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Recap of the 2017 Arnold Classic

Branden Liezert

Contest Coverage Sponsored by Allmax Nutrition

The 2017 edition of The Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio, lived up to the hype. As always, it was one of the most exciting events of the IFBB Pro calendar year. It’s really the first big show to launch the year and has been since 1989, constantly getting bigger and better. The predictions for the main event of the Men’s Open bodybuilding were almost unanimously in favour of Cedric McMillan and Dallas McCarver battling it out for the title, but there were also some major upsets. We saw a relative unknown take home the Women’s Physique Division crown, as well as a monstrous upset in the coveted Figure category.

Men’s Open (My predictions in parenthesis)
1. Cedric McMillan (1): After doing everything he could’ve possibly done except win at the Arnold Classic in previous years, “Big Mac” finally took home top honours. After being a crowd favourite for many years in Columbus, it was finally his year. He ended the competition with what is possibly the greatest post-show winning speech ever in the IFBB, even coaxing Arnold himself to hit a pose.



2. Dallas McCarver (2): Maybe the talk of the show, McCarver had a lot of content coming out of his camp leading up to the competition. Most popular was that of a posing session leading up to the show where McCarver showed difficulty holding in his midsection and hitting poses. In social media pictures, he looked phenomenal. He gave Cedric a run for his money, but ultimately came in too heavy and wasn’t dry or hard enough.

3. Maxx Charles (7): Charles prepped for Ohio with a new coach, Johnny Casalena, and it paid off big-time! Charles was at his best shape yet at the Arnold. I had my doubts about this pairing and, to be honest, thought Charles had zero-chance at cracking this year’s top three. He brought a completely new package to this show with nasty conditioning and added leg size. From the moment he walked out at prejudging, you could see this was a noticeably tighter Charles. He very well may have been the best conditioned athlete in the division.

4. Lionel Beyeke (6): Beyeke finished out his 2016 calendar year with a big win in San Marino looking awesome under the tutelage of George Farah. However, things didn’t happen quite as planned, and he showed up looking like the 70 percent conditioned version we are all used to seeing. This, to me, is proof that he is not behind his conditioning woes.

5. Juan Morel (3): Morel needed to show up with virtually no weaknesses to place top three, except the expected upper body to lower body size discrepancy. Well, on this particular day, his legs were super flat. His conditioning was good, not great, so that hurt him as well. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best version of Morel, and his placing suffered because of that.

6) Fouad Abiad (4): Abiad injured his quad a few weeks out, and it was definitely visible onstage. The progress photos he was putting out leading up to the show were absolutely gnarly, and while he didn’t have the best structure or genetics, his conditioning propelled him into the top six.

Men’s 212

1) Ahmad Ashkanani: Ashkanani came out of nowhere to win last year’s Tampa Bay Pro. From there, he finished runner-up to James “Flex” Lewis at the Olympia and served notice to the 212 division. He somehow managed to come in bigger at this show while remaining just as hard! The 212 starboy of the Camel Crew looks to be travelling to the New York Pro next, and if I were Lewis, I would be paying close attention to that competition.




2) David Henry: The former 202 Mr. Olympia champion brought what I consider maybe one of the most beautiful physiques pound-for-pound of the entire weekend to the stage to do battle. When he hit his hands-together most-muscular shot, I couldn’t find a single thing to nitpick. His legs were still a bit on the smaller side, which is something that will likely not change now that he is in his 40s. Unfortunately, he was just overshadowed by the slightly bigger Ashkanani.

3) Jose Raymond: For Raymond, this was an especially meaningful and big show. At the 2016 Olympia, he was not at his best. He was narrowly edged out by Ashkanani for second place at that show. He aimed to come back with a vengeance. Well, Jose came out and looked good, not great. In such a talented lineup, that’s going to cost you, and it unfortunately did for The Boston Mass.

4) Guy Cisternino: Probably the most “hardcore” competitor in the 212 division, Cisternino visibly worked harder onstage for his placing than any other athlete. He was arguably in the best condition of anyone he was pitted against as well. Structurally, he was probably the least gifted out of the top five, but he was in such good shape it propelled him up a spot or two.

5) Zane Watson: Watson’s finals posing routine was a true work of art. Watson brought a very aesthetic look to Columbus. It was precise game-day conditioning that allowed Watson top make the coveted top five at the Arnold.

Hidetada Yamagishi: After a disappointing finish at last year’s Olympia, it seemed as though Yamagishi would right the wrongs at the show from which he claimed a win 2016. It was not the case. His conditioning was far off what it needed to be, and he was docked because of it.

