Strongman has given Jose Baez a second spark to life.
Baez is a former football standout who found success at the college level. After graduation, Baez continued to lift heavy weights but something was missing. Hoisting big weights wasn't enough. He needed to compete.
“After being told that I would never take another snap, I needed to find something to bring that fire back,” Baez said. “It's like I have a second wind.”
Baez used that fire to win the 2019 Odd Haugen All-American Strength Classic held at the Los Angeles Fit Expo. The victory earned Baez a slot at the upcoming Arnold Fitness Expo held next month in Columbus, Ohio.
“It is an opportunity that I am grateful for,” Baez said. “This is the culmination of a lot of work I have put in.”
Baez acknowledged that there is not much training time between now and the Arnold and there be a focus on optimum recovery.
“The strength is already there,” he said. “The next few weeks I will be taking advantage of a lot of the help that I have around the school whether it is that athletic training team or the sports massage therapist.”
Baez, 29, is based out of San Diego and trains out of Deadweight Strength. He currently is an assistant football coach at Southwestern Community College. He got into Strongman around 18 months ago and dedicated all of 2018 to Strongman training and competition. At the 2019 Odd Haugen All-American Strength Classic, Baez was recovering from a hamstring tear and was able to muster prime scores in the yolk, farmers carry, and the pressing events.
"The intensity in Strongman is higher than college football," Baez said. "When you are out on that platform, you are by yourself, and the intensity is there from start to finish."
While Strongman is gaining steam as far as popularity and contestants, it still hasn't struck a nerve deep into the Hispanic culture. Baez recognizes this and hopes that he can be an inspiration to others.
“I have been told that I am one of the first (Hispanics) to reach this level,” Baez said. “I'm not sure if that's true, but if it is, I am extremely proud to be one of the first. I have a lot of pride in my heritage.”
In all, there were 37 athletes competing over the course of two days in eight events at the 2019 Odd Haugen All-American Strength Classic. Athletes had a choice to do only six events, or do all eight events and have their lowest scores of the eight events dropped.
Other impressive athletes competing were Matthew Leblanc who tore his calf on the first event but still went on the compete with a wrapped calf and win the Arnold Spot for 2019 in the Lightweight class. Jeremy Real of Canada came down and was intense all day, edging out the competition with a 13-point dominance in the Middleweight Class.
Many eyes were on the internet sensation Larry Wheels as he made his Strongman debut in LA.
“Larry was very impressive and we are confident we will see him on larger platforms soon,” Strongman Corporation CEO Dione Masters said. “Jose didn’t show complete dominance in the event, but he did show consistency where he placed in the top three in every event. Jose will definitely be an athlete to watch at the Arnold.”
Baez labeled Wheel's performance as ferocious as he defeated the popular powerlifter and bodybuilder by two points.
“People say it was (Wheels') first contest, but he has world-class strength,” Baez said. “He is a great guy and we put on a great show. The intensity was at a very high level.”
The 2019 Arnold Sports Festival and the world-renowned Arnold Classic bodybuilding championships, already the world’s largest multi-sport festival, will grow even larger in 2019 when the four-day health and fitness celebration presents a record 80 sports and events February 28-March 3, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio.
The Arnold Sports Festival will attract an estimated 200,000 sports and fitness fans to watch more than 22,000 athletes compete in 80 sports and events, including 16 Olympic events, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in downtown Columbus, the Ohio Expo Center and various other Central Ohio venues.