Johnson County rises to occasion

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The 24th Annual Hampton Bench Press and Deadlift Competition was held on Saturday with a variety of the tough competitors from eight area schools.
   It was Johnson County taking the honors for the most team points in the men's class, while two of its students received awards for being the best lifters in the both the lightweight and heavyweight divisions.
   Ernie Hodge captured the lightweight trophy by lifting a combined weight of 675 pounds in the bench press and deadlift.
   "I didn't know I would do as well as I did, and I've been working out for this event, but I didn't know I would take it all," said Hodge. "I've been training since September and it's really paid off."
   Hodge benched 265 pounds, which was 15 pounds more than any other competitor in the 148-pound weight class.
   His deadlift of 410 pounds was enough to beat out Happy Valley's Michael Everhardt and Lance Whitehead for the overall best lift title.
   "I benched five more pounds than I usually do, and they pushed me to do more in the deadlift and I got it," said Hodge. "There's a lot of good weightlifters here, and I'm surprised to come away with the trophy."
   Another Longhorn student, Tony Smith, lifted a total weight of 700 pounds as he became the best lifter of the heavyweight division.
   "I was pretty surprised here today, because there was a lot of good weightlifters coming in," said Smith. "Our overall team was dedicated to come out. We had just three or four people in the past, but we had a lot of people come out and we actually pulled it off this year. The first trophy we've got."
   Smith competed in the 181-pound weight class, where he benched a 250-pound total, tying with two other teammates, Nathan Paisley and Josh Cornett.
   A deadlift of 450 pounds was 45 pounds more than his closest competitor, which was Josh Cloyd from David Crockett High School.
   "I've been training since about September or November, but I wasn't expecting dead-lift 450 or bench 250, but my coaches pushed me as hard as they could," said Smith. "I did a lot better than I thought I could, and I was able to come out with the trophy."
   The Bob Peoples Award is handed out to the guy who lifts the most in the dead-lift according to his or her body weight.
   Peoples is a former Happy Valley alumni who lifted an impressive 704 pounds back in 1949, as he weighed just 181 pounds at the time.
   The record is still presently inside the top 20 of all-time lifts, and what's better fitting than the award go to another Warrior alumni, Brandon Whitehead.
   "Two weeks ago I overtrained, and my coach told me to rest for the next two weeks, and I started out with 250 and smoked that," said Whitehead. "I was supposed to lift 315 on my second lift, and they misunderstood me and put down 350, so I went to tell them that I was supposed to lift 315, and I looked down and it said 350. I was like, 'Well, don't even worry about it -- I'll do it anyway.'"
   Whitehead lifted 390 pounds on the dead-lift, which lacked four pounds of tripling his body weight.
   "Ever since I've heard about it my sophomore year, I've wanted to win it just because I'm a little guy, and I knew I had a shot at it," said Whitehead. "When I learned that 390 was just four pounds of tripling my body weight, then I was real mad after I got it because it was pretty easy and I knew I could have got 405."
   Brandon finished first overall in the 132-pound weight division, as he combined for a total of 600 pounds.
   Other notables, it was Unaka's Randell Guy beating out Hampton's Dustin Stout in the 123-pound weight division.
   The Longhorns' Jeffrey Brinker edged past Happy Valley's Logan Birchfield in the 165-pound class by a combined total of ten pounds.
   Michael Garmer of Crockett won the 198-pound class, as he outlifted everyone in his division by more than 100 pounds.
   It was Bobby Mounts of Johnson County pulling off the victory in the 220-pound division while the Warriors' Cane Cannon finished second.
   The Longhorns' Mitchell Harper defeated a close-trailing Daniel Guinn, as a dead-lift of 450 pounds became the deciding factor in the 242-pound division.
   Also, Johnson County's Jon Stout beating out Hampton's Donny Davis in the 275-pound division, and in the Super Heavyweight class, Jake Jenkins of Elizabethton won easily with a total combined weight of 865 pounds.
   In the girls division, it was Hampton High taking team honors, while Happy Valley's Laura Letterman finished first in the lightweight class. Cloudland's Jessica McGuire was the overall winner in the heavyweights.
   Hampton's Joy Gardner has the highest overall lifting total at 340 pounds, but did not finish first in her class since body weight was factored in.
   In the open division for lightweight, Jason Orcella who was awarded first place after tying with Happy Valley weight-lifting coach Alex Campbell in the bench press.
   Orcella got the decision by having a lower body weight, but Campbell came back in the deadlift to finish first.
   Nathan Ball finished first in both the bench press and deadlift for the open heavyweights, as he broke the meets record with a deadlift at 665 pounds.
   The record didn't last long though, as Greeneville's Mike Nease deadlifted an amazing 800 pounds with his last attempt in the Master's Heavyweight division.
   "It was within 15 pounds of a personal best, and I did 815 pounds, but that was with lifting straps, which considerably helps," said Nease. "I didn't really train for the meet, so I'm pretty pleased with 800 pounds. I just got on a roll today."
   Nease got the crowd going as he started out with a lift of 700 pounds, and then increased it to another 50 pounds each with his final two lifts.
   "When I pulled in warm-ups it felt pretty good, and after my opening lift I knew something was going to go -- I just didn't know how much," he said. "I didn't really train until after I broke my neck playing Arena Football, and now I do some power-lifting but not much. I mostly do the Highland games, and I've been doing that since 1998."
   Mike Hyder received first-place honors for his participation in the Master's bench press with a lift of 300 pounds.