By Paul Lecker
RICHFIELD — At 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, town of Richfield resident Greg Griebel is usually one of the smaller competitors in his division when competing in strongman competitions, but he is not about to let that bother him.
The 44-year-old Griebel, a 1991 Marshfield High School graduate and welder at Berg Equipment in Marshfield, began competition in the sport less than a year ago but already has been to nationals and has officially caught the bug.
Griebel, along with Chili resident and strongman veteran Carl Foemmel, will compete at the Battle on the Barge in La Crosse on July 2, which will be Griebel’s fourth strongman event since September.
Griebel said the size of some his competitors in the Masters heavyweight division, for those ages 40-49, can be intimidating, but he uses it as motivation.
“It can play with you a little bit, being one of the smallest in the division,” Griebel said. “But it gives you more to work for and pushes you.”
Griebel said he began working out about 10 years ago, hitting the gym and lifting weights to get in better shape. In 2007 Griebel began competing in powerlifting competitions, won some events, and then wanted to try something different.
He turned to the world of strongman competitions, which are rigorous, grueling affairs that test a person’s will and stamina as much as his or her strength. Just check out a video online or watch World’s Strongest Man when it is on television if you need proof.
“You can win titles, like wrestling belts, qualify for different meets, earn your pro card, possibly go to the World’s Strongest Man competition. Some events even have prize money,” Griebel said. “I’m doing it to benefit myself.
“I just want to prove that I can do anything I set my mind to do — mind over matter. I push myself to get one more rep or a second faster than my opponent, and sometimes that opponent is myself, and I want to hit a new personal best.”
All events are different, Griebel said, ranging in a number of activities that can include the Fingal’s Finger — flipping over an 18-foot pole, which can weigh as much as 600 pounds, as many times as one can in a minute; the Atlas Stones — lifting large rocks of varying weights; a normal deadlift; or a medley combining a number of events. The medley is one of the events in the competition at La Crosse this weekend.
Griebel turned to Foemmel, who placed fifth in the America’s Strongest Man competition in 2013, to help with training techniques. In turn, Foemmel decided to return to the strongman circuit for the first time since that national event. After competing for more than a decade and being named to the Wisconsin Strongman Hall of Fame last year, Foemmel said he is not sure if it will continue after the La Crosse event, but he “wanted to give it another shot.”
Griebel, however, is in it for the immediate future at least and credits Foemmel a great deal.
“He’s helped me a lot,” Griebel said. “It’s nice to have someone to train with and push me, but he’s also given me tips and ways to train, things that help me get better and push myself.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.