By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Over the years, the Ashtabula YMCA Bench Press Championships have been both big and small over the years. Despite its size, the event has survived and will celebrate its 24th incarnation.
“We started it in 1988,” event organizer Lonnie Anderson said. “We’ve kept it going ever since. It’s had its ups and downs. One year, we only had 17 (competitors). In some of
the early years, we had as many as 70. Last year at this time, we only had four or five who signed up ahead of time.
“Right now, we have 27. Last year, we ended up with 33. We could end up with 50 or 60 again like the early days.”
The event will be Saturday at the Ashtabula YMCA. Weigh-ins begin at 8 a.m., with a rules clinic at 10:30. The competition will start at 11.
Some clever advertising has helped the competition grow this year. Anderson even has entrants from city and towns from as far away as Columbus.
“It was word of mouth,” Anderson said. “I also advertised on a website called powerliftinglaunch.com. I’ve gotten phone calls from places I never have in the past. People are coming from Youngstown, Oil City (Pa.) and Columbus. I’ve gotten a lot of email from different people in a lot of different places.”
The event has grown in other ways, too.
“This year is the first time we’ll have three teams entered,” Anderson said. “There’s our team (Ashtabula Bench Press), Headhunter Barbell and Grove City (Pa.) College.
“This is also the first time since 1996 we’ll have a women’s class. We have six ladies entered.”
Anderson is also excited to add a new class this year, too.
One that he’s been trying to add for quite a long time.
“I’m most excited about having a Special Olympians class,” Anderson said. “I’ve always wanted to do it, but it was a lot of paperwork and we could never get it done. We’ll have three Special Olympians from Wadsworth.
That’s going to be pretty special.”
Divisions for the event will include the open classes – 148 pounds, 165, 181, 198, 220, 242, 275, 308 and super heavy and classes for the masters, teens, women and Special Olympians.
Anderson has made sure his competitors will be well taken care of.
“There’s free food and giveaways for the lifters,” he said. “We’ll a DJ, John Kelly, from Wadsworth. In previous years, we’ve had between $2,000 and $3,000 worth of giveaways. This year, it’s more than $3,500. That’s great.
We have sponsors in Wisconsin, Maine, Columbus, Youngstown, a few in town and two each in California and Texas.”
All of that is well and good, but there’s one basic reason the event will be held for a 24th time.
“It’s just the camaraderie between the guys,” Anderson said.
“We’re competing against each other, but we’re cheering each other on, too. We all understand we’re competing against each other, but we also help each other out, too. We help each other get psyched up. We have a good time and show what we can do.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.
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