2015 IFPA Gaspari Pro
October 10, 2015
After taking all of 2014 off (and welcoming twin daughters into our family), I set my plans to re-emerge on the natural bodybuilding scene in 2015. A welcome change since the last time I competed was that the WNBF was now allowing its pros to compete in other natural organizations. In my opinion, the other top natural org was the IFPA, and their World Championship (known as the Yorton Cup) would be held just a few weeks before the WNBF Worlds this year. However, the IFPA makes competitors qualify for the Yorton Cup each year by finishing in the top quarter of their class at another pro show. As such, I set my sights on 3 shows for the 2015 season. The first of these was the Gaspari Pro in Cape Cod, MA - 2 weeks before the Yorton Cup. I had heard nothing but good things about this show from other competitors and was eager to see how I would fare on an IFPA stage.
Throughout 2014 and into 2015 I continued to train DUP-style, working with Dr. Mike Zourdos. I was able to improve my strength quite dramatically, peaking at a near 500-lb squat and a 585-lb conventional deadlift at my heaviest weight of around 192. I began my normal 26-week prep and was excited to see if all of the heavy training had added any muscle to my frame.
My prep for the Gaspari Pro was thrown for a loop when I developed a serious case of osteoarthritis in my knee in August. The swelling caused by the bone-on-bone grinding limited the type of leg exercises I could do, including my preferred type of cardio (HIIT on a stationary bike). To compensate for that, I got more aggressive with my diet and implemented several forms of upper-body HIIT cardio (battle ropes, hand-bike). Dr. Zourdos and I worked together to develop a workout routine that I was able to do (thankfully, my knee did not prevent me from deadlifting) and as the show got closer I was confident that I would be in very good condition.
I traveled out to Cape Cod the day before the contest, and was lucky to have several friends attending the show that volunteered to help out with my Dream Tan the day of the contest. The venue was very nice, and this was my first time competing in a live-judged format. Although I didn't know many of the IFPA competitors beforehand, they were all very friendly backstage and it was clear that the level of competition was just as high as it was in the WNBF. In my own lightweight class, I was most impressed with the thickness of Joe Fiorani and the symmetry and condition of Jonathan Lavoie. As our class walked out onstage, I felt good about my own condition as well as my fullness and posing stamina. I was quickly moved to the center and was fairly confident that I could come away with a class win.
Watching the heavyweight class, it became clear that the fight for the top position was between the massive Ray Clark and an equally dense Willie Brown. The X-frame of Carl Frady seemed to put him in a solid 3rd. As the rest of the class battled it out, it looked like Willie's condition and slightly better posing would give him the edge, though the amount of muscle that Ray carries is not easily ignored.
The pro classes went through their routines and we were quickly back out for awards. As I had predicted, the top 3 in the LW class were Joe Fiorani, Jonathan Lavoie, and myself - and my IFPA debut started off with a class win. In the HWs, Carl snagged 3rd (and a Yorton qualification since Ray was already qualified) and Ray took 2nd, leaving Willie Brown standing as the deserving class winner.
As Willie and I went through the symmetry round and into the mandatories, I thought I had a very good shot at taking my first pro overall since 2006 (almost a decade!) I knew, however, that Willie clearly outmuscled me (especially from the front) since he had a good 25 lbs on me. His symmetry was also quite good although he was slightly top-heavy. I was hopeful that my condition, symmetry, and posing could give me the edge. However, after they asked us to leave the stage as the votes were tallied, it was not me but Willie who was called back as the overall winner by a 4-3 decision. Willie is a very humble guy with an amazing physique - he was really great to meet backstage (along with his amazing wife Dianne - a natural IFBB competitor!) Although I was disappointed with the final outcome, the closeness of the decision and the fact that the next couple of shows would have different judging panels gave me hope that I might still pull off an overall win in 2015.