Made my first trip to Minnesota since 2002 over the weekend, hosting the Flex Wheeler Classic, which moved from Fresno, California to Minneapolis-St. Paul this season, the hometown of Team Flex Wheeler member Jason Gilmore.
So, who do I run in to as I was getting ready to board my early morning Flight out of LAX? Silvio Samuel, coming off his July 5 victory at the Houston Pro. Silvio told me AMI’s Robin Chang phoned him a day earlier and asked him to fill in as the guest poser (Gustavo Badell was ill and, according to Wheeler, Victor Martinez had not contacted him since the Arnold Classic, so Flex needed somebody special, and in a hurry).
Since Samuel always stays within an earshot of contest condition most of the year, it was a superb move by Chang in helping out one of his closest friends (Robin was Flex’s Best Man at Wheeler’s wedding a decade back). And, darn if Samuel didn’t pick up the dinner tab on Friday night night for me and Shawn Ray to boot. You are a good man, Silvio. Like Shawn was going to pay the bill?
Kevin Levrone also flew in for the show, and it was a blast bringing Wheeler, Ray and Levrone on stage at the finals, three dudes who went at it, pose for pose, on the pro stage for years (also, a fairly uknown Kevin beat Wheeler at the 1991 NPC Nationals in one of the biggest upsets in the contest’s history.) And three guys who all deserved a Sandow before their careers ended.
After the prejuding, and right before the “Superstar Seminar” , which included the above three gents, Samuel and Jeff Golini (All-American EFX), I was forced the crash the party produced by the MDTV crew for it’s USA predictions.
I couldn’t take it hearing host Dave “Jumbo” Palumbo talking about Braden Ray as the favorite in the Light Heavyweight class; Ray has been telling me for months that he would be lucky to even make it into the Heavyweight division. Branden told Shawn on Friday night (via telephone) that he was 221 pounds; he told MD Publisher Steve Blechman 12 hours later he was 211. He told me 10 days earlier he was 230. Blechman told me it was the plan to go LHW all along. Say what, Branden? Say what, Kristy Hawkins (who also assured me her man was 230 two weeks ago, and definitely would be in the HW class in Vegas)? And people wonder why I say bodybuilders are disengenious about their true poundages?
Anyway, back to the contest. It was nice seeing former pro star Chris Bongiovanni, now the Minnesota State Chairperson, for the first time in a few years. Congrats to Men’s Overall champion Keith Williams, Women’s Bodybuilding winner Sara Matheson and Figure champ Laura Bailey. Yes, the same Laura Bailey who took third in the California State Championships, then came to WATCH my Junior Cal (Laura lives in Bakersfield, CA, about two hours from Pasadena) before trekking to the midwest to dominate Flex’s show.
I was back home late Sunday afternoon, and had to prep for the first day of the second summer session at East Los Angeles College early the following morning. Ironically, I ran into Delane Woods, one of the college’s premier football players, and a Minneapolis resident, who also returned to Souther Cal a day earlier after spending a month back home.
On Saturday it’s off to Culver City to watch the judging of the Los Angeles Championships. This is always one of Jaguar Jon Linday’s premier shows, especially since it’s the final chance to qualify for the USA the following weekend. Jag told me tonight he’s just about at 100 competitors; I’m expecting at least 115-125 by game day.
‘Nuff for now. But I’ll be back soon. Over, under and out.