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Three from New Ken set for strongman event

Joe Sharrow is pushing 50 years old, but even after shoulder and hernia surgeries, the Lower Burrell resident prefers to push the limits of his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame.

"You've got to go about things smarter. You can't go all gung-ho like we did 20 years ago," Sharrow said of his weight training. "After the hernia (operation), the doc said, 'I'd be happy if you never squatted again.' I gave it six months."

Sharrow, 47, will lead a three-man contingent from New Kensington's Valley Points YMCA to compete in the Oil Region's Strongest Man III contest. The five-event competition starts at 10 a.m. today in Justus Park in Oil City.

Sharrow, a bodybuilder by trade, has recruited two New Kensington men, Shannon Kahne and Vaughn Sikorski. Kahne, 38, will compete in the heavyweight novice division, while Sikorski, 43, is in the masters heavyweight.

"Joe was after me for about a year to do this, and I finally thought, 'You work out at a gym, but what do you work out for?' " Sikorski said. "I can't play football anymore, and if I play hoops, it's got to be half-court because of my knees. This is one of the few things you can do at my age and do well."

The Oil City event attracted 47 competitors in 2010 and is expecting more this year after widening its divisions. While Kahne is competing in his second strongman competition, Sikorski (6-4, 275 pounds) is coming off a first-place finish at the Allegheny Valley YMCA strongman competition in June.

"It's nice I still have some athletic ability, and that helps a lot," Sikorski said. "It gives you an advantage in some events like the farmer's walk against these bulkier guys."

The quintet of events today are: the log press, tire flip, farmer's walk, 18-inch dead lift and Atlas stones.

There's some serious weight involved. For instance, the dead lift device — a standard barbell with fixed weights — weighs 375 pounds.

After competing in the Oil Region's inaugural show two years ago, Sharrow looks forward to a triumphant return.

"I had such a good time. The people in the sport want to try and help you out. It's not (cutthroat)," Sharrow said. "It's 80 percent mind over body. Compared to bodybuilding, you're not being judged by a panel of seven people saying how you should look. With strongman, you either do it, or you don't."

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