US Open – The Handler’s Perspective

By: Jonathan Byrd

Look I would be full of shit if I told you I wasn’t nervous calling numbers at a meet of this level. Going in I knew that Brian would have a real shot at breaking the all time 242 WR total. To make that happen, it takes a lot of things to fall in place. It takes things being exactly right to break an all time record like that, and with a nice size amount of cash on the line, anything can happen! Winning the overall would not be easy. We had discussed beforehand some of the numbers both Jimmy Pacifico and Tory Pelzer might hit. I knew that we needed about a 90lb lead on Jimmy and if Tory had a big day we would need to be about 80lbs behind him to win on formula.


First, I want to say that Brian really is the smartest meet day lifter I have ever been around. It is easy to see he has been lifting at a high level for a long time. Rarely do you see a look of nervousness, panic, or even anger in his face. He is actually a pretty calm guy on meet day, but fair warning give him plenty of space. He does a better job of timing out lifts and warm ups than anyone I have ever known.


Warm ups were going really well. We were a little slow to start because the third flight had some monster squats and we wanted to give them the time they needed on the monolift. Brian opted to take bigger jumps and less warm ups on meet day. We both do this from time to time in the gym, so it did not come as a big surprise to go that route. Depth didn’t seem to be an issue in the warm up room, and I had felt confident of the depth I had been talking him to in training. Brian worked his way up to his last warm up of about 930 and destroyed it. I knew it was going to be a good day on the platform.

1019 opener- Brian had selected his opener before the meet and of course it’s a smart calculated number. Brian does nothing by chance on meet day (really on any day) and you will see why through my point of view. 1019 is a very safe number, and that is how an opener should be. Often things go wrong on that first attempt, things that you can not plan for. Of course that held true at the US Open. There were some issues with the carpet on the platform, but that is typical of any meet. Brian, just like the other lifters, worked their way through the opener and crushed it.

Thoughts on 2nd attempt – Like I tried to explain before, it’s a numbers game. We needed a safe smart 2nd attempt that would help us pad the lead a little on the other lifters. Jimmy moved to 1003 for his 2nd attempt so I went with 1063. This would give us a 60lb lead and in a position that if Brian could go 4-6 the rest of the way then I didn’t think Jimmy could catch up.

Jimmy had a smooth 2nd attempt, but I didn’t think he had much more in him. Both Channing and Jason did a great job wrapping and setting Brian’s suit. Brian had a good set up, and moved the weight well. With now being 60lbs ahead of Jimmy and about the same on Tory, It was time to make a difficult decision.


Thoughts on 3rd squat attempt – Well now this is where things get tricky. The super safe pick is a 1080s number, 1091 is a safe pick but will also set Brian up for the 2700. A low 1100 number really puts him on track, and would really change everything about the meet. After talking with Channing I decided on 1091. I felt like it was the smart pick, I didn’t want to take the chance of Brian miss grooving the 1100s number, and the 1080s would cause him to need to bench more than planned. Set up was perfect and technically the best squat I have seen Brian hit since I have been at Team Samson. Hips set back perfect, good speed on the way down, and a nice clean dip to get into the hole. There was never any doubt of the lift, and really set him up for a big day!


Of course, like always, warm ups are crazy! Brian decided it was best to keep his warm up short and take bigger jumps. He jumped into his shirt at 4 plates. We used a three man lift out for all attempts after 225. Brian took his last warm up in the low 600s and was ready for the platform.

1st attempt: Again Brian had already put in his opener before we got there. 749 was a safe bench, things had looked really well the last few weeks of bench work. I set Brian’s feet, and we managed a good lift out. Clean touch, press, and lockout. Still in the meet!

2nds attempt: Decided to go to 788, This would put a little more distance on everyone in the field as Tory was having some issues getting a touch and Jimmy would be giving away a few pounds in the bench to Brian. This was another clean set up, touch, press, and lockout. Absolutely knew Brian was good for well into the 800s today, just a matter of picking the right number.


3rd attempt: We decided to go with 811. This number would put Brian at a 1902 subtotal and set up him for the all time world record total at 242 with a good deadlift. This attempt I pulled a little more of the collar down, and pinched the triceps of the SDP some to make sure Brian would have plenty of speed off the bottom. His set up was good, and groove of the bar was perfect, but there were some issues with the shirt in the bottom and it caused a missed attempt.


So right now Brian was setting at 5-6 and a 1879 subtotal. His deadlift opener was set at 725, but after some talking we decided to lower it a little. We went down to 705, and for a very simple reason. 725 wouldn’t win the meet, wouldn’t break the record, and wouldn’t matter for the total. There was no need to waste the energy with the extra 20lbs.

1st attempt: Jason set Brian’s straps, he got into good position, and simply destroyed the weight. It moved extremely fast, probably the fastest I have ever seen Brian move that weight.

2nd attempt: We had to be really smart with this attempt, because best lifter was on the line here. We had some weight to play with on formula. Jimmy went with 777, so it made our number simple. With 771 Jimmy would need to pull over 800 on his 3rd attempt which would have been about a 60lb pr for him. Brian pulled the 771 very easily, again the fastest I have ever seen the weight move. I did see his hand rip open at the top, which of course is a major concern. Jimmy pulled his 777, but it was all that he had in the tank, and was still a nice PR deadlift for him.

3rd attempt: Jimmy did not put in a 3rd deadlift attempt, but I did not want to leave the table until I knew for sure he would not put an attempt in. He could have slipped in an attempt without me knowing and give him a shot at best lifter. I checked in the back and saw Jimmy was getting out of his gear, so I put in the 821 attempt. 821 would give Brian 2700 and the all time record. When I checked Brian’s hand it was much worse than I thought. There was a large hole in his hand, and was bleeding pretty badly. I knew he had the strength, but had no idea how that hand would fair. Brian again had a good set up, and as soon as the bar breaks the floor I could see it rolling in that hand. No lift, but still a damn good day.


Brian finished with a 2651 total, going 7-9, and bumping his best total at 242 a few pounds. Still the second biggest total in history of 242, and 5k richer. Really no way anyone can complain about that! It was a blast being on the handing side of such a big meet, and a big total. Gracie did an amazing job creating an atmosphere and meet that lifters would be willing to come from all over for. I cant wait to be a part of it again next year!

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Jonathan Byrd

Jonathan Byrd is a competitive powerlifter, with over 16 years of training experience. Byrd has been ranked nationally for the past 6 years under multiple categories. His total has ranked as high as second nationally in the 275 class. He currently has a best total of 2500lbs. Best individual lifts include a 1040lb squat, a 750lb bench press, and 735lb deadlift. His 1040lb squat ranks him 26th all-time squats at the 308 class. Jonathan currently trains out of Team Samson Gym in Jacksonville, FL. Before powerlifting Jonathan was a college athlete at Methodist University as both an all-conference football player and track athlete. Following graduation he played four years of arena football in various leagues.
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