Legends whispered by the locals of Morgantown, WV tell of a night once a year where the quiet home of Viking Performance Training becomes a bastion for the bizarre, a den of devilry, and a mecca for mummified muscle madness. On this night the strongest corpses in the graveyard, the mightiest monsters in the woods, and the hungriest blood suckers in the shadows all gather upon the hallowed grounds of the gym for two devious reasons: to unleash their raw power upon on a series of sadisticchallenges, and to get super sweet pics for social media. This is, “A Viking Halloween”!
This year a record number of impish creatures appeared under the full moon to accept these challenges,with some as young as 13, and others so ancient they’d lost track of the centuries (cough cough masters guys). All of these zealous zombies stepped up regardless of how long they’d been deceased however,dusted off their bones, and prepared for battle against a half dozen torturous trials. These trials were said to be conjured by Satan himself, although the conjurer in question vehemently denied such accusations.
The first of these 6 horrifying tests we will cover was called the Children of the Corn Squat. We gathered our most mischievous little demons to pack onto a massive steel device designed to crush the very life out of those foolish enough to engage it. Luckily, all of our competitors were long since deceased,including the late Elaine Wilson who won the Lightweight women’s class with 2 lifts here, showing justhow cruel this machine was. The ghosts of our Middleweight ladies extracted a measure of revenge on the giant squat machine, as every corpse in the class managed some reps with it, with Sarah Ott casting a spell that took her all the way to an incredible 21 reps! More little fiends were added to the device for the Heavyweight ladies, but that didn’t stop Jessica Tincher from clawing through 15 reps for a huge event win. Jessica, a powerlifter prior to her untimely demise, rose from the grave for this competition, and it was kicking off rather well for her.
In our Novice 231 class, Jeff Jellerson reattached his limbs and shambled to a bloody victory in his classwith an impressive 15 reps, while the spirit of Logan Usmani needed 18 to win the men’s Lightweight.Chuck Walton hit 22 excruciating reps to win the masters Middleweight, but the pile of pint-sized demons on the machine became so heavy by the time we reached the masters Heavyweights that Jason Bragg needed only 2 reps to claim the win. The most reps of the entire contest belonged to a Frankenstein monster called AJ Fisher; AJ pounded out 25 reps for the open Middleweight win, and even called out to Tom Cruise for his witchcraft during the effort. Mike Schneider and John Schonour tied with a dozen demonic reps each in the novice Heavyweight class, while John Shaffer had to grind his bones through 16 reps to win the 265’s, and defending champion Scott Dease slaughtered 20unsuspecting reps during his squat-massacre in the Super Heavyweight class.
The second event for our horde of undead was the Strangle It Dead Double Overhand Axle Deadlift. A haunted Ironmind axle and cursed calibrated plates were specifically used for this so that it would qualify for North American Grip Sport records, and quite possibly also open the gates to hell. The spookiest tale in the women’s classes may have been told by Sharon Moss, who buried the previous WV State Record by nearly 20 pounds! Sharon grabbed the axle by its neck (cuz the whole thing is a neck right?) and hoisted the 242 pound load before sending it back to the abyss from whence it came. Another bone-chilling performance that we should discuss is the massive 386 pound lift by Mike Saffell. This is a huge lift for anyone, but keep in mind that this was done in the masters class, which is were the more decomposed zombies compete.
Cameron Gilmore’s 308 won the MW’s, but it was later revealed that he had used severed werewolf hands for the attempt; the judges ruled it was legal! Perhaps the largest man in the contest was the colossal Ryan Hatswell in the HW novice class, and this fire-breathing giant hauled up 331 for the win before melting the axle into a boiling puddle with his radioactive fire-breath. In the open HW’s and 265’stwo men achieved a world class benchmark by nailing the coffin closed on 185kg – that’s 408 pounds for those of you keeping track at home. John Shaffer and Eli Kerr howled at the moon and utilized their power-packed paws to achieve these lifts, both setting new state records in the process.
