Team Underground has been competing in Strongman Competitions held by Joe DeFranco since Day 1. I believe the first one was 4 years ago in the parking lot of Joe's Gym. It was held after an Elite FTS Seminar where Jim Wendler & Dave Tate were present.
I still remember getting a 600 lb tire 3 or 4 days before the event so our guys could practice the tire flip. The tire was old and grimy and the guys couldn't even grip the tire.
It was the beginning stages of The Underground Strength Gym being in a warehouse, after several years of being housed in my 2 car garage.
No one expected our athletes to do well as we were unknown to others. What others did NOT know was that my athletes were like a tightly knit unit of a Military Special Forces Team. They had gone through Hellish Underground Workouts in my garage, backyard and at a school field down the road from my house.
I still recall the spectators at the first strongman competition asking, "Who the hell is Underground?!?!"
That first Strongman Competition was an epic day and one that I still remember as if it just happened 2 minutes ago, where one of our athletes, "Curls", had to compete against Adam "Trigs" Triglia in an overtime finale with a prowler race for the high school division crown.
Trigs won by a mere fraction of a second and it would spur Curls to go on and win the next TWO strongman competition titles hosted by Joe DeFranco.
From chubby slow poke as a kid to the world's strongest college athlete it was a helluva ride. I try to explain to my athletes often that this chokes me up and makes me proud as all heck, but I still see nerves in their eyes every time I talk to them about what I want them to do and the high expectations I have of them.
This year, as we prepped for The World's Strongest Athlete my nerves were running more than ever. With our college guys coming back to The Underground with nagging injuries and crazy work schedules we had to work around LOTS of injuries, strange time schedules and I had to rebuild these warriors.
We used lots of Eischen's Yoga & soft tissue work to get the body's back on track. Strongman training was actually VERY low volume and we focused on Kettlebells, Bodyweight and Muscle Building movements.
Several weeks our from this year's WSA competition, my former students from Elementary School, Curls & Coop, stood nervous as we went over workouts, expectations, nutrition and MORE expectations. I got a bit choked up as I looked back to how fast time had gone.
It seemed like yesterday that these two boys were in 4th grade and we still bring back our memories of Curls rapping in 4th grade math class using Football touchdowns and field goals to help the class memorize their times tables.
Coop still remembers getting in trouble with me and sitting out after performing a death defying head spring off the vault during while I was teaching Gymnastics.
Curls remembers being slower than everyone else and getting tagged first in every game.
I remember those days like yesterday and after the WSA was over, I had this clear vision in my head of these boys still being scared and nervous every time I spoke to them. I realized we had only 1 more year of competition ahead and that as a TEAM, we had seen each other change and grow.
The boys growing from elementary school to high school stand out Football players, and today, the standouts of their college Football team. Myself, a teacher and wrestling coach and today the owner of The Underground Strength Gym.
Last year, our top athletes represented BIG time at The World's Strongest Athlete. Curls took 1st in the college division, T Woods 3rd in high school and Kevin Kelly, a NJ State Trooper took 2nd losing the entire event by a mere half second.
It was a stressful day of events this year, with our high school Beast, T Woods, going through a repeat battle as Curls did when he was in high school. The first Prowler Race was so close we had to go into Double Overtime where Pat Cole edged out T Woods for the title. I didn't get as much video footage as I wanted as I was too nervous pacing the floors of the event watching all our athletes compete.
T Woods had just finished a whirl wind 2 weeks as he was in full blown Football practice for the Snapple Bowl, a Football Game that pits the best players of Middlesex County VS Union County and you can see the reporters were BIG time impressed with his presence on the field HERE.
When Travis began training at The Underground, in the garage, he was training alone, in a corner almost, as he was too weak to deadlift more than 185 lbs without rounding his back.
On the other side of the garage was Curls & Coop, deadlifting 500 + lbs and motivating Travis to that next level. T Woods went from 160 lbs to 220 + lbs and is heading off to play college ball.
Check the highlight below and you'll see how tough this event was and why I am so proud of the athletes who represented from The Underground Strength Gym.
Before the day was over I was PROUD of my crew for representing BIG time in more ways than one. They competed with every ounce of strength they had to raise funds and be strong for The MS Society as all funds were donated to MS.
The crew was ready for the next step and that was to prepare for their next season. They ALL showed up Monday ready to train again. Dedication. Commitment.
Although we battle for 1st place during this competition, our crew and DeFranco's crew have become brothers through the years. It's been an awesome journey watching our high school athletes grow into college athletes and now on the verge of graduation they'll be heading into the work force.
I believe these are THE kids who can bring the economy back on it's feet as they are warriors, they understand how to get results and don't fear the hard work, sacrifice and commitment necessary to become a BIG success.
What these boys have learned in the weight room has made them better MEN.
And, because of these times and these athletes, I too am a better man.
I am grateful and honored.
Lead from the FRONT.