Alpena man turns hobby into sport and qualifies for national strongman competition | News, sports, jobs

News photo by Mike Gonzalez Jimmy Wright lifts a large weight over his head in front of his house on Monday.

ALPENA – Jimmy Wright, of Alpena, started his strongman journey last year with three other training friends when they discovered a competition in the Detroit area.

After attending a handful of strongman competitions, Wright won his last in Traverse City, qualifying him to compete in a national competition in Denver on June 8.

Wright is excited to get to nationals, but his focus remains on three things: family, work and training with his three friends.

“There’s nowhere really close by where you can get your hands on the strongman-specific equipment, so we had to buy some equipment,” Wright said. “We all probably have close to $20,000 worth of equipment in our gym, like a loadable barrel, which weighs between 200 and 300 pounds that you carry and run back and forth.”

Wright called the strongman workouts a lot of fun, especially for people who played sports in high school. He said he had competed in three high school sports at Fairview at the time, but didn’t start training until around 2014, when he tried powerlifting as a stress reliever.

News photo by Mike Gonzalez Jimmy Wright lifts a barbell at the Liberty Street Station gym Monday.

Around the same time, Wright said, he had been a heavy smoker for more than a decade and quit the vise in 2018 because he found a new stress reliever and wanted to live a healthier life for his wife and child.

“My father passed away two years ago from health-related issues – things I think he could have prevented,” Wright said. ‘All my… grandparents have now passed away and my father passed away – not at an older age. They all passed away at a younger age than they should have, so for me, staying healthy and being able to be around for my son and maybe grandkids is something I want. That’s why I had to make some changes.”

Wright not only competes in strongman tournaments with three men he met through their local gyms, but also with his wife, Ashley Wright.

While Jimmy Wright prepares for the competition in Denver, Alejandro Gonzales, Spencer Kraft, Mike Witter, Ashley Wright and other gym friends train to compete in a strongman competition in July.

To train, everyone uses the equipment they’ve collected in Gonzales’ garage, which they’ve dubbed the Liberty Street Station.

Courtesy Photo Jimmy Wright prepares to lift a large boulder.

There were circus bells, loadable barrels, large wooden bars and more heavy equipment lying around the room, waiting to be lifted.

Alpena High School track coach Spencer Kraft helps his friends coach.

He said he originally had no data to help them, but as he researched and learned more about heavy lifting training, he became more and more passionate about his title.

“I have been greatly influenced by the coaches I have had, and I love the impact you can have on others,” Kraft said. “With track it’s at a group level, and with this kind of thing it’s much more one-on-one level. It’s a way I can help give back to the people I care about: young people who I think can and should reach higher than I think they reach.”

As Jimmy Wright continues to train for June’s competition, they’re not sure they have the money to make it.

Courtesy Photo Jimmy Wright squats down to start lifting weights.

Ashley and Jimmy Wright, along with Kraft, plan to fly to Denver, and because of the costs of staying there for the weekend, registering for the competition, and bringing extra equipment, they believe the trip will cost $3,000, what they don’t have.

“It’s in Denver,” Jimmy Wright said. “If it was in a nice, small town where you could get a cheap hotel, we’d do well, but the price of food alone isn’t going to be cheap in a city like Denver.”

Ashley Wright has set up an online fundraiser at

Gonzales, Kraft, Witter and Jimmy Wright also have a podcast on Spotify called “Weigh In Weigh Out” where they talk about workout habits and other gym-related topics.

“At some point I would love to have a game here,” Jimmy Wright said. “I think Alpena is big enough and you could get it at the APlex or something like that. Everyone has good intentions and ultimately they become family events where women, children and parents support everyone.”

Courtesy Photo Jimmy Wright prepares to lift a large beam with straps on each side.

News photo by Mike Gonzalez Spencer Kraft, left, talks with Jimmy Wright at the Liberty Street Station gym Monday.

Courtesy Photo From left to right, Spencer Kraft, Alex Gonzales, Mike Witter and Jimmy Wright pose with each other during a strongman competition.

News photo by Mike Gonzalez From left, Spencer Kraft, Jimmy Wright and Alejandro Gonzales pose at Gonzales’ gym at Liberty Street Station on Monday.

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