Alpena man turns hobby into sport, qualifies for national strongman contest

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Jimmy Wright lifts a large weight over his head in front of his home on Monday.

ALPENA — Jimmy Wright, of Alpena, started his strongman journey just last year with three other workout friends when they discovered a competition in the Detroit area.

After attending a handful of strongman contests, Wright won his latest one in Traverse City, qualifying to compete in a national competition in Denver on June 8.

Wright is excited to go to the national competition, but his focus remains on three things: family, work, and training with his three friends.

“There’s nowhere really super close by that you can go and get your hands on some of the strongman-specific equipment, which has caused us to have to buy some equipment,” Wright said. “We’ve probably all got close to over $20,000 worth of equipment in our gym, like a loadable keg, which will range from 200 to 300 pounds and you carry it and do a run down and back.”

Wright called the strongman workouts a lot of fun, especially for people who participated in sports in high school. He said that, back then, he participated in three high school sports in Fairview but did not continue any exercise until around 2014, when he tried powerlifting as a stress reliever.

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Jimmy Wright lifts a dumbbell in the Liberty Street Station gym on Monday.

Around that same time, Wright said, he had been a heavy smoker for over a decade and quit the vice in 2018 because he found a new stress reliever and wanted to lead a healthier life for his wife and child.

“My dad passed two years ago from health-related things — things I think he could have prevented,” Wright said. “All of my … grandparents have now passed and my dad has passed — not at elderly ages. They all passed at a younger age than they should have, so, for me, staying healthy and being able to be around for my son and maybe grandkids is something I want. So I had to make some changes.”

Wright competes in strongman tournaments not just with three men he’s met through their local gyms, but also with his wife, Ashley Wright.

As Jimmy Wright prepares for the Denver competition, Alejandro Gonzales, Spencer Kraft, Mike Witter, Ashley Wright, and other gym friends are training to participate in a strongman competition in July.

To train, everyone uses the equipment they’ve collected at Gonzales’ garage, which they’ve titled the Liberty Street Station.

Courtesy Photo Jimmy Wright prepares to lift a large boulder.

There, circus bells, loadable kegs, large wooden bars, and more heavy equipment lay around the space, waiting to be lifted.

Spencer Kraft, who is the track coach for Alpena High School, helps coach his friends.

He said he originally didn’t have any data to help them out, but, as he researched and learned more about heavy lifting training, he became more passionate about his title.

“I’ve been influenced heavily by coaches that I’ve had, and I love the impact you can kind of have on others,” Kraft said. “With track, it’s on a group level, and, with stuff like this, it’s a lot more on a one-on-one level. It’s a way that I can help give back to people that I care about — young people that I think can and should reach higher than I feel like they are reaching.”

While Jimmy Wright continues to train for the June competition, they’re not sure if they have the money to make it.

Courtesy Photo Jimmy Wright squats down to begin lifting weights.

Ashley and Jimmy Wright, along with Kraft, plan to fly down to Denver, and, because of the expenses of staying there for a weekend, signing up for the competition, and bringing extra equipment, they believe the trip will cost $3,000, which they don’t have.

“It’s in Denver,” Jimmy Wright said. “If it was in a nice, little small town where you could get a cheap hotel, we’d be good, but food pricing alone is not going to be cheap in a city like Denver.”

Ashley Wright put together an online fundraiser at gofund.me/36c3f254.

Gonzales, Kraft, Witter, and Jimmy Wright also run a podcast on Spotify called “Weigh In Weigh Out” on which they talk about workout habits and other gym-related topics.

“At some point, I would really like to have a competition up here,” Jimmy Wright said. “I think Alpena is big enough and you could have it at the APlex or something like that. Everybody has good intentions and they really end up being family events where wives, kids, and parents are supporting everybody.”

Courtesy Photo Jimmy Wright prepares to lift a large bar with tires on each side.

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Spencer Kraft, left, talks with Jimmy Wright in the Liberty Street Station gym on Monday.

Courtesy Photo From left, Spencer Kraft, Alex Gonzales, Mike Witter, and Jimmy Wright pose with each other at a strongman competition.

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez From left, Spencer Kraft, Jimmy Wright, and Alejandro Gonzales pose in Gonzales’ Liberty Street Station gym on Monday.


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