“Experts” Divided on 2012 ASC: Wolf, Warren and Jackson Get Top Votes

/ Posted 02.24.2012

On paper, the 2012 version of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic could be among the most balanced in the 24-year history of the Schwarzenegger/Jim Lorimer produced event. Four of last season’s top five return to Vets Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio on March 3; one of them is the 2011 champ, Branch Warren, who would have entered the show as the pre-contest favorite under “normal” circumstances. But, for those who even remotely follow the industry, you know that Warren tore a quad a month out from last year’s Mr. Olympia, and had to pass on the chance to chase the Sandow eventually won by Phil Heath.

How will Warren, the 5’6 1/2″, 245 pounder–a five-time winner of the “Most Muscular” award in Columbus–bounce back from the accident? When I talked to Branch a couple of months ago he assured me he would be as good as new. And Yogi Avidan believes it, because that’s who Avidan is picking to walk away with the $130,000 grand prize.

“I think Branch is going to dominate again!,” says Yogi, who then added that “none of us are talking about Evan Centopani, who is the dark horse. My five-year-old son, Adam, is predicting Evan will win!”  Hold on Yogi–a lot of us feel Centopani, fourth last year, is definitely in the hunt for the title. The 5’11”, 265-pounder is a great bodybuilder, and I have the 2007 NPC Nationals champion actually nipping Warren for second. Not a popular pick, according to many.

So, who am I going with as the name I will announce from the podium as the latest ASC winner? Big, bad Dennis Wolf, the 6’0″, 262-pounder from Germany (now living in Las Vegas), who gave Branch a good run  for the top slot last year, then followed that up with a strong fifth place showing at the Olympia–a single digit behind fourth place finisher Victor Martinez. With Branch an unknown factor due to the August surgery, this is a great opportunity for Wolf to finally jump into the winner’s circle. Dennis combines size and shape, and, even though he has a couple of flaws (calves, lower back), should have enough of the total package to win the show…..IF he shows up in his all-time best shape. As Elvis once sang, “It’s Now or Never”, big guy.

The bravest pick of the group? Isaac Hinds, who is giving his props to the Blade. Yup, Lifter is going with Dexter Jackson, fifth last year, to move up four places this time around and earn his fourth ASC victory, which would tie him with Flex Wheeler as the all-time record holder. Dex, coming off that 100 grand win at the Masters Pro World in December, is still going strong at 42-years old. “Dexter is a wiley vet,” counters Hinds. “He’s been there before, and his showing at the Masters proves the Blade is far from rusty…in fact, I’d say he was at his sharpest ever.”

Another cat I think can cause some trouible is Brandon Curry, who will be stepping on the Vets stage for the first time. After a slow start in 2011, Curry put his name back in the headlines with an impressive eighth place finish at the Olympia. If the  former NPC USA overall champ, who carries about 235-240 pounds or so on his 5’8″ frame, can continue to improve, Curry will be in a hurry to land in the top five.

Lionel Beyeke opened the new season with a victory at the FLEX Pro on February 18; can Beyeke challenge for the title in Columbus? I say not yet, although he does have great shape and looks awesome from the front. Lionel needs more calves and back crispness to battle the big boys at the ASC, but I think he can challenge for a top six finish.

I’m also interested to see how Matthias Botthof fares. Matthias dominated the Arnold Amateur last year, and has the muscle to be in the tussle at the next level.  Also aiming for top six finishes–and it won’t be easy–are Ben Pakulski and Fouad Abiad, who finished behind Beyeke in second and third, respectively,  at the FLEX Pro. And, both guys had their fans who felt they could easily have won the show. Pakulski is a freak, with the best calves in the game, and Abiad has a nicely balanced body who can hang with the top fella’s when he’s in prime time condition.

