This weekend marks another NPC USA championships in Las Vegas, Nevada. The contest is traditionally considered the second largest and most competitive IFBB qualifying event in the United States, behind only the Nationals, and this year was no exception with another elite class of new professionals welcomed into the ranks of the IFBB. From top to bottom it would seem most classes were stacked with competitors, and while after prejudging many thought the title would be in greater contention, it was decisively given to Nick Trigili, who finally was able to pull it together and move from the position of bridesmaid to USA Champion.
Though the smallest class in stature, what they lack in height was made up for in depth of the class. Taking a clear lead from the rest of the pack was Joshua Thompson. In his rookie competitive season, and one of his first contests, Joshua was able to not only win his class but qualify for professional status in the process. With such rapid progression in just this year, his potential seems limitless in many ways. So be sure to keep an eye out for this champion as he rises up the ranks while moving up in weight class or making the big jump into 212.
Bringing home the lightweight championship was Bryan Homer of Kansas. Though not a mass-monster by any definition, Brian brought a unique and classic package to stage, that combined both quality physique with presentation. At over 40 years of age, Brian began bodybuilding in 1992, and 22 years later was awarded the elusive Pro Card, a true testament to dedication and persistence over the course of time.
The physiques and welterweights were noticeably larger than both bantams and lightweights, seeming much more comparable to the middles in frame and structure, but it also seemed everyone in the class had something notably ‘off’ in their physique, be it structurally or conditioning. Taking the class was Erik Martinez, who has a solid X-frame, complemented with bulbous lats, and wide shoulders. Though Erik’s conditioning was noticeably off, he presented the most complete physique of the class, edging out 2nd place finisher, Jovann Rushing.
Jovann just a few short weeks ago received 2nd place as a Middleweight at his California show, but after teaming up with Josh Barnett of Metroflex Gym Phoenix was able to bring his all-time best package to date, in a skimp amount of time to this contest. In the process Jovann also leapfrogged from 6th place the year prior to just short of pro status in the 2nd position at this year’s contest. It may be sometime before Anthony is fully ready to compete in the 212 class, so be sure to keep an eye out for Jovann going into the NPC Nationals, as he is a sure threat for a pro card now that he is finding his formula with a quality coach.
The middleweights had arguably the most complete athletes of the show. Everything from conditioning, presentation, and even genetics was solid across the board, and exceptionally so for the top five. The biggest story to come out of this class was winner Bryan Balzano, who at only 25 years of age and in his second contest was able to qualify for IFBB status under the tutelage of IFBB Phenom, Justin Compton. Balzano had spot on conditioning (possibly the best of the contest) and a well put together physique with great attachments and insertions, that as he develops will only get freakier a la Flex Lewis, because the muscle has no place to go but outwards and look even larger on his small joints and frame.
The biggest surprise of the class was North American Champion Charles Curtis barely making it into the bottom of the placings. Some noted that Charles was slightly softer than his appearance at North Americans, but in comparison to the rest of the class was still in great condition with separated legs, and added mass from last year to his upper body. How often is a former national champion, the the widest in the most-muscular, the most narrow waist in the Front and Back double bicep poses, with separated glutes and quads, yet he doesn’t even get an extensive comparison with the class winner, or even a chance to stand next to him? Instead, they immediately moved Charles to the outside and removed any chance of even getting a proper comparison between the two champions (you may want to take note anyone who does international IFBB amateur events prior to NPC.)
One of the larger classes of the contest, and it appeared everyone brought it. This class however seemed less genetically talented than the other heavy classes, but every person in the top callouts had both solid conditioning and presentation. The class winner was national level veteran, Caleb Blanchard. Caleb who has been in contention for professional status over the last three years, and was finally able to pull it all together. Though not the largest, or most round / full muscle on stage, had one of the most complete overall packages combining both condition, development, and presentation.
Also of note was 3rd place finisher and Las Vegas local, Justin Rayner who for what he only slighlty lacked in structure, more than made up for in confidnece, as the crowd (loudest of the night) cheered him on. Obviously the local favorite, he had so much lower body development, even emcee Bob Cicherillo joked “Note to Bryan… Stop training quads.”