Our “Dawn of the Deadlift” medley may have been the athletes’ favorite event of the day. Breaking this down by the numbers, out of our corpses competing, 6 of them were stumped on the first implement (a pull from the floor), 8 hit the wall on the second implement, 4 faced defeat on the 3rd item, 8 were defied by the fourth, and only 18 managed at least one rep on the final implement. Apparently well recovered from Nationals and some health struggles the weekend prior, Sarah Ott joined the list of those who lifted all four items, even scoring two reps on the last implement. Eli Kerr joined the 3 rep club on the final lift with his performance, while the 4 rep club gained members Axel Mendoza, Jeff Jellerson, Logan Usmani, Ryan Hatswell, John Shaffer, and Justin Burcham. The 5 rep club was an even more exclusive group with Sharon Moss, Keith Kintner, Rob Youngerman, and Scott Dease joining. Only one athlete on the entire night managed to reach the 6 (or 666?) club, and that was AJ Fisher in the MW open. He was then abducted by aliens who sought to clone him... no word on alleged probings...
Next let us fix our evil eyes on the Pirate’s Plunder Medley. The course required our deceased comradesto race against the clock carrying a treasure chest (Mouser Block), a canon ball (atlas stone), another heavier treasure chest (Mouser Block), and finally to drag a pirate ship (seriously it was a pirate ship) across the finish line. In one of the most stunning moments of the entire night, 13yr old Parker Wisman-Raven flew through the entire course in 42sec winning the LW women’s class and leaving an entire building full of ghosts, ghouls, and vampires slack-jawed in amazement. This may have been thecrowning moment of a tremendous night for the contest’s youngest fiend, and even pro strongwomanTiffany Drake was left wide-eyed afterwards.
Things got very heavy very quickly for our HW men’s classes, and Justin Burcham aka FBI agent BurtMacklin knew via his investigative skills that he needed to turn up the heat if he had any chance ofcatching John “Bowser” Shaffer who was pulling ahead of the pack at 265. Sure enough Burcham took to the medley like he was launched from a canon, and put up the winning time of 45.0 seconds, keepinghimself within striking distance. Only 3 of our SHW’s were able to grind through the entire course, withJohn Mouser, Eli Kerr, and Scott Dease coming in 3rd, 2nd, and 1st respectively.
The long-awaited Hulk Smash Car Flip event went about as expected – a completely unmodified car was used, with engine, transmission, etc. in tact. This meant the whole thing, a Saturn sedan, weighed around 2,200 pounds, had zero special alterations made to it (no grab bar, no weight removed), and was thus a true, real-life car flip! Unfortunately, that meant no one quite got it flipped over on their own, but this was no cause for dismay because we let our legions of demons team up to flip it! This did not count for scoring at that point, but no one cared because they still got to flip a car. Making memories, that’swhat this was about! For the record, I’m not sure exactly how many times the car was flipped (we just let everyone do it as much as they wished because hell why not), but the darn thing looks like you could fix it up and drive it home still. The folks at Saturn made a heck of a car!
The Jack-O-Lantern Over Bar series was going on as well during the madness of the car flip, and this is always a competitor favorite. A mixture of traditional atlas stones and custom-made jack-o-lanternshaped “pumpkin stones” were positioned near a yoke set to 48”. Competitors were charged withhefting each stone over the yoke, in order from lightest to heaviest. No sticky substances of any sort were allowed, making this an incredibly difficult challenge, and one that could humble even the most frightful creatures in the contest.
In the LW women’s group Amy Varner completed 2 stones very quickly, but was surpassed by the teen phenom Parker who had success with the third lift. Melissa Morales and Sarah Ott also nailed two stones/pumpkins (which Melissa loves btw *evil laugh*) but it was Jennie Repsher who took the MWwomen’s win with 3 stones. The HW ladies’ stones were very heavy indeed, with Heather Moore andJessica Tincher both settling for one lift, but once again Sharon Moss of Ohio provided us with a spectacular moment as she became one of the only (maybe THE only, my memory isn’t so good) woman to complete the series and lift the 205 pound “Pumpkin Spice” stone!