Ditto for Shawn Rhoden, the modern day Flex Wheeler, who was not at his best at the FLEX Pro, but has another two weeks to dial things in. Now, how about Eduardo Correa? The 5’7″, 217-pounder was so detailed at the FLEX show he could have been placed the cover of a “Shredded Wheat” cereal box. I felt he could have actually won the contest…but finished a surprising fifth. My only guess is Correa was considered too “small”. Well, he ain’t that small, and he was the best conditioned man in the line-up. Okay, he needs more size on his quads, and his color was off at prejudging, but who doesn’t have a weakness here or there? Seeing where Eduardo finished in Santa Monica doesn’t portend well for his chances in Columbus, with a vastly tougher line-up, but you never know. One thing I will predict–the fans will go nuts over the peeled  Brazilian physique star.

Perhaps the most interesting competitor is veteran Gustavo Badell, at one time of the sport’s shining stars, who is making a “comeback” at the ASC after not taking the stage for three years. At 39, does Badell still have what it takes to be a top contender? Ask me March 3.

Make sure to check out the Arnold Classic prediction video I did with Dave Palumbo last month at the LA FitExpo. It’s tough picking the top folks even if you see them the week of the show. Not seeing any of them, and going on record, a month out, is even more difficult. But, it’s fun, and it helps promote the show. So, right or wrong, let’s get ready to rumble.

The “Experts” Pick the 2012 ASC

Lonnie (“The Swami”) Teper
1. Dennis Wolf
2. Evan Centopani
3. Branch Warren
4. Dexter Jackson
5. Brandon Curry
6. Lionel Beyeke

Isaac (“Lifter”) Hinds
1. Dexter Jackson
2. Branch Warren
3. Evan Centopani
4. Dennis Wolf
5. Lionel Beyeke
6. Brandon Curry

Ron (“Yogi”) Avidan
1. Branch Warren
2. Evan Centopani
3. Dennis Wolf
4. Dexter Jackson
5. Brandon Curry
6. Gustavo Badell

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The Great Debate: “Experts” Agree to Disagree on Mr. O Predictions

/ Posted 09.10.2011

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. The “Experts” have put their Mr. Olympia predictions on the line. And, as usual, it’s not a party line vote. The most acclaimed “Expert”, the Swami, is again going with Jay Cutler to make it five Sandows this coming weekend at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Hardbody Hinds is, per usual, shouting that nobody will touch Phil Heath this year, and says The Gift should have been unwrapped in 2010. Yogi Avidan insists Kai Greene, coming off his easy win at the New York Pro in May, will be mean and lean en route to his first Olympia crown. All three had Branch Warren in the top five; Branch will sit this one out after tearing a quad on August 20 at a guest posing appearance.
Drum roll, please:

SWAMI
1. Jay Cutler
2. Phil Heath
3. Kai Greene
4. Dennis Wolf
5. Dexter Jackson
6. Victor Martinez

 

HARDBODY HINDS

1. Phil Heath
2. Jay Cutler
3. Kai Greene
4. Dennis Wolf
5. Dexter Jackson
6. Victor Martinez

 

YOGI AVIDAN

1. Kai Greene
2. Jay Cutler
3. Phil Heath
4. Dexter Jackson
5. Dennis Wolf
6. Ronny Rockel

 

Although the “Experts” agree to disagree on the Mr. O, all three are going with Kevin English to make it three wins in the 202 and Under Challenge.

We’re out.

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Kuclo Makes Swami Proud at USA

/ Posted 07.31.2011

Yes, Steve “Kid” Kuclo finally became the man at the USA Championships over the weekend, winning the Superheavyweight and Overall titles a couple of weeks before his 26th birthday. And, making me look good in the process, since I picked the Plano, TX firefighter to come out on top at the annual event held on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

To refute what Dave “Jumbo” Palumbo said about my selection in our wrap-up video (which can be seen at both this site and Rx-Muscle.com), I did NOT pick the favorite when Kuclo’s 6’0′, 260-pound bod showed up in my crystal ball. Shoot, the guy didn’t even get to pose last year at the finals after finishing sixth! Didn’t win at the Nationals, either, landing in third last October in Atlanta, GA, so this wasn’t an “automatic” as Jumbo claimed.

