By BURT ANGELI
IRON MOUNTAIN - The lightweight champion in the North American Strongman Nationals credits one of the U.P. Strongman organizers for his success.
Dana Skytta of Republic captured the national amateur title in Tunica, Miss., after placing ninth the previous year.
Jim Butler, Bill Santilli and Lee Nylund direct the annual U.P. Strongman at Runkle Lake Park in Crystal Falls. Skytta placed third in the 2009 U.P. Strongman, middleweight; first in 2010, lightweight; second in 2011, heavyweight, and first in 2012, heavyweight.
"Jim Butler loaned me his equipment and gave me a new life as a strongman putting on the U.P. Strongman in Crystals Falls," Skytta said.
In the under-200 pounds division, Skytta competed in seven events over two days:
250-pound axle clean and press - "I've been training this event hard," Skytta said. "I knew I was good at it but I wanted a shot at the national record of nine reps." He settled for seven.
760-pound yoke carry to 600-pound frame carry - "I was confident and attacked the yoke passively and then aggressively," said Skytta, winning the event in a "mind blowing" 23 seconds after a top practice time of 38 seconds.
350-pound Husafeldt stone carry for distance - Despite not training for this event, Skytta went over 300 feet and prevailed for the second straight year. "I don't own the implement and using other things that weigh that much like a sand bag just don't cut it for me," he said.
330-pound Atlas stone over 54-inch bar - Skytta, second overall entering this event, made one rep but missed two to finish third.
175-pound circus dumb bell - "This event was the one I focused on more than any other," Skytta said. "I had very little experience with this apparatus." A tip from a competitor helped Skytta with one successful attempt.
600 to 700-pound car deadlift - Skytta lost the lead to Chase Karnes after this event where organizers changed the height and added 100 pounds to the car. Skytta backs out after feeling pain on two attempts.
Strongman Fitness Suicide Medley (carry 230-pound sand bag, 230-pound keg, 360-pound duck walk and drag a 600-pound sled 50 feet for time) - "This was the event I was most excited for," Skytta said. "I could show off my speed because I knew I was the fastest man there and also show my endurance and agility. Typically, the guys I compete against are shorter, wider and thicker than me. After the medley I collapsed and didn't move much for five to 10 minutes. "
Skytta or Karnes would be announced as the winner at the banquet.
"All I knew was I gave it everything I had and left everything I worked for on the field that day," he said.
At the banquet, Skytta's "guts danced around in his body" until he was named the champion.
"I'll never in my life forget this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment," Skytta said.
Skytta credited many people including his parents, Dennis and Carla Skytta.
"This national championship is for the people who have helped me pave the way for my success," he said.
Skytta was a track & field standout at Republic Michigamme High School and Lake Superior State University. In addition to Crystal Falls, Skytta has also won "Strongman" honors at Alpena, Detroit , Flint and Mount Pleasant.