After driving over the rolling hills toward Clarkson, Nebraska, I kept praying it would be Dylan’s day to shine as he has dedicated hours out of every day building his strength for the Strongman competitions.

The Patriotic Strongman Challenge II was held in the parking lot outside Clarkson Junior/Senior High School Saturday, Sept. 21.

As my husband’s “coach,” I am responsible for loading the weights at the gym and recording his technique, so he can perfect it ahead of competition. Now with the day here, I had the fun job of photographing and recording each event and calling out the times to push Dylan to set new records. After getting signed in, Dylan started warming up for a day-long competition. Each competitor had to complete five Strongman contests starting with a 295-pound farmer carry lift.

Within a Strongman competition, there are different weight classes that determine the amount of weight each competitor must lift or pull or push. Dylan was tasked with lift 295 pounds per hand, for a total of 590 points per rep. Beginning in a squatting position, Dylan wrapped his wrist wraps around the frame to help him maintain his grip. Then he stood up and waited for the judge to give the down command. There was a minute on the clock and he completed 8 reps, a new personal record.

The day was off to a good start and now that the jitters were gone, he was ready to test his limits and see how his training paid off.

The next task was an axel bar clean and press. The axel bar is thicker than a traditional bar, making grip more challenging. The judge allowed competitors to lift up to four times and to come in at whatever weights they wanted. The risk we had to weigh was going in at the right increments because if he was unsuccessful, then he lost that attempt. Cleaning and pressing 180 pounds over his head looked lighter than a feather, so he waited to jump back in the low 200’s. Feeling well rested and full of adrenaline, he was set on going over his PR and trying 270 pounds. As he lifted the bar up in front of his legs and chest, he snapped his wrists back to get the bar up to his shoulders. Now for the hard part, lifting it over his head. After bending his knees slightly and pushing the bar up, it reached the top of his head when his elbows started to shake.

He gradually lowered the bar down to his shoulders again, determined to press the weight. With fellow competitors and the ground behind him, Dylan dug deep and fully extended his arms overhead until the judge’s call came to lower it. Once the bumper plates hit the mat, Dylan was elated with his accomplishment and surprised in himself.

Tractor pull was the third event and proved more challenging than training at the gym pushing cars around the parking lot. The coarse rope fibers cut up his hands as he fought to move the tractor across the parking lot. Sitting down and using a rowing motion, he fought for every foot, knowing every other competitor in his weight class struggled as well. A minute later, the judges measured the distance of 23 feet, 11 inches. He was satisfied with his performance since he had never pulled that much weight prior to Saturday.

As the rope burns and cuts continued to sting, Dylan turned his attention to log press. The log-like cylinder is rolled up the body before being pressed overhead. With 240 pounds loaded onto the bar, we knew it was important for Dylan to establish and maintain his balance. Strongman competitors have over rotated shoulders and had the press fall onto the back of their heads because of poor balance. We didn’t want that to happen.

He set the log onto his bent thighs and rolled it up his chest. The struggle was keeping a rhythm after he put the log back onto the mat because it kept rolling off the mat toward the judges and had to be reset. Still, he pressed three times, another record, but knowing he could have done more.

The final event was the medley carry, which is not Dylan’s favorite. Carrying a 250-pound sandbag, 250-pound keg and 365-pound duck walk implement 60 feet around an obstacle was such a challenge none of the heavy weight competitors finished the task. The duck walk requires them to carry weight hanging between their legs. To walk, they have a wide stance and waddle down the course, hence the name duck walk. Dylan finished the first two implements, but called it on the duck walk.

He and another competitor had been tied for third all day, but when the guy could not complete the medley, Dylan knew he qualified for nationals. He jumped up and down and came over to me with a huge smile on his face. After receiving his third place medal, his joy was like a kid on Christmas morning. Now, we’re getting ready for nationals in June.

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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