Anyway, the Jon Lindsay promoted bodyfest produced a record 691 contestants–nearly 200 more than last year! Of course, there were two new additions to the game, men’s and women’s physique. I hosted the show for the 19th year; thanks to the tremendous backstage assistance I always receive, another record was also set–the show ended at 10:05 pm, something I thought was as likely as Charlie Sheen giving a “no comment” to the media.

On the subject of receiving, three other class winners also get to receive their initial IFBB card: Jonathan Delarosa (HW); Tamer El Guindy (LHW) and Luis Santa (MW). Congrats to the remaining class winners, Victor Del Campo (WW); Ori Atkins (LW) and Heath Warren.

I haven’t seen the scoring for the Overall yet, but some, including Jumbo and fellow wrap-up commentator Chris Cormier, felt Santa got an early Christmas gift with the fourth pro card; they deemed Del Campo as the rightful recipient. But, as I say on camera, I think the decisions were just. Even though Victor did remind me of a mini-Dorian Yates! On second thought….

Back to men’s physique. Frankly Shredded (yes, that’s the name listed, and that’s the name I called out!), won Class A. It wasn’t the first time I saw Shredded; he won the Overall at the NPC San Jose Championships that I emceed two weeks earlier. Deniz (pronounced “Dennis”) took Class B, with Nick Garton topping Class C. When all three did their turns in front of the judges, Deniz was the menace for his two opponents, and walked off with the first-ever USA MP crown.

Check out all of Roland Balik’s contest photos from Sin City and let me know if you agree, or disagree, with how things turned out.

‘Til then, I’m out.

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Swami, Warren Nail ASC

/ Posted 03.06.2011

Arnold Classic 2011 Wrapup

Filed Under: Arnold Classic, Swami, Video

Swami, Jumbo Call ASC

/ Posted 02.25.2011

Filed Under: Arnold Classic, Swami
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Burneika Bests the Rest at Nationals

/ Posted 10.17.2010

Robert Burneika entered the 2010 USA as one of the faves to win the Super Heavyweight class, and join three other fella’s in moving on to the pro ranks. After a crushing fourth place finish, though, the only place Big Bob was moving on to was prep time—again–for the Nationals over the weekend in Atlanta.

He definitely did his homework. At a crisp 246-pounds, Burneika forced Keith Williams into yet another runner-up slot in the class (Williams was second in the SHW at last year’s Nationals and this season’s USA and North American Championships), and just over powered the other six division winners to leave the arena with the Overall crown as well.

Burneika’s biggest challenge for the biggest prize came from Heavyweight winner Fred “Biggie” Smalls, and Light Heavyweight champion Branden Ray. Also earning pro cards were Roger Ferrer (MW), Dr. Victor Prisk (WW), Leonardo Pacheco (LW) and Richard Siegelman (BW).  Prisk was also cited as the “Victor” in the Steve Stone “Heart of a Champion” award, presented by NPC President Jim Manion and Stone’ widow, Andrea.

The Swami was correct on the pre-contest picks of Smalls and Prisk, and was just one place off with my selection of Williams to win it all. Have to also give major props to Smalls and Ray, who didn’t let past contest mishaps stop them from finally being able to move on to the next level.

Congrats also to female champions Amber DeFrancesco (Bodybuilding), Monica Specking (Figure) and Jennifer Andrews (Bikini).

Oh, on the subject of kudos, thumbs up to promoter Steve Karel for promoting the latest record-setting performance, as over 500 competitors graced the Centennial Ballroom stage at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Filed Under: Contests, NPC, People, Swami
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No Free Lunch

/ Posted 10.10.2010

Went down to Gold’s Venice on Saturday to shoot a preview of the NPC Men’s Nationals with Shawn Ray. Jordan Blechman, son of MD Publisher Steve Blechman, who traded coasts a couple of months ago, swapping Long Island, New York for Venice, California, was behind the video camera. He also was kind enough to film a second tape, allowing yours truly to talk up the IRON MAN Magazine Naturally, set for January 29, 2011 and the West Coast Classic, on June 25.

Jordan, 27, seems like a nice chap. He was excited about finding an apartment but a block away from the Mecca after a six-week search. I was excited that he joined Shawn and I for lunch at the Firehouse. Not only for his pleasant company, but for his generosity as well.

