The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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October 6, 2013

Men of (big) muscles

Ashtabula Bench Press Contest will turn 25 on Saturday

Lonnie Anderson and his fellow weight lifters at the Ashtabula YMCA were looking to have the equipment upgraded at the facility. The funds weren’t available so Anderson and his buddies had a solution to the issue.

“We asked if we could raise the money ourselves,” Anderson said. “They said sure.”

That short conversation led to the start of the Ashtabula Bench Press Contest in 1988. The 25th edition of the event will be held Oct. 12 at the YMCA.

“Now, we have food for the lifters, a DJ who plays rock music to get the lifters motivated, give-aways for the lifters,” Anderson said. “Last year, we had $3,500 in give-aways to show our appreciation for the lifters entering the event.

“I’m happy it’s gotten this far. I was going to end it at 25 years, it’s different now. I don’t want to end it. I’ll continue it as long as I can, as long as people are still interested in lifting.”

Weigh-ins will be from 8-10 a.m. and a rules clinic will be held at 10:30 with competition beginning at 11. Entry fee for the touch-and-go (no pause) contest is $30 with a team entry fee of $50. Awards will be presented for Outstanding Lifter, Most Weight Reached and Most Improved, as well as team awards for first through third.

The event has survived through some lean times and is enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

“We hope to have as many lifters as last year, which was 60,” Anderson said. “We won’t know how we’ll have until that day. We get more entries the day of the event than we do prior.

“People have told me, and I’ve been reluctant to say it, is that it’s because of the way we run the event. Our organization and my connections with sponsors and contestants is one of the reasons it’s lasted as long as it has.”

As it did back in the beginning and every years since, the money raised will be used to purchase equipment.

“We’re looking to, hopefully, add to the money we made last year and buy an assisted dip machine and pull-up machine,” Anderson said.

Weight classes for the event begin at 148 pounds and go on up through the super heavy division. There will also be a competition for Special Olympic competitors.

“Last year, we added the Special Olympics division,” Anderson said. “It’s awesome. Last year, they were lifting 150, 160 and 170 pounds. It’s more impressive to watch them do that than it is to watch guys bench 500 or 600 pounds.”

Though the guys are competing against one another, they don’t root against one another. Actually, they support each other very well.

“The event shows camaraderie,” Anderson said. “The audience is involved and they cheer for the lifters. All around, it’s a good time.”   

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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