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Imlay City grad Ranoni is strongman competitor


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Andy Ranoni, 2002 graduate of Imlay City High School, displays his incredible strength in a recent strongman competition.

March 10, 2010
Nearly 70 strongmen competitors of all shapes and sizes filled the arena in Louisiana last year, some tall, some short, all weighing over 300 pounds. Their hands dusted with chalk, the skin on their fingers torn from gripping barbells and wrists taped for support. It was Andy's third national competition.

By the end of the day he lagged behind, not a contender for the title. He was disappointed but not discouraged.

"It wasn't my best day," he told me.

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Andy Ranoni, formerly of Imlay City, has been competing in stongman events for three years now. He hopes to earn pro status this spring and has been training hard all winter. He desperately wants to make another appearance at Nationals and this time, a chance at the national strongman title.

We've all seen strongman competitions on TV, they are an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Huge men with arms and legs the size of tree stumps, toss kegs, lift small cars, flip tractor tires, pull buses and other incredible feats of strength.

None of it looks easy and sometimes I wonder what motivates a man to do such things.

So I asked Andy that very question.

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"I love competition, always have and after college I was looking for something I could do. I always enjoyed my weight training and thought perhaps I could compete in these strongman competitions I was learning about," Andy explained.

Andy is a 2002 graduate of Imlay City High School and now makes his home in Houghton, Michigan. He works at Dunham Sports, is a student coach for track and field at Michigan Tech, finishing his college courses, and he lifts weights.

I knew Andy as a rather affable rotund young man. He loved sports, especially football and wrestling. Andy excelled in shot put and the discus throw on the track team. Although I couldn't describe him as a gifted athlete, his determination and grit made up for it.

Andy always had a smile on his face, you couldn't help but like him.

"I started lifting weights in my parents' basement at about 12 years old," Andy told me, the same zest for life still in his voice.

"I trained with weights to get stronger for sports in high school and I continued lifting in college," he said.

Andy went on to compete four years on the Michigan Tech college track team doing some shot put, some discus, but he excelled at the hammer throw.

So far Andy has competed in 16 strongman contests over the last three years. He has placed in the top three in six of those events and qualified for the amateur national finals in all of his first three years of competition.

There are two weight divisions in strongman, lightweight and heavyweight, the cutoff point is 231 pounds and Andy competes in the heavyweight division. The overall national champ of each weight division earns his or her pro card.

"I'm training very hard, I'd really like to earn my pro card, it would open up a lot of opportunities for me at the international level. Perhaps I can then qualify to compete in the World's Strongest Man contest, which is seen on TV and most people associate with the sport," Andy goes on to explain.

"The heavyweight division is the most popular of all the classes you see on TV," he continues.

"This sport requires a tremendous amount of work and training, there is nothing easy about it. But I really enjoy it, I hope I can earn my pro card and continue with the sport," Andy told me.

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Andy Ranoni lifting the Atlas stone onto a platform, the stone weighs 300 pounds and is one of five events to determine the winner.

A typical strongman competition can have anywhere from five events plus the log clean and press or axle clean and press, 250 to 300 pounds. Some of the more common challenges include:

•Farmer's walk: they carry weights ranging from 250-330 pounds in each hand a specific distance.

•Keg toss: toss kegs of varying sizes and weights over a bar suspended high in the air.

•Tire flip: flip huge tractor tires-weighing 700-900 pounds each over and over for a certain distance.

•Loading events: this requires the athletes to carry large objects-usually 4 to 6 objects of varying sizes and weights from one place to another. Typically the Atlas stone is most common, weighing 300 pounds.

•Truck pull: in this event one end of a harness is attached to the athlete, the other is attached to a truck (usually a very large one, sometimes a bus or semi.) Contestants then have to pull it a certain distance.

"It's a very difficult sport to train for because there are so many aspects of the sport, so many muscle groups you must develop in order to compete," Andy explained.

Andy has set himself up with a gym in the basement where he lives, he has stones, logs and other assorted items as well as 1,100 pounds of weight lifting plates.

Andy explained his weekly routine for preparing for the strongman competitions.

•Mondays: wrestling and running for up to 3 hours to improve his cardio endurance.

•Tuesdays: weight lifting session lasting up to 3 hours.

•Wednesdays: day off.

•Thursdays: weight lifting session lasting up to 3 hours.

•Fridays: one hour of cardio training.

•Saturdays: wrestling for two hours, contest weight training, simulating the contest events, 3 to 5 reps each, requiring up to an additional 4 hours.

•Sundays: day off.

Andy also maintains a strict diet while training for the strongman competitions.

"You need the nutrients from whole foods, so I eat a lot of eggs, chicken, pasta and occasional turkey," Andy told me.

"There is a lot of wear and tear on the body to maintain my workout routine, so I have to eat right. I have to eat the right fuels," he told me, chuckling.

Andy's next competition will be April 24th in Warren, Michigan. His parents are Don and Barb Ranoni, formerly of Imlay City, now living in Shelby Twp. His brother Phil is a student at Central Michigan University.

Andy's determination and discipline have been his greatest asset in the past. And I have a feeling someday we'll be watching Andy on TV pulling off incredible feats of strength.

Good luck Andy, see you on Saturday afternoons.

Randy Jorgensen has been with the Tri-City Times since 1980, he lives in Imlay City and is active in many community organizations. Randy enjoys the outdoor sports and travel. His columns are generally of life experiences with a touch of humor.
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