GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador – With a first look at many of the athletes who will vie for spots at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, the U.S. weightlifting team left the 2021 Pan American Championship with the women’s team title and 36 individual medals.
It marked one of USA Weightlifting’s best performances in the event’s history and was made even more impressive by the fact this was the first major senior competition following the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Twelve athletes who were not initially selected to the team were called up when others declined, retired or were injured.
Thirteen Americans stood on the podium, including Olympians Kate Nye and Mattie Rogers who traded golds at 76kg, while every one of the 19 U.S. competitors totaled and 17 of them had a total in the top five in their body-weight category.
“Our team did extremely well,” USA Weightlifting Senior Director of Sport Performance & Coaching Education Mike Gattone said. “It’s exciting to see such a large percentage of our team making their debut for Team USA, and it was especially great to see the women pushing the ones who had been at the top of their weight class for years prior.”
Competing in intense heat and humidity below the equator, nine athletes matched or set new personal records while six athletes won their career-first senior Pan American medals, five of whom did so in their senior international debut.
Beau Brown (89kg) and Mary Theisen-Lappen (+87kg) both went six for six. Brown has now achieved the feat in six of his last seven competitions, while Theisen-Lappen had never before done that at even a national-level meet. Meanwhile, five others – Nathan Damron (96kg), Jacob Horst (73kg), Nye, Taylor Wilkins (64kg), Keiser Witte (+109kg) – went five for six.
Six Americans who competed and medaled at the rescheduled 2020 Pan American Championship, which was held in April 2021, competed in Ecuador seven months later and all six again earned Pan Am medals. Four of them improved on their placements from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Claiming 14 gold medals, 11 silvers and 11 bronzes – 13 of which were awarded for totals – the U.S. ranked second only to Colombia in both the gold and overall medal counts.
Team USA’s performance in Guayaquil was a crucial step on the road to the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, which, aside from the Olympic Games, is the largest multisport competition for athletes in the Americas. Countries that finish in the top three of each gender classification from a combination of results from the 2021 and 2022 Pan American Championships will field a full team in Santiago.
The U.S. led Colombia and Mexico with 740 points on the women’s side and was a solid 91 points ahead of fourth place.
Eight of the 10 U.S. women combined for a whopping 21 medals, while the remaining two – Kelly Wild (59kg), Laura Alexander (87kg) – finished with fourth-place totals in their international debuts.
Team USA’s lightest and heaviest women – Hayley Reichardt (49kg) and Theisen-Lappen – swept the gold medals in their events while Meredith Alwine (71kg) won golds in her clean and jerk and total (plus bronze in snatch), Nye won both her snatch and total (and clean and jerk silver) and Rogers won the clean and jerk while taking silver in the total.
Rogers has now medaled at six consecutive senior Pan American Championships, amassing 17 medals (three golds, 13 silvers, one bronze) from them. Including two as a junior, she has medaled at all eight Pan Ams she entered. Meanwhile, Nye has medaled at six international meets in a row dating back to the Lima 2019 Pan American Games.
Competing abroad for the first time, Maddison Pannell (49kg) earned silver in the clean and jerk and bronze in total, and Mariah Park (71kg) took silver in her clean and jerk and bronze in total. Wilkins had a silver-medal performance in her clean and jerk and earned bronzes in the snatch and total.
“I haven’t been lifting that long, so I see these people like Mattie and like Kate, who are the women of USA Weightlifting, and I never really consider myself as a part of that,” Theisen-Lappen, who accepted the women’s team trophy, said. “It’s awesome that our women did so well but to be an actual contributor, it’s like, okay, this is where you’re supposed to be right now. It was awesome.”
Five U.S. men contributed to that team’s 15 medals, which included total golds from Team USA’s lightest and heaviest men: Hampton Morris (61kg) and Witte.
A month after winning the youth world title, Morris won golds in the clean and jerk and total plus snatch bronze at his first international senior meet. Witte’s silvers in the snatch and clean and jerk led to his big victory.
Damron swept the silver medals in his event for the best result of his career to date. Horst earned snatch silver and bronze in both clean and jerk and total one day after longtime girlfriend Reichardt’s golds, while Brown impressed in his international debut, taking all three bronze medals.
The remaining U.S. men were all in the top six of their events, with Ryan Sester (102kg), Ryan Grimsland (67kg), Darrel Barnes (61kg) and Jordan Wissinger (67kg) earning totals that placed them fourth, fifth, sixth and sixth, respectively.
