Quaker Classic sure to provide a big lift

SALEM – It’s back. The fourth annual Quaker Classic – 100 Percent Raw Powerlifting, drug-free championships – will feature Brooklyn, New York’s Pedro Mejias, the super heavyweight bench press champion and world record-holder.

Lonnie Atkins, chairman of the Ohio 100 Percent Raw Powerlifting, said Mejias, who broke the national record in Salem last year, will try to break the world record this Saturday in Salem.

The Quaker Classic starts at 9 a.m. April 6 in the United Steel Workers hall.

Atkins, a former state, national and world record-holder himself, will not compete but said said about 40 powerlifters will be competing in the Classic championships in a number of weight categories. Competitors range in age from seven to 79-years-old.

Weigh-ins will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and from 6 to 8 a.m. Saturday. Competition begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. General admission is $5.

The USW AFL-CIO Local 1538 Hall is located at 547 Prospect St.

The classic is sponsored by the Big Dog Steak-Seafood & Ale, Promo’s Unlimited, Game On, all in Salem; along with the Iron Chamber Gym in Canton, and the Western Reserve Scourge semi-pro football team that plays in Poland.

“We break huge records here in Salem,” Atkins said. “Every single meet we’ve had here, we’ve broken national records.”

Mejias, a personal trainer in Brooklyn, is what Atkins called a “hard-working, blue collar” lifter and a quiet, humble man who lets his lifting do the talking as he holds the world record at 633 pounds.

Atkins competed against Mejias in the 2010 world championships in Norfolk, Va. finishing third while Mejias won.

“He puts in the work,” Atkins said, noting that Big Dog Steak-Seafood & Ale in Salem is sponsoring Mejias.

Since breaking the world bench press record last June, Atkins said Mejias “has been on fire … he’s been going crazy.”

Another competitor to keep and eye on is local champ Michael Gagnon, 18, a senior at Salem High School who carries a 4.3 GPA and has recorded straight As since second grade, Atkins said. He added that the young wrestler and bandsman is headed to Youngstown State University with a full scholarship.

Gagnon is the Ohio teenage bench press record-holder in the 132 pound class and is sponsored by Game On in Salem.

“He will try to break the state record in the bench press and deadlift,” Atkins said.

Melvin Logan of Cleveland, an Arnold Classic champion, is also expected to compete in the 242 pounds category.

“This is his first time in Salem,” Atkins said.

Another Arnold Classic winner, Nate Mathews of Sandusky, will compete in the 242 pounds group. Mathews suffered a heart attack, had surgery and came back to Salem last year and broke the national deadlift record before taking the world title in Las Vegas. He’s coming here to go head-to-head against Logan, Atkins said.

Another well known lifter is Aeden Begue who is seven years old and ranked fourth in the state in wrestling. But he’s not as famous as his father, Jeff Begue, a Stark County deputy sheriff who is a retired eight-time world champ and the only person to hold records in seven different weight classes.

He will be a judge during the Quaker Classic.

Also look for a women’s lifting team from Wadsworth, Ohio, said Atkins, who is former Salem Councilwoman Connie Alexander’s grandson. It’s the first women’s team at the Quaker Classic.

“I thought that was pretty neat,” Atkins said, adding that 79-year-old William Buck of Lisbon will compete in the bench press, dead lift and curling competition. Buck weighs in at 279 pounds.

Nate Martin of Leetonia will compete in the 242 pounds category and will be proposing to his girlfriend, according to Atkins.

“There’s some staunch competition at 242 pounds,” he said, noting that the entry is a little down from last year. “Once we get a hotel in town, that will change. We’ll start to make this into a weekend. With a hotel in the area, this will just blow up,” he said.