Women’s Physique

1. Daniely Castilho: Castilho pulled off a shocker in Ohio! Her package included abs of steel, total femininity, and, in my opinion, the best side shots of the division. She made a huge progression from her 2016 IFBB Puerto Rico Pro performance and was rewarded deservingly.

2. Sheronica Henton: Well, the biggest “guns” in the division would definitely go to Henton. Along with that, she brought nearly flawless conditioning and breathtaking back development to lock up second place.

3. Heather Grace: Grace looked amazing, and I believe this particular package would’ve been good enough for a win at the 2016 edition of this show. Look for Grace to make a big impact at this year’s Olympia.

4. Brooke Walker: Wow. Walker brought it to Columbus. This starting point could make for Walker’s best season yet as an IFBB Pro if she can steadily make improvements with coach Jose Raymond. As I’ve written in previous articles, look for Walker to make 2017 a breakout year.

5. Autumn Swansen: Last year’s champ was the odds-on favourite coming in, even though she came in a little off at the Olympia. She couldn’t replicate her title-winning conditioning and placed fifth.


1. ​Oksana Grishina: No surprise here! Oksana came out with an improved physique and dazzling fitness routine round to reclaim the title of Miss Fitness International. It was Grishina’s show to lose from the get-go.​

2. Regiane Da Silva: A very conditioned Da Silva came out and grabbed second place with great routine that was second only to the champ.

3. Whitney Jones: “WoJo” brought what I thought was her best package to date to this show and was rewarded with a top-three finish.


1. Candice Lewis Carter: In a huge surprise, Lewis Carter came out and took home top honours in Ohio! Her extremely bulbous delts, tiny waist, and flaring quads proved to be too much for the competition.

2. Cydney Gillon: Gillon finished runner-up and brought fantastic conditioning and probably the best back development in the entire division.

3. Latorya Watts: 2013 NPC USA champion and current Ms. Figure International and Ms. Olympia, Watts was relegated to third place in a stunning upset.



Men’s Physique

Ryan Terry: Terry showed up with possibly the most ripped midsection this division had ever seen. Terry was able to couple that with big, full shoulders, a tremendous V-taper, and an overall overwhelming amount of muscle to take home the first-place prize.

Andre Ferguson: Runner-up Ferguson went on to win the Hawaii Pro the following weekend with small improvements being made. It was a very close decision for first in Columbus, which makes things very interesting moving towards the Olympia.

Brandon Hendrickson: Local boy Hendrickson was probably the bettor’s favourite coming into the show. I felt his physique was good enough to push Terry and Ferguson to the wire. At the end of the day, third place at the second-biggest show in the world? Not bad.


1. Angelica Teixeira: One word to summarize the package that Teixeira brought to the stage: beautiful. From the tan to the suit and from the hair to the jewellery, Teixeira was the eye-catcher of the lineup. She presented a strong-looking (capped shoulders) yet sexy and elegant look to the stage and walked away Ms. Bikini International by one point on the scorecards.

2. Courtney King: The reigning Ms. Olympia was expected to win the Arnold Classic coming into Ohio with an amazing amount of momentum. In bikini, it often comes down to the look the judges want on that day, and on that day, King wasn’t exactly the look they wanted, in my opinion.

3. Jennifer Ronzitti: I thought Ronzitti captured the perfect conditioning for the Bikini division on this year’s Arnold Ohio weekend. Beyond that, her glam was magnificent and her red suit matched her overall look perfectly. Ronzitti has evolved her look in the past 10 to 12 months and will fight for the Olympia title in 2017.

Allmax At the Arnold Classic

The 2017 Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus was another huge success for Team Allmax! This year they celebrated 15 years of ISOFLEX and the introduction of their brand new flavor Birthday Cake. They couldn’t be more proud to see Allmax continue to grow and thrive as it has over the past 15 years. People came by the booth for free pieces of birthday cake, to sample the ALL-NEW Limited Edition ISOFLEX Birthday Cake flavor, and they even had a live DJ spinning only the best high-energy tracks! Among noteable celebrities at the booth were: Steve and Amanda Kuclo, Felice Herrig, Max Holloway, and Jennifer Ronzitti! Speaking of that particular Pro, it was great to see her take home 3rd place in Bikini at her very first Arnold Classic! Allmax had an increidbly successful weekend and we were fortunate to have them sponsor our contest coverage of this monumental event.