Bodybuilding Reviews / Videos
1998 National Bodybuilding Championships
Pump Room and Backstage Posing Tapes
Produced by Repetrope Muscle Video in 1998
Pump Room: Part I, II & III
The NPC Nationals were held November 21, 1998, in Atlanta, Georgia. In these films, Repetrope offers a comprehensive look at the backstage pump room, with a total of 194 minutes of ready-for-prime-time muscle. This contest is the most important amateur show in North America, with all six weight-class winners offered an IFBB pro card (most take it). That means endorsements, media exposure, guest posing, clinics, sponsorships -- the works.
This years Nationals had one of the worst situated pump rooms set up for a high-level show. It was a cramped tent off the side of the auditorium, and with cold weather outside, provided bad conditions to prep in. You can hear a MARTA train (Atlantas underground subway) roar by like its in the room. The professionalism of these competitors was such that they didnt let it get to them. Several kept their tanktops and sweatpants on longer than usual, though.
This show was held in conjunction with the NPC National Womens Championships. Since 279 men were competing, the largest number ever in an NPC contest, delays were inevitable -- and combining the men's and women's events turned the weekend into a marathon. Even the NPC backstage manager complained at one point, They managed to turn the fitness awards into a whole show by itself. Sandwiching a womens show into an already long mens show was unfortunate. Both deserved their own venues, especially since the fan base of men's and women's competitions is largely different.
I will talk you through each tape. Taken together, which is the best way to view them, they offer an excellent look at the American men competing at the top amateur rank in 1998.
Part 1: Bantam and Lightweight Men, 78 minutes
The bantamweight class is full of small soldiers (as one bigger BB called them while they lined up). The cutoff for this class is 143 ¼ pounds, but freaky muscle is still around. Relative to stature and build, some have eye-popping pecs and biceps, terrific abs, Y-shaped backs. More standard here is a sleek greyhound look. You do not get the egos in this class that you do from some of the bigger guys, and as a group they are older -- many looking 30 or more.
The bantams are crowded into a small space with camera operators, backstage helpers, NPC personnel, promoters, and larger BBs waiting for the floor, but good spirits prevail. Some guys appear heavier than 143, since none are taller than 52 and most have honed down from heavier weights. Camaraderie rules here; they either need less personal space, or theyre a friendlier bunch. A class win means a pro card but not much fame, so its amateur in spirit. In fact, most bantams don't bother to accept a pro card, since they have no chance of doing damage at that weight. They'd rather come back to the top NPC shows and try again.
The standard events in a pump room occur here -- schmoozing about diets, injuries, and whos onstage mixed into pumping, posing, and oiling. The Repetrope cameras rove high and low to get intense close-up shots of arms, pecs, necks, lats, delts, abs, quads, traps, glutes, calves -- did I leave anything out? They don't. Every class has some freaky builds, and in this one my eyes popped several times. One guy has veins fanning across his back like tributaries of the Amazon. Others do a bit of their routine for us, taking a nice arm or back and knocking it into startling form. Lined up, they are more than ready to hit the stage. Some have been on autopilot due to the wait.
It was all worth it,, especially for class winner Earl Snyder. My favorite was second-place finisher Ricky Parks, thicker than Snyder in the shoulders and arms.
The lightweights are still compact but fill out in the pecs, arms and legs. Knockout abs are on display in every direction. This is a smaller group; the pump room has cleared out some. A good feeling continues to prevail, with pointers from some guys to others who might best them onstage -- thats class. These guys look down at themselves or into a mirror as they pump dumbbells, or a single plate held in both hands, or smaller plates in both hands. Portable weightlifting stations get used, as does the floor (for push-ups). To finish their tans, some polish themselves or let others take over. Considering their desire to win, all display that virtue Hemingway admired in bullfighters: grace under pressure.
As usual, interesting sights abound as the guys get prepped. One guys spider web tattoo radiates from his elbow. Another looks stripped of skin, like the clear acetate pages of the human body in the bio textbook. Some are less bulky than Parks, the bantam I liked best, since theyre taller than him. IFBB Pro Ken Jones is helping Roddy Gaubert get ready (Jones won his pro card by taking the Bantam class at the 1995 and 1996 Nationals); he had his money on the right guy, since Gaubert won this class. There were a few I liked better, like Derik Farnsworth (3rd).
Part 2: Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Men, 60 minutes
Its hard to believe these guys are middles, some are so big. The weight range here is 154¼ to 176¼ lbs., high enough to get freaky. Several guys are amazing, and cant be more than a pound from the light-heavies. A self-enclosed quality kicks in at this size, increasing as the guys get bigger; some appear to be alone in this busy room. A win here can mean a career in the big league, so the energy is more pent-up, the stakes higher. At this level amateur doesnt mean much, since these guys are BBs 365/24/7.
