Reported August 11, 2003
Willet Whacks Team Universe Foes to Earn Pro Card; Bazemore Runs Like A Benz in Taking Women's Division
NEW YORK: For those who saw Jeff Willet place fourth in the incredibly tough Lightheavyweight class at the USA Championships two weeks earlier, news of his Overall victory at the Team Universe Championships on August 9 came as no surprise.
The 5'7", 195-pounder from Colorado held on to his incredible condition from the 'Vegas battle to score a unanimous win over outstanding class winners Skip LaCour (Heavyweight), Ricky (Tricky) Jackson (Middleweight), Chris Faildo (Welterweight), Allan Terrell (Lightweight) and Ronald Nurse (Lightweight) in one of the most exciting pose downs since the contest first began in 1994.
Willet, 29, who had won the Heavyweight and Lightheavyweight crowns in past TU battles, presented a dense, detailed and balanced physique, set off by steel plated abs, that eventually proved to be too much to overcome for his fellow class winners.
The most controversial decision at the event, held annually at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on the campus of Manhattan Community College, came in the battle for the Welterweight crown.
Faildo, a three-time TU Lightweight winner who was making a comeback after sitting out the last five years, returned to New York from his homeland of Hawaii. Faildo, 38, competing for the first time as a Welterweight, carried 162 pounds on his 5'4" frame, and was a near perfect package of size, shape and symmetry. His main opponent was an all-time best Jose Raymond, the 2001 NPC Nationals Lightweight champion. Jose, about the same height and a pound heavier, was hard as nails.
In the end Faildo came out on top'barely. The two went at it, pose for pose, before the roaring crowd. Faildo had better shape; Jose was harder. Both standouts had their slew of supporters in the audience who felt their man was the champ. When the votes were tallied, The Hawaiian Hurricane edged Raymond by a single digit, with the former nabbing five first place votes, Raymond getting four.
California's La Cour and Tennessee's Nurse, coming off wins in 2002 (Skip also took the Overall a year ago; he also won it in '98), were every bit as sublime as always, and coasted to class victories, while Alan Terrell did likewise in the Lightweight division. Ditto for Jackson, who became the first person in NPC history to win crowns in three different classes after previously taking home first place trophies in the Welterweight and Lightweight divisions.
Just like the Faildo-Raymond battle, the fight for the Overall was a great one. LaCour was freakier than ever, with those nasty triceps, insane lower back and shredded glutes, a 5'10" 216-pounder in perhaps his all-time greatest condition. Willet was every bit as good as he was at the USA, and that speaks for itself. Faildo might have been the best all-around physique in the show, and led the event with the most fans in the seats.
In the end, Willet whacked the impressive line-up, getting all first place votes, according to one of the members of the judging panel. Jeff also received his invitation to the pro ranks, which the winners of the last two TU's received after a new rule was instated last year. LaCour turned down his chance for an IFBB card to return to the TU; Willet says he's moving on to the next level.
In the Women's bodybuilding competition, 45-year old grandmother Mercedes Bazemore, a tight-as-a-drum 143-pounder from Virginia, bounced back from a fourth place finish last year to grab the Heavyweight crown and the Overall title to also advance to the pro level. Bazemore placed second to Lisa Auckland in both the 2000 and 2001 contests.
The battle in the Heavyweight class between Bazeman and Carolyn Bryant, the 2002 champion, was also a classic duel. The 40-year-old Bryant, a shapely 139-pounder out of Houston, Texas, picked up three first place votes before finishing three points behind Bazemore.
Jamie Lynn Troxel, a tight, symmetrical 114-pounder from Virginia, swept the Lightweight class, and Debbie Patton, a shapely and well muscled 124-pounder from Indiana, did likewise in the Middleweight class.
It looked like the Overall could have gone to any of the three female contestants; they were all in fantastic condition. Eventually, it was Bazemore's size advantage that proved to be the difference.
All three ladies now get the opportunity to represent the United States at the World Amateur Championships, set for September 26-29 in Santa Susana, Spain.