You see, for the 49th consecutive time (okay, made up the figure but you get my drift), Shawn allegedly left his wallet in the car when it came time to pick up the tab. So, as always, it was a “thumbs down” as he held “up” the check. Jordan quickly stepped in, and said he’d take care of this. Thanks, guy. And, get used to this scene for the ensuing times Ray comes down to shoot with you.

Recent IRON MAN cover model Danny Hester eventually showed up as well and, copied my order of egg whites, chicken breasts—and pancakes! So, what’s so special about that? Real special, since this amazing 41-uear-old says he’s probably hopping on a plane on Wednesday, headed for Atlanta, Georgia. To COMPETE in the Middleweight class at the Nationals! Don’t worry, Hester fans, he still looks terrific, as you can see by the photo I snapped of him before we left the eatery.

I ran into big Gunter Schlierkamp when we walked back to Gold’s; Gunter said he could be making a return to the stage in 2011, but at this point didn’t want to make any target date. 

Anyway, back to the predictions. I’m going with Keith Williams to finally get that pro card after second place finishes in the Superheavyweight class at last year’s Nationals and this season’s USA and North American Championships. Todd Jewell and Robert Burneika could be his greatest challengers—although both Shawn and I feel Steve Kuclo could be the dark horse here.

Can Fred “Biggie” Smalls nail his conditioning and take the Heavyweight class? Will Branden Ray show up, and finally display the pro potential he exhibited when he won his class at the Junior Nationals the first time he competed a few years back?

Can Hester topple Alan Bailey in the Middleweight division? What about the great battle in the Welterweight class? I’m going with Dr. Victor Prisk to cut up the division; to do that he has to beat this year’s USA class winner, Luis Santa Claus.

Don’t forget the rematch from the USA of the Kelly Bautista/Leonardo Pacheco classic in the Lightweight division. Shape (Bautista) versus thickness (Pacheco). Throw in Luis Santiago, too, who was second in this class a year ago.

As far as the Bantams go, I’m going with Chris Darby—if he competes (had no list of the competitors, so doin’ the best I can).  Richard Siegelman make may a splash, too.

Speaking of splash, need to go shower. Teaching at both East LA College and Pasadena City College, per usual, tomorrow. And, better start packing; don’t you always forget something when traveling? I need a three-day lead-time based on past experiences.

To some of you, see ya in Atlanta (I arrive Thursday, early evening). If you can’t make it live, check back on this site for my contest reports, with Roland Balik doing the video honors.

I’m out.

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Tight Fight at the North American

/ Posted 08.26.2010

With two pro cards now being given out at next weekend’s North American Championships, even more eyes will be focused on the annual Gary Udit promoted event in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the dudes who barely missed out on nabbing that pro card last year, Abbas Khatami, will be back again after winning his class on two different occasions–including the Superheavyweight title in 2009. The pics shown here were taken at the Pacific USA Naturals two weeks ago in Culver City, when the emcee of the contest goaded Abbas into taking off the shirt and giving the fans a look of things to come. Who was that guy, anyway? Abbas said on stage the show will finally be his.

But, does Khatami enter as the clear cut favorite? I’d say co-fave, at best. Keith Williams, coming off back to back runner-up finishes at the USA, returns to Ohio after placing one spot behind Khatami last season. And then there’s Brian Yersky, who climbed to an all-time high third place, right behind Jason Huh and Williams, respectively, in the SHW at the USA.

“I feel the USA’s was a great success,” says Yersky, who sent me these photos a week ago, at a bodyweight of 244. “Granted, we went out to win the show, but the during entire prep my wife, Jordan, and I felt that a top three finish would be a goal to strive for–and we succeeded. I was pleased with my conditioning, but felt I flattened out too much. I”m a Northeast Ohio boy who is used to humidity beyond belief, so with that dry Vegas air I probably could have kept a little more water in my diet.

