This weekend, Zach Gallmann, a fourth-year in history, will join thousands of fellow strongmen in Reno, Nev., for the 13th annual North American Strongman National Championship in hopes of earning an invite to next March’s Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championship in Columbus.
Gallmann’s competition career took a big leap when he switched from the 265-pound weight class to the super heavyweight class.
He has competed in amateur strongman competitions five times in the last year, placing third in San Diego in December, second in Mentor, Ohio in February, second in Pittsburgh in May, second in Maryland in July, and first in Ohio also in July.
Gallmann’s roommate, Will Lake, a fifth-year in civil engineering, went to the competition in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a whole different culture,” Lake said. “They’re all friends and cheering each other on. It’s pretty cool.”
Strongman training is a competitive sport where athletes lift, as Gallmann puts it, “heavy steel objects or heavy stone objects.”
But Gallmann might have never discovered strongman if not for his time in the military.
In 2001, Gallmann, 17 years old at the time, joined the Army.
“It’s something I always wanted to do. My grandfather was in the military,” Gallmann said. “I actually approached a recruiter, not the other way around.”
One hundred pounds lighter than he weighs now, Gallmann served as a medic in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 2001 to 2005, and served another year in the National Guard. He was stationed in Ramadi, Iraq, from 2003 to 2004, running missions throughout the country.
In his time, Gallmann came across about 23 improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, but said things like that didn’t phase him much.
“You don’t think about how much danger you’re in. I used to sit outside the base and smoke cigarettes, just listening to mortars,” Gallmann said. “I’d be like, ‘Oh that one was close.'”
After Gallmann returned to the U.S., a sergeant in his regiment put together a strongman-like competition, which got him interested in the sport.
Placing in the top 15 in the heavyweight division at this weekend’s championship and receiving an invite to next year’s Arnold Classic will be a big step in achieving Gallmann’s goal of becoming a professional strongman.
Gallmann believes that if he wants to make it happen, he can do it.
“A lot of people think opportunities in life are just going to come to them,” Gallmann said. “You just have to put yourself out there and take the reins.”
Or in this case, the bar.