Bodybuilding: Stronger People, Spirits, Communities | Chroniclers


At the Kendallville Fairies, Gnomes & Trolls Festival on August 14th, I ran into bodybuilders.

Taking advantage of the cool breezes that morning, I walked around town with my friend, Barbara O’Connor from Zanesville.

In Main and Mitchell Streets we entered a different magical world with all the shades of pink, lavender, yellow, green, blue, purple and red and sparkles, glitter, feathers and fluff. Smiling faces, fairy wings, gnome hats, crowns and tulle – even a white unicorn with a pastel mane, very lively.

South of the festival, we ran into the bodybuilders. The youngsters took part in strength challenges in front of Stout Barbell, next to the Strand Theater (for the old ones, Stout Barbell is in the old Berhalter furniture store, 227 S. Main).

The owner of Stout Barbell, John O’Connor, is the son of my friend Barbara. He and his wife, Melissa, originally from Kendallville, bought a home on Park Avenue in Kendallville in 2016.

U.S. Navy veteran and firefighter in Fort Wayne, John opened Stout Barbell in Fort Wayne in 2011 for athletes to train in mas wrestling, Strongman bodybuilding, Highland games, lifting and more. Again.

Tired of driving to Fort Wayne from their home in Kendallville, John and Melissa moved Stout Barbell to Kendallville, opening just at the start of the pandemic. They used the downtime for renovations.

Stout Barbell isn’t about losing weight, it’s about building muscle and getting stronger.

“When I first started using different types of elevators, most of which were prohibited in a commercial gym, I never went back and like-minded people joined me,” John said. “I never understood that people spend hours training and never challenge each other, which is why I push training to compete. You learn more by competing than by simply lifting in your gym – you are definitely learning more about yourself.

“There are different benefits for each of the sports we compete in (Highland games, Strongman, mas wrestling, arm wrestling, strength training, arm lifting and weight lifting). With Highland, Strongman, and Mas wrestling games, you need to be strong in all aspects, while being nimble and quick.

“The others are very technical and specific training is necessary to be successful. If you want to be good, you have to push your body and your mind to become stronger. This mindset carries over into the rest of your life and makes you a stronger person in every way. “

Winner of a United States National Amateur Strongman Competition, he also competed at the Olympia in an arm lift tournament and qualified to represent the United States at the World Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia. , but it was canceled due to COVID.

He judged mas wrestling at the Arnold Classic, the World Cup finals in Poland and last year he hosted the North American Mas wrestling championships in Fort Wayne.

In mas (“stick”) wrestling, the athletes sit face to face on the ground, feet against a plank dividing the competition area, and pull a wooden stick. They should keep the stick parallel to the board and both hands on the stick.

Matches end when an athlete drops the stick, with a time limit of two minutes. The athlete who pulls his opponent over the board and keeps the stick in his hands is the winner.

Mas wrestling is popular during long, cold winters because it takes up little equipment and space and helps people stay in shape when there is little outside of the range.

The sport originated in the Vikings; they took him to other countries, like Russia. Over the years it has become popular with sailors on merchant ships and in harbor taverns.

In order to increase interest in these sports, a Kendallville Strength Weekend is planned for next summer. The competitions will include all sports offered at Stout Barbell.

In the long term, the Mas International Wrestling Committee is trying to introduce the sport to the Paralympics and Olympics, and John would like to be part of the para-powerlifting coaching team.

With a bachelor’s degree in sports management, coaching certification from the USAW, and para-powerlifting coach certification, he is working on the strength and conditioning specialist certification.

He said the unexpected bonuses of the move to Kendallville are Stout Barbell becoming the training gym for the Noble County Special Olympics powerlifting team and the privilege of coaching the girls at East Noble High School at the shot put and discus.

The wands and scepters at the Kendallville Fairies, Gnomes and Trolls Festival were enchanting – and the dumbbells have a lot of magic too!


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