October 24, 2015
After a class win but a close loss in the Gaspari Pro Overall just 2 weeks beforehand, I traveled to DC to compete in my first Yorton Cup (the IFPA's version of the World Championship). The numbers for the contest were down slightly from prior years, mostly due to the IFPA only allowing those who had placed in the top 1/4 of their class in a pro show to compete (in prior years, qualification was achieved by placing in the top 1/2 of a class). Regardless, there were some elite names in the contest, including several IFPA stalwarts such as Moji Oluwa and Marshall Johnson, both of whom had won many IFPA shows in recent years. I also saw that Shevon Cunningham, who bested me for the WNBF World title in 2013 by a single vote, and Willie Brown, who beat me at the IFPA Gaspari Pro just 14 days ago, were in the contest.
I was again traveling solo for this show, but was fortunate to have my old training partner Kurt Weidner at the contest. Kurt is second to none at Dream Tan application and expertly applied my tan beforehand. The show was a bit different in that the pros did not get onstage until 3 pm, requiring a slightly different carb-up strategy from other shows where an early morning pre-judging is the norm.
As prejudging commenced, I did not feel the greatest - perhaps due to being a bit too aggressive with my carbs that day. However, I pushed through and got feedback from the audience that I looked slightly improved over my Gaspari showing. As I watched the heavyweights, I had it as a close battle between Shevon and Willie. I honestly thought Willie might have taken it as he was just a touch thicker and nearly as conditioned, but in the end it was Shevon's picture-perfect top-to-bottom balance and amazing muscle bellies that would earn him the class win. A dense Mark Meadows would end up in third in the heavies.
In my own class, the ageless wonder Marshall Johnson took 4th and the amazing back and symmetry of Moji Oluwa took 3rd, with the impressive youngster Victor Egonu earning a solid 2nd place in his Yorton debut. Victor's conditioning was very good and given his young age he will continue to climb up the ranks! I was proud to achieve a class win against these all of these talented competitors, and was even more elated to find out later that I earned 6 of the 7 first-place votes.
As I heard Shevon's name called as the heavyweight winner, I knew that I would have my work cut out for me in the overall. I had been training for nearly 2 years for another shot against Shevon, and I was confident that my overall physique had improved since then - in both size and condition. Athough Shevon outweighed me by about 15 pounds, I felt that I had a notable edge in several shots - namely the rear double bicep and side chest. However, Shevon has some outstanding shots of his own, including the hands on hips most muscular. As we went pose for pose I felt my confidence grow as the crowd reacted most notably to my best poses - always a good sign! The IFPA judging was slightly different from what I was used to in the WNBF - they went through each pose relatively quickly, and called a few shots (such as side serratus and hamstring poses) that I didn't have much experience with onstage. As the judging finished, Shevon and I had some fun in the overall posedown, knowing that each of us had pushed the other as hard as we possibly could. In the end, 5 of the 7 judges awarded me first place, and the emotion on my face as my name was announced depicted nearly a decade's worth of frustration being released. It had been nearly 10 years since my first pro win (in 2006), but all of the struggles and sacrifices paid off as I became the Overall World Champion in the IFPA. Having my name engraved on the Yorton Cup - following my friends Valentine Ezugha (2013 winner) and Doug Miller (2014 winner) remains one of the biggest accomplishments of my career. As the 2-time Yorton Cup winner Philip Ricardo Jr. handed me the trophy, I told him that there was no one else I'd rather have for the task. Rico is a true legend of natural bodybuilding, and is someone I have looked up to since I began this journey. To have him there for this highlight of my own career was simply icing on the cake.
Because the show took place in DC, several of my old college friends from VA were able to come see me compete. It was pretty cool to be able to hang out with my pals who knew me back when I was just getting started in training. As we went out to eat after the show, I was happy to report that my first hamburger (with a fried egg on top) as a "World Champion" tasted pretty darn good.