“I weighed in at 239 on Thursday, and was probably right around that at the prejudging. At the finals I was around 245. The North American is practically a home town show for me; no traveling and it’s in a climate I’m used to. For the show, I’m not going in with a top three goal, but we are going in with the mindset of winning the whole thing. I’m looking forward to standing next to Williams and Khatami, and battling it out for that top spot.”

Perhaps we should include Todd Jewell’s name with the above-mentioned physique stars; Jewell is the biggest of the bunch, and if Todd can show up in prime time condition, he MIGHT have a shot at the crown. Let’s call him the dark horse. Okay, a real dark horse. But, Todd’s got the bod to do it.

In any case, the Swami sez one of the pro cards will go to the winner of this class. And I can’t see anybody beating Lee (Take it to the) Banks, either in the Heavyweight division, or for that second IFBB card. Lee’s been soooo close too many times to mention at pro qualifying shows, so I’m sure the Florida-based Banks doesn’t have to be told, as Elvis once sang, “It’s Now or Never.” Hey, ain’t that clever?

I’m out.

Filed Under: Contests, News, Swami
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Lean, Mean Expert’s ASC Picks

/ Posted 03.01.2010

Dexter Jackson
 

Kai Greene
 

Branch Warren
 

Phil Heath
 

As always, there will be plenty of new highlights at the Arnold Sports Festival, which gets underway with a bang Thursday night. That’s when the prejudging for fitness, figure and bikini will take place—at Veterans Memorial Auditorium—for the Arnold Amateur. And, as always, I’ll be behind the podium, so make sure to come by and say hi if you make it there…100 bikini competitors in only its second year!

One impressive new look this year will be the bodies of “The Experts” after the Swami, Hardbody Hinds and Yogi Avidan had to purchase new pants last season for our rapidly expanding waist lines. After tipping the scales are nearly 200 pounds a while back, I’ll be at 188 come show time (at 5’10”), with 16” guns.  The 5’11” Hinds, up to 225 over the holidays, swears he’ll be a trim 205 by the time he arrives in Columbus on Wednesday, with 15” guns. Avidan, at 6’1”, ballooned up to a disgusting 259 after the ‘Olympia, but will be under the 240 mark in Ohio, with 14” guns.

Okay, so we still suck, physique wise, but we’re known for our vaunted cerebral gifts anyway, not mind-boggling muscle mass. And here we are to tackle—as I point out on my inside look in the ASC video on this site—what could be the most competitive event ever. With four—yes FOUR—legit title contenders.

Who else to start out the prognostications but the elder statesman and the group. And the sharpest of them all….me.  Oh, just to let you know, the rule for this one was we had to all make different selections for our winner, just to mix things up a bit. And, as you see, I’m the only one who still has faith that “The Blade” is still sublime enough to cut up this tough field.

SWAMI:
1. Dexter Jackson (ties Flex Wheeler for all-time ASC record with his 4th win)
2. Kai Greene
3. Branch Warren
4. Phil Heath
5. Toney Freeman
6. Melvin Anthony

HARDBODY:
1. Phil Heath
2. Dexter Jackson
3. Branch Warren
4. Kai Greene
5. Melvin Anthony
6. Toney Freeman

YOGI:
1. Kai Greene
2. Phil Heath
3. Dexter Jackson
4. Branch Warren
5. Toney Freeman
6. Melvin Anthony

*SWAMI LONGSHOT: Don’t be surprised if Ronny Rockel finds his way into the top 6. My counterparts feel the same way about Hide Yamagishi.

Are you ready? Let’s get ready to rumble…or is it crumble?

Filed Under: Contests, Swami
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Cutler Signs Deal with MD

/ Posted 02.01.2010

After months of rumors, it became official today–Jay Cutler did not renew his contract with AMI, choosing to ink a pact with MD instead. Various numbers have been floating about regarding Cutler’s salary, allegedly a three-year deal worth anywhere from $120,000 to $150,000 a year.

So, the obvious first question people will ask: with AMI promoting the Olympia, does that mean the three-time Sandow winner doesn’t repeat in 2010? Hmmm…sounds like a great “lead” topic for my next “News and Views”, eh? So, make sure to read my column in the May issue (out in mid to late March) to find out The Swami’s take.

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