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Issue of July 16, 2014
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Cecil: World's Strongest Boilermaker


May 07, 2014 | 01:21 PM

Around Corydon Central High School, Nate Cecil was one of many multi-sport athletes. He played football, hit baseball and treaded water for the swim team.

Cecil had success as a Panther, but, in college, he turned to weight lifting.

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Dead-lifting 435 pounds, Corydon Central alumni Nate Cecil puts himself in prime position to eventually win the World's Strongest Boilermaker competition at Purdue. Submitted photo
Pushing and pulling big weight led Cecil to a competition — World's Strongest Boilermaker — at Purdue University.

In the sixth year of the event, Cecil won the contest for the first time, after competing in each of the previous years.

The reward may have been a medal and plenty of Purdue swag, but there was one prize that Cecil cherishes the most.

"A lot of bragging rights," Cecil said.

The World's Strongest Boilermaker is a test of strength, power and determination. Athletes, both men and women, compete in the two-day event, featuring eight challenging events. Designed like a Strongman competition, four events take place on a preliminary day, then the top six return the next day for four more punishing events.

Participating in the 161- to 175-pound weight class, Cecil reigned supreme over his competitors.

It was the last year of competition for Cecil, as he is set to graduate this year.

"I got into weightlifting in general at college, then, my freshman year, they started the World's Strongest Boilermaker competition," Cecil said. "It looked fun, so I entered to see how I would do. I got hooked on it."

Hooked he was. During his first try, Cecil wasn't able to advance beyond the prelims. On the second try, Cecil placed sixth. The next three years, Cecil was knocking on the door, placing either second or third.

It seemed like destiny that 2014 would be Cecil's year. The event took place the second week of April.

On day one, events included tire flip, farmer's walk, keg toss and Hercules hold.

"The first day I won the tire flip, was second in the Hercules hold, third in the farmer's walk but did really badly in the keg toss," Cecil said.

The Hercules hold involves holding two 15-pound dumbbells to your side as long as you could.

If there is a money event for Cecil, it is the tire flip.

"That's my event," he said. "It's about execution. It is an event that forces you to use your entire body at one time."

His least favorite event is the keg toss. For six years, Cecil said he hadn't gotten the grasp of executing the event.

"It's not my thing," he said.

Scoring is based on points, where each competitor finishes in events. Following day one, Cecil was in third place, not a bad spot.

The top six returned the next day for the finale. Three events were familiar to Cecil: dead-lift, axle press and atlas stone. One event was a mystery to the competitors. Debuting for the first time, participants had to pull the Boilermaker Xtra Special, a modified vehicle that resembles a mini train.

"I was hooked up to a harness and had to run and pull it behind me," he described. "I won that event and wasn't expecting to, so it was a good start."

In the dead-lift, set up as a progressive event, the final six began by dead-lifting 315 pounds. As each guy completed the lift, the weight increased 30 pounds until no one was left. Cecil maxed out at 465, good for third.

Day two was full of surprises. The atlas stone, lifting weights of 120, 170 and 240 pounds on to a platform, had been an obstacle of Cecil's in the past. Not this time.

"I won that event not expecting to," he said. "Each year before, I haven't been able to lift the final stone up but did this time."

The finale event was the axle lift. Cecil and others had to bench press a 135-pound bar as many times as their body would allow. Using every bit of energy left, Cecil locked in 21 reps.

"I felt confident that was a good number," Cecil said. "I did really well and knew I had at least second place wrapped up."

Cecil was assured the win when the next best completed only 18 reps.

Competing in the Strongman has its challenges.

"I couldn't walk away after an event because I could barely feel my legs when they were burning so bad," Cecil said of the physical strain on his body. "At one point, I couldn't get up and needed about 10 minutes to recover."

Reaching the goal of World's Strongest Boilermaker had been on Cecil's radar since his freshman year.

"I started gearing my workouts a few months before the competition toward the events," he said. "I wanted to get better."

He said a lot of friends from college were in attendance to support him.

Cecil is a sixth-year student at Purdue and is set to complete his pharmacy degree this year. He has signed on as a pharmacist at Walgreens in Louisville upon completion of his course work.

"I definitely want to continue with another strongman competition or bodybuilding," Cecil said. "I spend most of my free time in the gym. It's a passion at this point."

Twitter: @CoryDemSports

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