Ryan Critti fights through adversity to become renowned power lifter

Ryan Critti in the middle of a deadlift Photo Credit: Ryan Critti

Ryan Critti in the middle of a deadlift
Photo Credit: Ryan Critti

By Ryan Gaydos

At the age of 18-years-old, it is hard to imagine yourself to be physically unable to perform on the field in a sport that you love. For senior Ryan Critti, that is what he was told senior year at Mater Dei High School, in Middletown, N.J., after suffering four concussions and two reconstructive shoulder surgeries 11 months apart. Critti lost an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision scholarship in the process.

Through one dream ended on the field, another dream began off the field inside the gym.

“After losing the scholarship,” Critti said, “I needed to do something to keep the competitiveness inside of me going, while still being some sort of an athlete.”

Getting to the point where he wanted to be was not easy. Eating is a big thing and to become a big-time power lifter, you need to eat and train in the gym a lot.

“You need to eat and eat a lot,” he said. “I’m eating anywhere from five to eight meals a day and I am in the gym from about an hour to an hour and a half per day.”

Critti, a psychology major on the pre-physical therapy track, has trained for about two and a half years and has been competing in events around the state for one year. Keeping track of his progress, he has also progressed in the past year being able to lift more than ever.

“This past September, my total went up 185 pounds,” he said. “My first total ever was 1375 in the best of three attempts in squats, bench [press], and deadlift. My squat at the time was world record at 525, my bench was 320 and my deadlift was 530.”

“When I competed in South Jersey I went from a 525 squat to a 595 squat, my bench was 320 and my deadlift went to 565. This past September my squat would have been 605, my bench to 355, my dead to 600.”

Critti was able to set a record in his federation, the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate. His record for the junior raw classic division still stands at 525-lbs his class. Raw classic means using the lifting belt and wearing an amateur wrestling-type uniform.

Critti almost set another record but his squat did not count because the bar was not parallel. The suits that power-lifters wear are designed to go just to parallel and with controversy behind what is and what is not parallel, power-lifters such as Critti have to abide by what the judge considers parallel. The judge in his particular meet wanted lifters to get their hamstrings to touch their calves, an extremely hard feat to accomplish with 500-plus pounds of weight on your back.

“On the third try, my left leg seized up on me,” Critti said, “so instead of falling with the weight, I decided not to fall and get pinned by the bar but just stand back up with it and have the squat not count.”

After that Critti converted to an ironman, which is a push-pull or in other words, a bench press dead lift. Critti won first place in the junior raw ironman division at the Supreme Iron Warrior World Championship.

“I train specifically on how the judge at the meet, but so far they use different judges, which makes me alter my training even more. I try to get strict in detail in how low and deep I go to get a valid squat.”

Converting from a team sport like football to an individual sport like powerlifting seems like a tough transition to go through, but for Critti, who sports a boisterous brown beard like much of his competition, he assimilated easily into the community.

“It is all a lot of fun,” he said. “When you go to a meet you’ll see all the power-lifters rooting for each other. It’s not like some other sports where you are looking down at your competition or your bad mouthing them. It is a brotherhood. Everyone wants to see everyone do the best they can to make themselves better.”

An amateur like Critti is also looking for a way to get his name out there even more and although, signing with Tokkyo Nutrition, a New Hampshire based company, he is doing everything on his own.

“I’m probably as broke as you can get right now,” he said with a deep laugh. “The only thing I have going for me is my girlfriend Brittany, my family, my mom, my dad and my sister who have been there with me since day one.

Next for Critti is to try to get a team.

“It helps when you have a team with who have the same interests you have. They help spot you and motivate you. Right now it’s either I lift by myself or train with my girlfriend. In this sport, I’m a big fish in an ocean.”

Next for Critti is to get back to full strength. Critti is taking time off from competing to get is autonomic nervous system back to 100 percent. The autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, digestion and respiratory rate among other things in your body.

His schedule is packed with the South Jersey Rumble in the spring, Worlds next September and a big meet in Ohio next October. If all goes well, the final goal will is to compete in the North American and New Jersey State Championship Powerlifting meet in 2015.

“I want satisfaction knowing that I pushed myself to the furthest my body can handle as well as leaving a legacy of some sort. Everyone wants to go pro and get sponsors and endorsements and if that happens, that’d be great. If not it is no skin off my back. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the next couple years, just try to pass on whatever knowledge I have to other people.”


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