen from him. The true battle, though, was between Martin and Rich, and was undoubtedly the best contest of the night. Martin's structure and full muscle bellies are undeniable: his tiny waist, combined with his massive quads and arms, give him a huge advantage over nearly every other competitor. I was amazed, however, at how Rich had managed to develop his own massive frame so evenly. There were no notable lagging points on Rich's physique, which in itself was impressive since he carries so much overall mass. However, although Martin may have been outweighed by over 20 lbs, it didn't look like it to my eyes. I thought the two were just about matched evenly in terms of muscular development, with Martin having the advantage in symmetry. In the rear poses, however, Rich clearly possessed better condition than Martin, as his delineated hamstrings and glutes made Martin look a bit soft by comparison. It was thoroughly impressive to see such a large competitor in that kind of shape - most natural competitors claiming 230 lbs would still need to lose 30+ lbs to be in true "contest condition." I could see how the decision could go either way - those that preferred symmetry with size would go with Martin, those that preferred mass and condition would go with Rich. It was too close to call in my book - and I was right, it ended up being a 1-point decision, the closest of the night.
I was actually the very first competitor to pose at the night show, and my routine went over with the much larger night crowd fairly well. I incorporated several 'classical' poses, including many kneeling shots, that I felt suited my physique well. After all the posing routines, the top 5 from the lightweight class were called out to receive their awards. 5th place went to last year's champ Leonardo Casagrande, whose massive legs were impressive but needs a bit more upper body size to reclaim the top spot. 4th fell to Anthony Langevin from New Jersey, with fantastic conditioning. 3rd was awarded to Tyler English, giving Tyler a top 3 spot in 2 different weight classes at the Worlds level. Finally, Patrick Harris was called for 2nd - an impressive placing for someone who had just turned pro a day earlier! Patrick's balance, symmetry, and solid condition earned him the slightest of edge over Tyler. That meant I had come away with another class win at the Worlds level - my fourth! - and had successfully won the class 4 out of the last 5 times I competed in it. When the scores were announced a day or 2 later, I found out that I had accomplished something this year that I had not previously - unanimous first place votes from all 7 judges.
The middleweights placing went about as I had thought: Miles Stovall in 5th (I may have had him a place higher), Gregg Rando in 4th, and Trevor Sajdak in 3rd (a nice result in his Worlds debut!). Last year's class winner Shevon Cunningham was relegated to 2nd, with the Australian Hayzer getting the nod from the judges. I was surprised to find this was also a unanimous win for Hayzer - I thought Shevon would have earned a few 1st place votes. In the heavies, my friend Kurt was given his worst pro placing to date with a 5th place finish. I would have had him higher, but if I know Kurt this will do nothing but set him on fire for future competitions. Anthony Monetti took 4th, and the newly minted pro Gavin Gibson was 3rd. I was impressed with Gavin's condition and posing stamina, given that he had just been through another full prejudging and overall a day earlier! Finally, the result came down for the two most recent World Overall Champs - Martin (2010 winner) vs. Rich (2011 winner). This year, the 1-point decision went Rich's way once again, meaning the massive heavyweight from the U.K. was a 2x HW World Champ and had knocked off the mighty Martin for the 2nd year in a row.
So, for a WNBF record (for the men anyway) 4th time, I went through another round of quarter turns and mandatory poses for a World Overall title. I knew I was outsized by both the MW Hayzer (who told me he just barely made the 185-lb MW cutoff) and the HW Gozdecki (who had 60+ lbs on me!), but thought that my condition, symmetry, and determined posing could perhaps bring me to the top. Although we only went through one series of mandatories, I knew the judges were getting a good look as I could see them intently comparing us, shot for shot, throughout the round. Given the international composition of the 3 overall contestants, the multi-national crowd was going insane throughout each pose. I heard several versions of the Aussie chant, "ozzie, ozzie, ozzie - oy, oy, oy!" from the Australian contingency, and the U.K. group was ruthlessly shouting for their man to take home the title for the second consecutive year. Not to be outdone, many of the U.S. audience members were screaming for me, including my wife and several of my friends from OSU that had made the trip to the east coast. As the posedown music started, I ran right up to Rich and hit a most muscular pose beside the giant, trying not to get dwarfed! It was a fantastic posedown, with the 3 of us getting together and taking turns calling out shots for the group to hit. Both Hayzer and Rich are fantastic bodybuilders, and it was one of the highlights of my career for me to be onstage with them. As the decision came down, I had hopes that this might finally be my year to take home an overall title - but knew once again that I was up against the best of the best. As Fred DiMenna, the MC, called out that it was in fact a unanimous decision by the judges, I had an inkling that this was once again NOT going to be my year. That notion turned out to be correct as it was the MW Hayzer's name called as the deserving winner. I saw the range of emotions run through Hayzer's face as all of his effort had finally culminated in this moment, and was incredibly happy for him. Rich and I stood by to applaud Hayzer as he accepted his trophy, and he was very gracious in victory. I would later learn that I had garnered 6 of the 7 2nd place votes in the overall, meaning that I had beaten last year's champ Gozdecki. I am quite confident that previous versions of my physique would not have been able to accomplish that feat, so while I was disappointed to again leave without the overall trophy, I took solace in the fact that I am continuing to improve as a bodybuilder. Congrats to Hayzer Cayli, 2012 WNBF World Overall champion - well-deserved mate!