By Mr. Steve Ghiringhelli (Drum)May 9, 2013
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) live in a part of the country where their snow-shoveling civilian neighbors may be among the toughest of off-post military communities Armywide.
It's a calculation Jeff and Jeremy Reynolds made more than a year ago, when the father-son duo created the Strongest Warrior Competition as a friendly but vigorous event in which North Country residents are able to go head-to-head with real-world warriors based at Fort Drum.
But more than an opportunity to "talk trash," organizers said the competition benefits Soldiers and Family Members who have sacrificed so much for their country.
"Our main purpose is to raise money for the division's wounded warriors and their Family Members," said Jeff Reynolds, a former 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier who retired in the area in 2008.
"The event was a huge success last year," he said. "We raised $14,000 and had 39 competitors with over 1,000 spectators."
Organizers said the Strongest Warrior Competition, a spin-off of the popular North American Strongman competitions, was the first of its kind in northern New York when it was held last year.
Sponsored by the Fort Drum chapter of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division in partnership with the Watertown Family YMCA, the event supports two of the association's most important activities: 10th Mountain Division Wounded Warrior Support Fund and the 10th Mountain Division Scholarship Fund.
The competition will take place at 9:30 a.m. June 15 at the Watertown Fairgrounds YMCA. It is open to the public and free for spectators.
Participants will weigh in at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the event. Competitors must be at least 15 years old. Registration fees are $40 on or before Monday and $50 if received after Monday. For spectators, admission is $5 for individuals, $3 for the spouse of a competitor and $8 for all families.
In addition to hiring a professional master of ceremonies to keep things moving along, organizers announced another change to this year's competition -- an open class women's division for the first time.
Men will compete in three weight classes: light weight (under 180 pounds); light heavy-weight (181-235 pounds); and heavy weight (over 235 pounds).
The competition will involve four individually performed events: 90-second Atlas Stone Lift, Tire Flip / Prowler Sled Medley, Harnessed Truck Pull and the Six-foot Steel Log Overhead Press.
Also new at this year's event will be the appearance of Mike Schlitz, a 10th Mountain Division (LI) combat veteran whom Reynolds invited in order to share some opening remarks and help participants remember why the competition is taking place.
Schlitz, who sustained burns to 80 percent of his body in 2006 while on patrol in Iraq, lost both hands and is blind in one eye. To date, he has gone through 83 surgeries.
Jeff Reynolds' son, Jeremy, who will earn his master's degree in fitness development later this year, will return to the North Country to lend his expertise during this year's competition.
Now the head strength and conditioning coach at the New York State Military Academy in Cornwall-On-Hudson, the younger Reynolds said a sense of pride in the selfless service of the "brave men and women of the 10th Mountain Division (LI)" was the biggest reason he wanted to be involved again.
"I feel compelled to give back," he said. "I have been very fortunate to have a father who served and also to be part of a community of servicemen and women that continue to inspire me."
Nearly a dozen of Jeremy Reynolds' friends -- most of whom are strength and conditioning coaches -- will donate their time and finances to make the trip to northern New York and help facilitate the event.
"It is the very least we could do," Jeremy Reynolds said. "We only hope that the Strongest Warrior Competition will continue to be a means of showing our gratitude and appreciation for the military."
For more information or to register, visit http://10thmtndivassoc.org/strongestman or visit their Facebook page by searching "Strongest Warrior Competition."
"If you have the heart of a warrior, come and test your physical prowess against today's Soldier," Jeff Reynolds concluded. "(It's) all for a good cause."