In the men’s classes, Jeff Jellerson took the win with a blistering 30sec completion of his series in thenovice middles; Logan Usmani clinched 1st with 3 stones in 20sec at LW; Matt “The Rev” Holbertscorched all four stones in 29sec at masters MW; Mike Saffell took the gold among the masters HWs; and AJ Fisher continued his winning ways at MW (shout to LJ Workman for getting the final pumpkin to his lap however).
Now to discuss the original, infamous, devious, dastardly pumpkin stone; we call it “J. Oliver Lantern”.This big smiling son of a gun is nearly 300 pounds of the most awkwardly shaped concrete imaginable. Since 2014 only 4 or 5 men have ever successfully lifted this monstrosity in contest, but on this night, weadded 5 more to the list! Joining the exclusive “pumpkin stone club” are: Ryan Hatswell (only novice toever do it), John Shaffer (2nd masters age to ever do it), Justin Burcham (one of only 2 or 3 middleweights to ever do it), Eli Kerr (first half-man-half-gorilla to ever do it), and Scott Dease (first man to ever do it in contest on two different occasions)!
The final tallies were rolling and, as if we hadn’t had enough excitement for one night, we discovered that we had two different ties that could not be settled by the standard countback system! Mike Schneider and John Schonour had been trading places on events all evening, and were tied for 2nd place in the novice heavies! In the open 265’s, Justin Burcham had fought back from an early deficit to tie withthe indomitable John Shaffer who had been so consistent the entire night. After conferring with the chief Viking himself Mr. Jerry Handley (in full shark costume mind-you), it was decided that a pressing event would take place (you may have noticed we had no pressing event for this show #neverconform),and what better to press on such a night than barrels of formaldehyde! That’s right, a Keg Clean andPress for Reps was the tie breaker, and the weight was 180 pounds of swishing, sloshing, toxic, zombie-producing goo! Schneider had never tried such a lift before, but you’d never know it by the way heripped the keg off the ground and to his chest. After a few initial attempts, Mike got a feel for the challenge and registered a few reps. Schonour had the advantage of knowing what he needed to beat, so he came in focused and collected, and fired off just enough reps to win in a workmanlike fashion – his silver medal was now secure!
Final standing were as follows:
3rd Amy Varner
2nd Parker Wisman-Raven (on countback, tied for first)
1st Elaine Wilson
3rd Melissa Morales
2nd Jennie Repsher
1st Sarah Ott
3rd Heather Moore
2nd Jessica Tincher
1st Sharon Moss
3rd Axel Mendoza
2nd Jeff Jellerson
1st Keith Kintner
3rd Nathan Smith
2nd Logan Usmani (on countback, tied for 1st)
1st Rob Youngerman
2nd Chuck Walton
1st Matt Holbert
3rd Jeremy Hays
2nd Jason Sowards
1st Mike Saffell
3rd LJ Workman
2nd Cameron Gilmore
1st AJ Fisher
3rd Mike Schneider
2nd John Schonour
1st Ryan Hatswell
1st Justin Burcham
3rd Jamie Bland
2nd Eli Kerr
1st Scott Dease
As the clock struck ten, another chapter in this Necronomicon of strength closed. Cars were destroyed, impossibly heavy things were lifted, and all rejoiced in the merriment of this one deranged night where zombies, skeletons, vampires, and all sorts of other nefarious beings could gather together in place. By the time the sun rose the next morning, the blood had cleaned up, the missing limbs had been found, and all heads were reattached (hopefully to the right bodies), and our denizens of the dark had receded back into the shadows. There, somewhere in the dark, under your beds, in your closets, and behind your mirrors, they wait, longing for their next chance to emerge for a blood curdling good time.
See you creepy critters at Queen City’s Strongest.
-The ghost of Paul Mouser
Ps. Thanks to our sponsor IMPAKT MEDIA for making this possible – hit them up on FB and let Impakt take your advertising game to a level you never imagined (just ask Micki!).
Pps. Thanks to all our staff (including new pro strongman athletes Jesse Nelson and Tiffany Drake!). You all did an outstanding job for our competitors and I know they really appreciated the hard work!
Ppps. Thanks to ppl like Glen Hess, Mike Drescher, my parents, Sarah Ott, Jim Basnett, Jedd Johnson, etc. who pitched in in various ways to help make all this come together.