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Hartselle Enquirer
Photos by Jeronimo Nisa  Jonathon McCleskey will compete in an international strongman contest in Scotland this fall. 

Teen powerhouse invited to compete in international strongman event

Jonathon McCleskey, a senior at Hartselle High School, has proven himself to be a force to be reckoned in the world of strength athletics. After clinching the title of Alabama’s Strongest Teen in August, McCleskey has received an invitation to compete in the World’s Strongest Under 23 Championship in Scotland in November. 

McCleskey’s passion for strength sports began two years ago when he saw a reality documentary on Hulu entitled The Strongest Man in History. The reality-show documentary takes four strongmen, Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw, Robert Oberst and Nick Best around the world investigating strongmen legends as they try to beat the legend and each other in a quest to prove who really is the strongest man in history.  

McCleskey was intrigued. Shortly thereafter, fueled by his natural athleticism and determination, he hit the gym to slim down and build muscle. Today he trains at the Hartselle Fitness Center and the Misfits Barbell Club in Moulton.  

His journey to becoming a competitor on the strongman stage gained momentum when he participated in Alabama’s Strongest Man this past August. In total, he has competed in four Alabama Strongest Teen competitions, bringing home the second and first place title in his first two years, respectively. He also competed in the teen division of the Static Monsters event this past summer that qualified his participation in the USS Nationals. That competition will be held this June in Denver, Colo. 

Strongman competitions usually consist of an overhead press, a carry and a deadlift, according to McCleskey. Other events include Atlas Stones — spherical stones that are lifted and placed at the top of a platform, and Log Presses, log like bars that are lifted and rolled on the chest before being pressed above the head. 


Photo by Jeronimo Nisa  One of the events in strongman competitions is weight deadlifting. In this image, Jonathon McCleskey deadlifts 405 pounds in training. 
 

After a competition, McCleskey said it can take up to a week for his body to return to normal.  

“There’s a lot of ice baths and massages involved,” he said. “It can take a few days of rest and recuperation to heal.”  

The chance to represent his hometown of Hartselle and Alabama on an international platform is a dream come true for the young athlete. McCleskey is preparing to face off against some of the strongest competitors from around the world in Paisley, Scotland Nov. 30. According to the competition’s official website, there are 12 other Americans participating. 

In preparation for the World’s Strongest Under 23 Championship, McCleskey has intensified his training regimen under the guidance of experienced coaches and mentors, including Chris Jacheo of Kaos Strength. His workouts consist of strength training, conditioning and specialized exercises tailored to strongman competitions. Additionally, McCleskey pays close attention to his diet, ensuring that he fuels his body with the nutrients it needs to perform at peak levels during competition. 

“That’s the hardest part,” McCleskey said. “The training is fun but making sure I get enough protein every day is hard.” 

Jacheo said  McCleskey’s invitation to Scotland is a good example of the amount of effort he displays when he competes.  

“I’ve been working with (him) for about two years, and he shows a great deal of potential,” Jacheo said. “The progress he’s made since then and displayed at highly competitive state competitions absolutely puts him among the world class teen strongman athletes.  

“I’m looking forward to working with (him) for many years to come, keeping him healthy and ultimately reaching our goal of competing at World’s Strongest Man. I can easily see that happening in the next five years, which is perfect for him as an athlete, as the sport is really starting to grow in popularity.”

Photo by Jeronimo Nisa Jonathon McCleskey has certificates and awards of his achievements in strongman competitions, such as this certification of having deadlifted 601 pounds in October 2023.

McCleskey is currently fundraising for his trip to the competition. Family friends have set up a GoFundMe account that can be found online and he is also searching for local sponsorships. The goal to cover the cost of the flight and accommodation is estimated at $6,000.  

McCleskey is the son of Garion and Cecilia McCleskey of Hartselle. He will graduate from Hartselle High School May 20. He is currently dual enrolled in college courses in cyber security and plans to pursue a career in the field after graduation.  

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