Down one man, the U.S. was fourth in the men’s team rankings and will be a mere four points out of the top three when the quest for a full Pan American Games team continues at next July’s Pan American Championship in Bogotá, Colombia. Colombia won the men’s trophy with 694 points, followed by the Dominican Republic (627), Mexico (623) and the U.S. (619).
Olympian CJ Cummings (73kg) was initially entered in Ecuador and sought a fourth consecutive trip to the Pan American Championship podium, but he did not compete.
“In close coordination with the personal coach and agent, we entered the athlete as a 73kg athlete,” Gattone said. “However, as weigh-in got closer, CJ had to be withdrawn from competition in the best interests of the athlete’s health. No matter how high the stakes, our athletes’ health must always be front and center.”
After consistently competing at 73kg since September 2018, Cummings will make his debut as an 81kg lifter at next month’s 2021 IWF World Championships.
Nine others from the Pan American Championship team – Alexander, Alwine, Grimsland, Horst, Nye, Rogers, Sester, Wilkins, Witte – will join him in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Download the full results book.
Team USA Results:
Hampton Morris (61kg; Marietta, Ga.; Unattached); Snatch: 117kg (bronze), Clean and Jerk: 151kg (gold), Total: 268kg (gold)
Darrel Barnes (61kg; St. Louis, Mo.; Stable Weightlifting); Snatch: 110kg (7th), Clean and Jerk: 140kg (5th), Total: 250kg (6th)
Ryan Grimsland (67kg; Hickory, N.C.; Mash Elite Performance); Snatch: 129kg (6th), Clean and Jerk: 161kg (5th), Total: 290kg (5th)
Jordan Wissinger (67kg; Hamburg, Pa.; Garage Strength); Snatch: 126kg (7th), Clean and Jerk: 161kg (6th), Total: 287kg (6th)
Jacob Horst (73kg; Reading, Pa.; Garage Strength); Snatch: 137kg (silver), Clean and Jerk: 163kg (bronze), Total: 300kg (bronze)
Beau Brown (89kg; Omaha, Neb.; Heartland Strength); Snatch: 151kg (bronze), Clean and Jerk: 184kg (bronze), Total: 335kg (bronze)
Nathan Damron (96kg; Pittsburg, Calif.; California Strength); Snatch: 163kg (silver), Clean and Jerk: 208kg (silver), Total: 371kg (silver)
Ryan Sester (102kg; Gresham, Ore.; Heroic Barbell Club); Snatch: 156kg (4th), Clean and Jerk: 186kg (4th), Total: 342kg (4th)
Keiser Witte (+109kg; Tempe, Ariz.; Alee Athletics); Snatch: 181kg (silver), Clean and Jerk: 215kg (silver), Total: 396kg (gold)
Hayley Reichardt (49kg; Leesport, Pa.; Garage Strength); Snatch: 83kg, Clean and Jerk: 104kg (gold), Total: 187kg (gold)
Maddison Pannell (49kg; Pittsburg, Calif.; California Strength); Snatch: 75kg (8th), Clean and Jerk: 102kg (silver), Total: 177kg (bronze)
Kelly Wild (59kg; Hayward, Calif.; California Strength); Snatch: 87kg (4th), Clean and Jerk: 110kg (5th), Total: 197kg (4th)
Taylor Wilkins (64kg; McKinney, Texas; Spoon Barbell); Snatch: 92kg (bronze), Clean and Jerk: 119kg (silver), Total: 211kg (bronze)
Meredith Alwine (71kg; Longwood, Fla.; Team O.C.); Snatch: 104kg (bronze), Clean and Jerk: 133kg (gold), Total: 237kg (gold)
Mariah Park (71kg; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Pittsburgh Barbell Club); Snatch: 101kg (5th), Clean and Jerk: 131kg (silver), Total: 232kg (bronze)
Kate Nye (76kg; Berkley, Mich.; Power and Grace Performance); Snatch: 107kg (gold), Clean and Jerk: 133kg (silver), Total: 240kg (gold)
Mattie Rogers (76kg; Geneva, Fla.; Catalyst Athletics); Snatch: 103kg (4th), Clean and Jerk: 134kg (gold), Total 237kg (silver)
Laura Alexander (87kg; San Jose, Calif.; Catalyst Athletics); Snatch: 101kg (4th), Clean and Jerk: 131kg (4th), Total: 232kg (4th)
Mary Theisen-Lappen (+87kg; Omro, Wis.; 1Kilo); Snatch: 117kg (gold), Clean and Jerk: 153kg (gold), Total: 270kg (gold)