Aesthetics remain important in this class, but the top guys are bombers with massive pecs and arms. Theres plenty of ripped muscle to look at, receding in row after row of pumped men. The contest itself is now falling into a smooth routine, with several roll calls by the NPC backstage manager to get the lineup ready. It creates a cattle-call effect, but the slightly bored delivery of names and regulations (Numbers on your left, as I call your name please step up) may have a calming effect on pressured men fighting to stay focused. Why do this to yourself? Why head to the Moon or the South Pole? I dont know, nor can I explain why I admire those who attempt these things, but I do.
This class and the next had 39 competitors each. The winner was Kevin English, the guy I would have given the overall contest to. He did win the overall at the 1998 NPC Junior Nationals, and I hope to see more of him. Third-place winner Warren James, who sports a great biceps tattoo, impressed me. He took the overall in the 1998 NPC Junior USA, as a light-heavyweight. This was the strongest class, I thought; others I liked included Dennis Beylotte, who had the most complexly detailed build on view, Robert Mason (5th), and Terry Haynes (13th).
Light-heavyweights go up to 198 ¼ lbs., and now we're talking major beef. Freakiness prevails for all but the tallest, who retain aesthetic builds. We see heavy backs, huge arms, and riptide abs everywhere we look. Tattoos crawl across shoulders, pecs and arms; some complete the pirate look with goatees and earrings (although jewelry must be removed before the lineup). The guys are increasingly familiar here, Javier Datis and Chris Dodson among them. The competition is rough; theres a wide variety of looks, and everyone peaked well. Like Miss Brodie's students, theyre the crème de la crème.
Like the lighter guys, they oblige requests to oil backs, critique poses, or hit shots for the Repetrope camera. Its more crowded than the local gym on a Monday night. One guy checks his pecs under his shirt and shakes his head no-- you can never tell how the last-minute prep will go. Eddying conversations throw out bits of dialogue (Dont use too much oil), but most is just a buzz. The lineup takes awhile, the competitors standing like graduates at Muscle U, pumping, posing, flexing to the last second before going out. Genetics and destiny are on the line.
Darien Bond took this class. He was excellent, but I preferred third-placer Robert Russo.
Part 3: Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight Men, 55 minutes
Now for the big boys. The heavyweight class goes from 198¼ to 225¼ lbs. The new cap for this class has focused it, giving the guys closer to 200 a better chance to win. The atmosphere is serious, with a pro career looming and several guys veterans of the mags. They give each other a lot of room, and need it considering their bulk. Arms are jaw-droppingly huge here; the same for backs and legs. One guy jokes with the cameraman, I keep reppin it -- I only get bigger.
Jason Arntz - For recent pictures, see
Jason Arntz is the star of this class (he took overall in this show), and the camera gives us plenty of him. Hes salty -- doesnt even glance in a mirror or down at himself as others oil his chest, legs and back. At a 203-pound bodyweight he has the cuts, symmetry, posing and attitude. He looks great in the lineup too, a giveaway on who will place. Its clear whos about to be a runner-up next to Arntz, the freaky Chuck Sanow (2nd), or "King" Kamali (3rd). Other familiar names are Tevita Aholelei (4th), Pepi Filiu (9th), and Abbas Khatami (11th). I prefer a build freakier than Arntzs, but it was his year. Hes proved he can compete as a pro, taking 5th at the 1999 IFBB Toronto Pro Invitational.
The super heavyweight segment starts with Aaron Maddron painting his thighs with a brush for glossy enamel. Hes the first of the giant killers on display. With no weight cap on this class, they go up and don't stop. Any one of these guys would dominate a room, so the mood in this one is hard to describe. Most look like secret weapons the military has poured billions into. Orville Burke, who took this class, is inhumanly large from both front and back. Hell make established pros sweat, and broke into the top ten at the 1999 IFBB Night of the Champions.
The super-heavyweights define big time in bodybuilding now. Theyre walking flotillas. How big can these guys get? It's anyone's guess. Most are self-contained, waiting for the lineup call. Some camaraderie goes on, helping with oiling and schmoozing a bit. Someone calls out, How much longer? to the NPC manager. One competitor shows the cameraman a small tricep tear he got past earlier in the year. Another tells us, Every one of these reps is one more closer to a pizza.
As the NPC manager approaches the lineup call, we see more pumping and posing. Maddron gets the lions share of the camera, but we also get a good view of Rico McClinton (5th), Mat DuVall (6th), his friend Dave Palumbo (8th), Jeramy Freeman (9th), Scott Klein (11th), Justin Brooks (13th), and Scott Peters (14th). Some have waists; some dont. All have enormous builds that Repetrope does justice to: state-of-the-art film for state-of-the-art bodies.
Maddron did not win this class (he took 2nd), but he got his pro card at the 1999 NPC National Championships. Hes fantastic -- as is Klein, McClinton, Idrise Ward-El (4th), and Burke.
