The Arnold Classic is second only to World’s Strongest Man in terms of accolades in the strongman circuit. It is renowned for being the heaviest strongman show around, with every single event requiring competitors to move truly insane numbers. This means the show favors the bib boys, the man mountains who live to squat, deadlift, and press as heavy as possible. Gone are the events where lighter athletes can win simply endurance, replaced by mass-moving-mass freak shows. Mariusz Pudzianowski, legendary strongman who won five World’s Strongest Man titles, never finished in the top 4 at an Arnold Classic because he couldn’t stack up to the pure power of legends like Zydrunas Savickas. As any of the two of you who read this paper regularly will have picked up on by now, I am quite the fan of the beauty of being statically strong, so I cannot wait to see some massive weights get moved in a month’s time. With that in mind, here are my predictions for who will finish in the top 5.
5th: Oleksii Novikov
Novikov is by no means a very statically dominant strength athlete, so anyone who follows strongman at all will most likely be very confused as to why I have him breaking into the top 5. The answer is that while he is by no means expected to win any event at the Arnold, he will be in and around the mix for 4th-5th on EVERY event. Novikov is one of those all-rounders who just doesn’t have one obvious weakness. If he averages around 5th place in every event, then well… How could he place anywhere else? Even if I am not exactly correct in my prediction, Novikov will almost certainly end up between 4th and 6th. Unspectacular, but not ineffective.
4th: Mateusz Kieliszkowski
Mateusz (as I will reer to him, because spelling that last name over and over will give me a headache) is a tricky athlete to predict placings for. He is notoriously strong overhead, famously one-motioning massive weights in the log press for multiple reps in past competitions. However, he falls behind significantly in lower-body dominant events. I think he will fair better in the squat than in a deadlift event, which is historically a weak event for him, but even then it is unlikely he will place any higher than 4th place. But, if all goes well and his tricep is back to full strength after a lengthy recent history of tears, he will be well in the running to win the log, dumbell, and stone events, which could be enough to squeak him into the top two. Still, given the competition from another massive presser yet to come on this list, it is unlikely he wins all three, and Mateusz will fall further behind on the timber carry and squat events, leaving him to find his way to (around) 4th place. Don’t be surprised if the consistent mediocrity of Novikov surpasses Mateusz’s up and down form.
3rd: Trey Mitchell
I see Trey as simply a more statically-advanced form of Novikov entering this competition. Mitchell isn’t as well-rounded overall as Novikov, but is by far more accomplished across all of the static strength lifts. He can press, squat, and deadlift a small house without issue, and his relative lack of mobility compared to the Ukrainian won’t be exposed at such a statically-focussed show. In much the same way as I expect Novikov to average around a 5th placing, Mitchell ought to average between 2nd and 4th. There will be a with Mateusz for 3rd I believe, with the difference being whether Trey’s results on the carry and squat will be enough to overcome whatever advantage Mateusz takes from the pressing events. If he can hang around the Pole in the pressing portion of the competition, which I think he will given he won the log press for max event at the 2021 Shaw Classic back in August. He may even push the next man on this list for second if he comes in fully healthy and firing. Regardless, I expect Mitchell to crack the top four at a minimum.
2nd: Jean-Francois (JF) Caron
JF Caron is in the form of his life at the moment, having just won the Forca Bruta in Brazil against a few top competitors, he also placed top three at the Shaw Classic, and was in the running to make the podium at the Rogue Invitational 2021 up until a shoulder injury. Further, he is arguably the strongest man in the world statically on his day. JF has extensive experience in powerlifting, and I fully expect him to take the squat event. He will be hard pressed to win the pressing events (pun fully intended) given competition from Mateusz and the man I have winning the show, but is explosive enough to stay in amongst the mix on all three, and is more mobile than he is given credit for, leaving the door wide open for him to score valuable points on the timber carry. JF may not be as well-rounded as someone like Trey, and may have even been beaten by him at the Shaw Classic, but he looks truly unbeatable at the moment. Every weight he moves in training looks effortless. In all honestly, it is more of a toss up to see who takes second between Caron and Mitchell, but in a gut feeling scenario, I’m giving JF the nod.
1st: Martins Licis
Finally back in the mix for top titles after over a year away from the sport dealing with a number of injuries, Martins Licis is my pick to win the 2022 Arnold Classic Strongman title. He has the best all-around combination of consistency and pure strength, with the mobility to match. Martins has log pressed 430lbs for a double in competition in the past, and has 903lbs without a deadlift suit. I expect his static strength to be equally as impressive in the squat, as his numbers in training back up. He recently trained with JF Caron, and moved a nearly 700lb squat like he was carrying a sheet of paper on his back. Additionally, he will be the man to rival Mateusz in the pressing events, and remains one of the strongest athletes overhead in the world. Martins has also made clear in several interviews the importance with which he treats mobility training, and so should be no slouch in the frame carry. Oh, and here’s the kicker: the stone used for the stone to shoulder event is Odd Haugen’s famous “tombstone” stone, used in many competitions throughout strongman. Licis’ coach? Yep, you guessed it: Odd Haugen. Everything seems to be in line for Martins to return to the forefront of strongman for the first time since his WSM title in 2019, and I would be a fool to bet against him making it happen.