Lightheavyweight and Overall
Lightheavyweight and Overall
I predicted to promoter Jon Lindsay a year ago he’d get 1,000 competitors at the 2012 NPC USA Championships. And, according to the numbers in hand I heard swirling around last weekend, I might not be too far off. I’ll be heading out Friday morning for Las Vegas, arriving in time for the start of the noon prejudging at the Artemus Ham Auditorium on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
This will be my 20th year hosting the event, and it has grown so much that the Saturday evening finals have been moved to 5 pm. Who is the favorite to replace Steve (Kid) Kuclo as this year’s men’s bodybuilding champion? Good question. Keith Williams, the Susan Lucci of bodybuilding, will be there one more time in hopes of winning his pro card. A guy I like to possibly win it all is big Max Charles; Mad Max, with the huge guns, was second in the supers at last year’s Nationals, after coming off a class win at the Atlantic States Championships. And, also watch out for Nick Trigili and Jonathon Ward, who took the LA title over the weekend.
On the subject of pro cards, I will announce the names of 53–you read that right, 53–folks who will earn the right to move on to the IFBB upon the conclusion of the show. I explained in detail who gets in the cards in the September issue of News & Views, so you gotta read the column to get the info :).
For all the hot facts on the hottest NPC event of the year to date (both in numbers and in temperature), log on to www.musclecontest.com.
Be there or be square.
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
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.
Okay, for those of you who read the latest News & Views, you know I’m going with Steve “Kid” Kuclo to win the whole ball of wax at this weekend’s USA. Yes, I’m going out on a limb for the 6’0″, 265-pounder from Plano, TX; for those who doubt my words, check out where the 25-year-old firefighter finished last year. Sixth in the Superheavyweight class at the USA, third at the Nationals. Keith Williams was second at both of those events so, by the law of progression, Williams should be the obvious pick. Brian Yersky and Dusty Hanshaw also finished ahead of Steve in the SHW class; Kucko is far from an automatic selection.
In the Heavyweight class I look for John Delarosa, An Nguyen (4th in the LHW last year) and Juan Morel to battle for the first place trophy, and most likely an invite to the IFBB pro ranks (the top four choices in the Overall balloting will move on to the next level). We could also see Morel move up to the SHW class, where he would also be a contender. Now, if Zinjun Croon could ever nail it. This time, Zinjun?
All the talk in the Lightheavyweight class has centered around Pete Ciccone, runner-up last year, and Tamer El-Guindy, the class winner in 2009, and they should enter the battle at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as co-favorites. But, do not discount this year’s California State Overall champ, Lehyn Nunez, a New York transplant who moved to Los Angeles a couple of months back. I’m aware no former Cal state champ has ever gone on to win his class at the USA, but the past does not always dictate the future.This cat has a beautiful, symmetrical physique. I also think Eli Blahut, the 23-year-old 2010 West Coast Classic Overall winner, can challenge in the division.
In the Middleweight class, I predict Leonardo Padua has a real shot at the Gold Medal. I announced the shredded physique artist as the winner of not only his class, but as the Overall champ as well at last Saturday’s LA Championships. Will Danny Hester show up again at the last minute? Hester always in the running if he does. Neko Roberson sent me some pics a while back and he look good, too.
Hey, way too many names to mention, so I’ll stop here. Am sure there will be a slew of outstanding Welterweights, Lightweight and Bantams to boot. As of last Saturday, a record 632 competitors had registered for the event. I’ll be hosting the USA for the 19th time in the last 20 years (was in the seats at the 1994 contest), but this one will be my biggest challenge. With no intermission, I might need to bring some Depends to make it through the finals.
See ya in Sin City. I’m out.
Heading out Friday morn for the USA blockbuster, with more than 525 competitors set to hit the Artemus Ham Auditorium stage on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. If you listened to me on Dave Palumbo’s Heavy Muscle radio show on Monday, you know I’ve gone WAY out on the limb this time around, picking Al Auguste not only to win the Light Heavyweight class, but to nab the Overall as well! Jumbo was so stunned by my selection, he decided to go with the chisled Floridan too.
I’ll stick with slick Al for the crown, but there are several other dudes who are more than capable of winning it all: SHW’s Robert Burneika, Keith Williams, Steve Kucko and Jason Huh to name a few. Will Fred “Biggie” Smalls finally nail the HW class and win his pro card? Whoever takes the class will, of course, since four–count ‘em four–pro cards are now being given out to the men.
There will be many great class battles in ‘Vegas, including the Ron Torres versus Danny Hester clash in the MW division. Have you seen the September issue of this mag yet? Great cover shot of Hester the Jester. And, the in-depth interview ain’t chopped liver either, if I say so myself.
Anyway, check out the men’s list in my previous blog to see who’ll be flexing it out on stage this weekend. Men’s judging is Friday night, with the finals set for 6:30 pm on Saturday. See some of you there?
Gotta pack. Over, under and out.
Vincent “VJ” Hils
C. Kevin Ofurum
Bryan Vander Ploeg