The most dense class of the show. The structures were neither perfect, nor the conditioning spot on across-the-board, but with so many quality athletes who possessed mature development and mass, the heavyweights quickly became arguably one of the most competitive classes in the contest. The larger names such as Porter, Kali, Haywood, and Burzacott didn’t fare as many thought they would, allowing other veterans of the national level to reestablish themselves as a contender for the title such as Benny Brantley, the 5th place finisher. Brantley has repeatedly been unable to nail his condition, but has all the tools necessary for success in the sport, and his placings continue to improve as he develops mass. If he is ever able to fully put it all together, he is a threat on any stage. Another person to benefit from these big names moving into the second callout (okay actually the first, but there was like seven people a call out which is another story in itself) was class winner, Franklin Stinson. Frank was a relatively successful superheavyweight competitor, but finally nailed his condition dropping down to the heavyweights, bringing a combination of both definition and fullness, an ability allotted to only the genetic elite. For what the first call out lacked in name and entertainment value, the second more than made up for. With D-List Star Kali Muscle, to Junior National Champion, Dorian Haywood fighting it out for a Top-10 finish. A few notable athletes also fell into the call out, such as Matt Burzacott who had been a top-five national placer just a year prior. It would seem this is the class to watch for the entertainment value alone.
Possibly the most disappointing class of the entire show, not so much for lack of quality athlete, as much as missed conditioning. A very impressive physique, Nick Trigili not only took home the title of the class, but also the Open Overall. There was some concern for Nick as recent pictures leaked from his qualification for this contest, and while his structure was obviously fantastic, most had never seen Nick somewhat out of shape. At the contest, although Nick was clearly the class winner, and looked phenomenal. It is only in comparison to his prior packages he was ‘off,’ but so much so that many thought he would have a tough time winning the overall title, as proved later not to be the case.
This was an interesting class because even though it was clearly decided in the prejudging (they did an adorable comparison at night for show to act as if the title was in contention) the whole time on the stage you could cut the tension with a knife, as there was visible frustration between competitors, as they were bumping and exchanging words one another. Of particular note for this visible display of frustration was Dusty Hanshaw, who though slightly ‘off’ from the back (first time his condition hasn’t been spot on,) and may have literally fought his way into the 3rd spot from what seemed possibly 5th-place contention based on initial positions, edging out Team Universe heavyweight champion, Marc-Arthur Dautruchee of New York, New York. Coming in 2nd was San Diego’s Jon Ward. A respectable placing for Jon, he was able to jump spots over national level veterans such as Dusty Hanshaw, who had bested him just a year prior. Jon has been consistent, and clearly the judges like his physique, but why is still a question, because though his condition was good, his gut was a distraction, especially in poses such as overhead abdominal where his core definition almost disappeared entirely. It’s for this reason the placing seemed mostly due to lack of depth in a class that was unexpectedly left open for the taking by a slightly ‘off’ Trigili, but nobody was able seize the moment, and so Nick reaped the rewards.
While nobody touched him in upper-body, overall champion Nick Trigili’s legs were very comparable to Franklin’s the heavyweight winner, who keep in mind just last year got fourth-place nationally as a super-heavyweight, so although size comparison is not a huge deal, this does not fair well for someone such as Nick who looks to transition directly into the most competitive ranks of the IFBB. It was in this comparison it became obvious the benefits to potential pro Joshua Thompson if he were to stay in the amateur ranks and develop both his brand and physique, as his exceptional shape, structure, and attachments stood out onstage, but so did the dramatic difference in size between him and the new Open Class IFBB Professionals. Though prior to the contest many predicted the end results, during the show some felt that the heavyweight champion Franklin Stinson could take the overall title from expected winner Nick Trigili, with his unique combination of mass and condition. As well, after the prejudging and based on his conditioning, many also felt 25 year old phenom Bryan Balzano could be in contention for the title. As comparisons progressed though, the results became more obvious, and though Nick’s physique is far from perfect, it stood out on stage and demanded a fair amount of attention, sealing the deal on his title.
All in all it was another well-run production, that was stacked from head to toe with quality competitors. This is still bodybuilding, and there was some suspicious activity (such as the announcement of a middleweight placing before they even went out for the night show,) but ultimately the decisions and class winners were correct. So it is on that this note I would like to congratulate and welcome these men into the IFBB Professional ranks, and am looking forward to another awesome NPC USA this time next year.
Photo Credit to Dan Ray of MD, for More Pics Click HERE