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Strongman takes prize at national meet; hobby of heft helps him keep working

Ray Magnuson competed in the Nov. 3 Natural Athlete Strength Association's Master's National Powerlifting meet in Mesa, Ariz., taking the overall trophy in his weight class. <i>Submitted photo</i>1 / 2
A local man recently helped a Wisconsin powerlifting team win first place at a national meet. Ray Magnuson is in the middle of the back row -- fourth person from left or right. The first man on the back row from left is 82-year-old Peter Jensen of Sheboygan; the second man on the back row from left is 53-year-old Steve Korff from Sheboygan Falls, who won the Nov. 3 Master's Nationals meet. The lifters met and formed the team at the meet. Front row left to right: Matt Pennau of Oshkosh, Jay Koeper of Milw...2 / 2

Powerlifter Ray Magnuson of River Falls hoisted his way through a national competition in Mesa, Ariz., Nov. 3, taking away not only the trophy for his weight class but also helping a group of Wisconsin lifters finish first in a team competition.

The 71-year-old said he drives his wife of 51 years, Virginia, down to Arizona each winter. This year, he thought he'd pop by the Natural Athlete Strength Association's Master's National powerlifting meet to see how he fared.

Executing proper form in the events of bench press, dead lift and squat -- he took the title for his weight class of 220 pounds and age group of 70-80.

"You have to do all three lifts," he explained, adding that each lifter gets three tries.

His class featured eight competitors. The masters level is comprised of weight lifters aged 45-85.

Three watchful judges scrutinize each lift, checking in after with either a red light or clear light. The lift must bring clear lights from two of three judges in order to count toward the competitor's score.

Judges will give a red light, for example, if a lifter drops the weight too soon, lifts it unevenly or strays from good lifting form.

Magnuson says, for example, the knees must bend deeply enough during a squat and the bar must remain even and steady during a bench press.

Magnuson laughs about having so much fun in Arizona before the meet -- piece of pie with friends, appetizers here and an extra beer there -- that it propelled him into the 220-pound weight class instead of competing in his usual 198-pound class.

From the meet, he took away a trophy and bragging rights but not money.

He said, "If you want cash, you have to go to the Arnold classic."

Magnuson explains that NASA tests for performance-enhancing drugs at its meets, but not all of them do. He believes in a 'no-drug' approach, as do many purist powerlifters.

Raising the bar

Magnuson moved to River Falls 30 years ago, making a living as the well-known farrier of Midwest Horseshoeing. Also a blacksmith, he has shod horses from Mexico to Canada and from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans.

Magnuson said he mostly shoes saddle-bred show horses and has gained a reputation as an expert. Horse exhibitors know the right shoe for the show, turf and competition can make a big difference.

He said he's begun to see the third generation of people at some of his "regular barns."

"I got about 60 years old and it was getting so hard on me to shoe these horses," said Magnuson, "I thought I was gonna have to give it up."

Bone spurs and bad feet also plagued him about the same time his wife gave him a membership to the River City Ironworx gym. She suggested he try working out, which he hadn't done "since he was a kid."

He wore a pedometer around to measure the exercise he was getting and found he was only walking about a quarter mile per day naturally instead of the recommended two miles. Seeing some of the lifting activities at the gym made Magnuson want to start again, and so he did.

Now he trains four days a week for about two hours each time. Monday he works on squats, Tuesdays he bench presses, and Saturdays he dead lifts.

He competed at a national meet before, but had to wait a while after the first one since it was followed by a heart attack and shoulder surgery. He said the exercise of lifting not only helped him recover from those things, it also makes a world of difference in his work, which he says feels easy now.

The lifter enjoys the sport's camaraderie, too, saying with a smile, "The workouts include visitation."

Magnuson credits the father-son owners of River City Ironworx, Todd and Tanner Jenkins, as well as many local power lifters who compete and inspire others.

Most are amazed by 84-year-old local powerlifter Herb Florczyk, who aspires to break records. He and several others from River City Ironworx compete Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Golden Bear Bench Press Classic at the Barron Area Community Center, 800 Memorial Drive.

Ironworx owner Todd Jenkins confirmed that depending on the schedule, the local lifters may compete about six times a year.

"We always have the one in River Falls," said Jenkins about the event during River Falls Days.

He said the gym offers guidance not only in powerlifting but also Olympic style and Strong Man, such as the types that require flipping big tires. The gym also offers aerobics, cross training, classes for members, space for personal training, and fitness rewards for health-care insurance companies.

Magnuson explains that the sport is for men and women. Levels of competition include high school, junior, open and master's levels competition.