ASHTABULA — Weightlifting fans were joined by competitors from around Ohio during the 32nd annual Ironman's Bench Press Championships on Saturday at the Ashtabula County YMCA.

"I just got back into it a year or two ago," said Herdy Christian who played football for Harbor High School and is active in martial arts. He said he wanted to get back in shape for his children.

The competition was originally organized by Lonnie Anderson and Dale Chaney, Anderson said on Saturday. He said things were a little different this year with everyone having to wear masks and the bar wiped down with disinfectant after each lift to meet health department rules.

Numerous volunteers participated as spotters, announcers, judges and for other important tasks.

Sarah Mays, 38, has been lifting weights for several years and made the trip to Ashtabula with friends from the Headhunters Club in Orrville.

"They lift here every year," she said.

Frank Verdi, who often lifts at the YMCA and teaches martial arts classes, said he loves the camaraderie of the competitions. "No matter what team [you are on] everybody pulls for everyone," he said.

Verdi said he lifts three to four days a week.

Anderson retired from competition last year but still organizes the event. He said after the event was postponed due to COVID-19  it was decided to have the event on his birthday.

"It is a bucket list thing to have it on my 60th birthday," he said.

Anderson said there were 26 competitors and each stood during the event because chairs were not allowed due to the virus.

"Over the years we have had over 1,100 lifters," he said.

Verdi said there are numerous weight and gender divisions in the competition and also for those who lift with no devices to assist the lift, usually rubber attachments used around the chest, and those who do.

Moses Smith, the Lakeside track coach and girls cross country coach, competed in the event on Saturday.

"This is my third year doing it," he said.

Smith said he is drawn to the sport to test his limits after being a high school and college cross country and track competitor.

"I used to run distance and we didn't do much strength training," he said.



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