At one point on these tapes, one guy says to a fellow competitor, You look good, man. Boy do they.
Part I: Bantam through Middleweight Men, 63 minutes
Part II: Light-Heavy through Super-Heavyweight Men, 61 minutes
I dont want no dissension, just dynamic tension . . .
The BBs on these tapes may never have heard of dynamic tension, but theyve learned the lessons of Charles S. Atlas (born Angelo Siciliano in 1893). Over 80 competitors show their stuff for the Repetrope camera. Just minutes away from their contest appearance, most are in the best shape of their lives. An individual display of their physiques is a boon for bodybuilding fans. In this set of tapes Repetrope has captioned most of the competitors with their name, state, and weight class. (There are a few errors in these captions Ill correct here.) Some of the bigger guys are well enough known from the mags not to need captions, but most were new to me here. Many have placed in later NPC shows, though.
The format of the Repetrope backstage posing is described in my review of the 1998 NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships backstage posing tape. The only difference is the captioning on these tapes. I will mention the live sound, which consists of grunting men pumping weights off camera, as well as announcements from the NPC backstage guy and the show MC (since its going on as the videotape is being made). If you hear some repetition here, it's because Repetrope taped the sound and looped it for these films. You are hearing the same ten minutes of sound repeatedly.
Part I: Bantam through Middleweight Men
I will note the competitor if I liked him overall, or if he placed in the show. I note several guys who didn't place in their class (i.e., top 15 in each of six weight classes, for a total of 90 placements). The coverage on this tape is bantamweights (cutoff at 143¼ lbs.), lightweights (154¼), and middleweights (176¼). If I can't identify the posers, I will list the time of their appearance on the tape.
Clifton Torres (bantam 9th) Nice front, speckled tan in back.
Marvin Ward (bantam 3rd) Great V torso, bicep tattoo.
Allan Terrell (bantam, didn't place) Fine abs, fantastic back double bicep pose, well displayed.
Frank DiCicco (light 2nd) Thick, great cuts, great poser, back tattoo.
Roddy Gaubert (light 1st) Great cuts and size.
Johnny Ferreri (light 13th) Has the abs.
Al Escobar (light 5th) Thick build, can pose.
Robert Mesa (light 4th) Solid abs, nice low-angle shot.
Dave Tereault (middle, didn't place) Freaky build, very thick, speckled tan. Middleweight was the best class in this show.
Danny Gutierrez (bantam 15th) Good low-angle shot of abs.
Ken Yates (middle, didn't place) Great arms, thick torso, excellent everywhere, and outrageous he didnt place. He was robbed.
Dennis Beylotte (middle, didn't place) Excellent shoulders and arms, built like an anatomy chart, striated muscles everywhere.
Eric Otero (middle 2nd) Thick build, deserving his placing. He went pro in 2001.
Scott Plaisance (middle, didn't place) Intense poser, great bicep shot.
Robert Mason (middle 5th) A monster for his class, fantastic poser, shows his stuff.
Roger Stewart (middle 7th) Amazing pelvic structure, V back, good cuts. Great fitness build and well-known mag model.
Richard Longwith (middle 11th) Nice overall build.
Jeffrey Scott (middle 12th) Thick chest, nice abs, back. Can pose.
Darren Meade (middle 14th) Very into biceps posing; nice back.
Corey Hajek (light 9th) Thick torso, including waist.
Derik Farnsworth (light 3rd) Thick chest, V back, heavy triceps. A potential pro.
Joseph Justin (light 15th) Good poser.
Ricky Parks (bantam 2nd) I would have given him this class. Huge chest and arms, fantastic abs and legs, great smile. Mislabeled as a lightweight.
Carlen Charleston (light 12th) Very muscular, and absence of long muscle bellies makes him even bulkier.
Terry Haynes (middle 13th) Incredible back, good poser, should be higher.
Rueben Dwyer (light 10th) Peaked biceps, good back, sinewy everywhere.
Group scene (at 47:00 in) Four together, the start of winners coming offstage.
Earl Snyder (bantam 1st) Good arms, deep back.
Kevin English (middle 1st) This guy has it all, and I would have given him the show. A potential pro.
From minutes 52 to 63, we get a section labeled, Extra Posing from the Weigh In -- The day before the contest. The curtain behind the posers is brown here instead of the blue one in the pump room, and sometimes the contestants are wearing gym clothes.
Not named (at 52:00 in) Great pecs, well displayed.
Dennis Beylotte His quads well shown here; this guy is self-aware and hungry to win.
Not named (at 1:00 in) A black guy with great abs, has it.
Not named (at 1:01 in) Italian guy, big everywhere, well shown.
To sum up the first tape, my favorites are bantam Ricky Parks and middles Kevin English, Ken Yates and Robert Mason.
Part II: Light-Heavy through Super-Heavyweight Men
Here is my take on the bigger guys. Some middles were on this tape labeled as lightheavies, but I liked the middles so its not a problem. The weight limits are as follows: light-heavyweights (to 198¼ lbs.), heavyweights (to 225¼), and super-heavyweights (above that).
Damon Island (lightheavy, didn't place) Great arms, terrific poser, pec tattoo, excellent and robbed in the placings.
Chris Dodson (lightheavy, didn't place) Good side shots.
Greg Davis (lightheavy 12th) Nice low-angle shots.
Woody Sons (lightheavy, didn't place) Hungry staring eyes, thick pecs, pec tattoo.
Jack Harley (lightheavy, didn't place) Good overall look.
Troy Alves (lightheavy 8th) Starts with gym shorts, has thick build, terrific look. Went pro in 2002.
Tony Grape (lightheavy, didn't place) and Vinnie Galanti (lightheavy 6th) Posing together, then Grape solo. Galanti could go pro.
Scott Shoemaker (lightheavy 13th) Thick build, can pose. Mislabeled as a heavyweight.
Elvernie McGee (lightheavy 15th) Nice pecs, abs, back tattoo, good poser, extensive arm shots. Mislabeled as a heavyweight.
Javier Datiz (lightheavy, didn't place) Big guy. A potential pro.
Angelo Triantafilidis (heavy 10th) Thick chest, hard arms and back, nice grin. Mislabeled as a lightheavy.
George Turmon (heavy 12th) An older guy, pirate look (bald with goatee), great poser, my favorite in his class. He went pro at the 2003 NPC Masters Nationals.
Fred Bigot (lightheavy 4th) Has the cuts and posing, shows off his quads and glutes. A potential pro.
Not named (at 20:00 in) Sharp arms, great expressions as he poses.
Dwayne McDaniel (lightheavy 11th) Good low-angle display.
Scott Klein (superheavy 11th) A man with great potential who unfortunately died in 2003.
Thomas Prata (superheavy 10th) Huge torso and back, arm tattoo.
Justin Brooks (superheavy13th) His height keeps him from looking freaky. A potential pro.
Scott Peters (superheavy 14th) He didnt peak but can pose, has abs and size. This was his last show.
Chuck Sanow (heavy 2nd) Freaky arms and back, garage-door shoulders, great cuts.
Tetiva Aholelei (heavy 4th) Has good lines, arm size. He went pro in 2000.
Doug Wentz (heavy 6th) Big guy who projects a great personality, nice abs and arms, terrific grin.
Not named (at 32:00 in) Has huge arms, solid chest.
Mat DuVall (superheavy 6th) Good poser, immense chest and arms. He went pro in 2003.
Jeramy Freeman (superheavy 9th) Nice abs, otherwise just huge. He went pro in 2001.
Idrise Ward-El (superheavy 4th) Nice shape, excellent back. He went pro in 2002.
Warren James (middle 3rd) Freaky chest, shoulders, great poser. Mislabeled as a lightheavy.
Johnny Stewart (middle 4th) Big veiny quads, nice back. Mislabeled as a lightheavy. He went pro at the 2002 NPC Masters Nationals.
Not named (at 40:00 in) Massive black guy.
Tevita Aholelei This starts the winners coming offstage.
"King" Kamali (heavy 3rd) Huge shoulders, big guy. He went pro in 1999.
Aaron Maddron (superheavy 2nd) A monster, does his routine casually but is well displayed. Immense back and arms. He went pro in 1999.
The video now shifts to additional posing at weigh-in.
Not named (at 45:00 in) Blond guy, has cuts.
Not named (at 47:00 in) Nice abs, thick, good low-angle shots.
Mat DuVall His back double-bi is beyond belief.
Not named (at 51:00 in) Huge black guy who poses in his sweatpants. A mass monster, huge arms, shoulders, chest, fantastic poser.
Not named (at 53:00 in) Nice overall look.
Troy Alves Excellent low-angle shots.
Not named This Italian guy pulls his sweatpants off to reveal great legs to match a great back. Excellent low-angle shots.
To sum up the second tape, my faves are lightheavies Damon Island and Troy Alves, heavyweight George Turmon, and the unnamed competitor 51 minutes in. All are African American, and that is the trend in top amateur NPC shows -- blacks are often now the best competitors onstage.
By the end of 2003, the following competitors on these tapes competed as pros in the IFBB: English, Bond, Arntz, Alves, Turmon, Aholelei, Freeman, Ward-El, (Johnny) Stewart, Kamali, Burke and Maddron. Otero and DuVall have pro cards, but haven't competed as yet. Snyder shifted to the NGA Natural Olympus pro division in 2001 and 2002.
For a listing of all class winners of this contest, see this link:
July 1999, revised February 2004