Those were the words DC Brawlers head coach, Justin Cotler, told the camera in a walk-by appearance of an interview with the Brawlers’ strong woman. Truer words have likely never been spoken. Very few people, men included, watching that interview could deny his words. And yes Taylar Stallings is stronger than me. Here Taylar deadlifts 534lbs:
Taylar Stallings is a former track and field thrower at the University of South Florida where she starred in the discuss, hammer, and shot put. Taylar is also a professional powerlifter who competes raw and drug free. She currently is the #1 ranked women’s Raw powerlifter in the country in the 165lb category with a combined powerlifting total (deadlift, bench press, back squat) of 1265 lbs! Pound for pound you do not see this often — Taylar only weighs 165 lbs in the 534 lb deadlift seen in the video above. I can say with reasonable certainty that Taylar will be the strongest female in the NPGL.
While Taylar is clearly an impressive powerlifter, her talents far supersede the bench, deadlift, and back squat. During Friday and Saturday’s National Pro Grid League (NPGL) exhibition matches, Taylar more than proved herself on the Olympic lifts and even proved stellar on the gymnastic moves, such as chest-to-bar pull-ups and muscle-ups. Plain and simple, Taylar Stallings is stronger than you. With all of her strength, you might expect that Taylar carried her DC Brawlers all the way to the finals of the pre-season tournament.
But that would not tell the whole story. The truth is, the DC Brawlers have the most impressive lineup of women for the sport of GRID. Sure, teams like the LA Reign with Lindsey Valenzuela, Kristen Clever, Valerie Voboril, and Becky Conzelman might look like the most impressive team–and don’t get me wrong–they are SUPER impressive, but Grid is not CrossFit. Grid is a more power-based sport, a more sprint-oriented sport, and ultimately, it is a team sport. Time will tell which roster can master the teamwork aspect of Grid the best, but based on what we all saw in the exhibitions, very few teams came close to the power and speed of the Brawlers’ ladies. Note: with Justin Cotler’s leadership it is hard to imagine any team will be more together and more organized than the Brawlers.
The Master Plan
From the beginning, the Brawlers made the female half of their team the priority. If you are new to the NPGL (formerly the NPFL), each of the teams were allowed to sign 8 athletes prior to the draft and the Brawlers got a late start, since they were one of the final three teams to be selected into the NPGL. Being a huge DC sports fan and a fan of fitness, I naturally became a Brawlers fan even before they signed their first athlete, Lindsay Bourdon. The day they signed Lindsay I looked her up and I was super excited — plainly she is badass. I told Steph about her and Steph right away contacted her for an interview (coming soon — sign up for a free subscription in the side bar so you do not miss out on that piece). This was the first of many moves in which the Brawlers put the priority of their team on the women. The NPGL is a co-ed league, so naturally the casual fan (like me), would think you should put equal emphasis on both the men and the women. So when the first several signings DC made were all women, super awesome women I might add, I thought, when are they going to start signing men?
Coming into the draft, the Brawlers looked impressive despite their late start — Lindsay Bourdon, Christy Adkins, Janet Black, Taylar Stallings, Marcus Hendren, Christian Harris, Jerry Hill, Alec Smith, and the late addition of Ken Battiston.
With an already packed female squad including Taylar Stallings, Lindsay Bourdon, and Christy Adkins, surely the first draft pick would be a man right? Especially when on the eve of the draft, Alec Smith, one of the Brawler’s top male athletes, was put on the injured reserve list for the season.
I, like the NPGL announcers for the draft, just assumed the first pick would be a replacement for the injured Alec Smith. I assumed Noah Olsen would go first or second and the Brawlers picked fourth so I was hoping they would select Nick DelGrande, an athlete very similar to Alec Smith. But then Nick went first overall to the Miami Surge. Being new to the sport and not having watched all of the combines, I listened to the announcers as they talked about athletes who would be excellent replacements for Alec. And then the pick came for the Brawlers and I heard, “Alea Helmick.” That is not one of the names the announcers were discussing? Actually that is not even a man, whoa wait a minute, Alea Helmick? I know that name. Alea is awesome! Steph and I watched Alea at the 2013 CrossFit Regionals and after I realized she was the Brawlers’ first pick, I could not have been happier with this pick.
Alea Helmick lives in the DC area and is married to Gary Helmick, an impressive functional fitness athlete in his own right. Gary owns CrossFit Revamped in Columbia, MD and Alea is a teacher (how cool is that!) Gary and Alea train together and both have been strong competitors the past two years in the Mid Atlantic CrossFit Regionals. Alea’s main contribution to the Brawlers will be her strength and overall athleticism. She is a phenomenal athlete — a former collegiate hurdler, Alea hurdled her Mid Atlantic competition, finishing in 4th place in a very competitive CrossFit Regional after doing CrossFit for only one year.
After watching Alea get drafted I thought to myself, Ok so the next pick is definitely going to be a guy to replace Alec or at least a really strong male athlete right? After all, our women are already stacked and you can only play so many women at a time. Then the pick came in and NPGL Founder, Tony Budding, announced Abby Graham — another incredibly strong female. I understood then that the DC plan was to clearly build the team’s strength through its women.
Abby Graham trains at CrossFit 1Force in West Deptford, NJ. Abby, a former collegiate soccer player, is already a favorite of the NPGL announcers. Through the Vegas Combine and Miami exhibitions she has been referred to as “MVP,” “Clutch,” and a “Closer.” Abby’s main contribution to the Brawlers will be her tremendous strength on the barbell and her ability to pull out clutch performances in critical times.
The next four draft picks for the Brawlers were in fact men, including what I consider one of the steals of the draft, Tim Paulsen in round four.
Brawlers Master Plan
And so the DC Brawlers were beginning to shape into a team where our women would most likely be the best in the league and our men could hold their own. It really is quite genius. Most of the teams will have strong men. But let us be real, how many Taylar Stallings are there in the world? I cannot believe there is even one — she is truly out of this world. Couple her strength with a gymnast like Bourdon, a super star like Adkins, and surely we will dominate the female competition. And boy did they dominate this past weekend!
The Matches Begin
The Brawlers women dominated over Boston Iron and the DC men did their part as well. Brawlers flew out of the gates winning 5 straight races and ultimately the match, which advanced them further to take on the New York Rhinos in the semifinals. And once again facing the NY Rhinos, the Brawlers’ women shined:
Both teams had standout performances by several key players, however, the Rhinos could not overcome the strength of the D.C. women, who proved to be the determining factor. — Katie Martin (NPGL Reporter)
Brawlers Women Cannot Be Beaten
Taylar Stallings, Abby Graham, Alea Helmick, and 8th round pick Lauren Conner (another steal in the draft) proved invincible! The DC ladies won all 12 female-only races in the two days of exhibitions. And to make matters worse, in each match’s race 7, an extra bonus point was awarded to the team whose women lifted the most weight. Coming into each race 7 (a strength ladder), all the other teams had to strategize how to make up for this lost point since they knew there was no way to beat the DC women. Master plan = you can’t beat our women…
The Brawlers defeated the Rhinos and moved on to the final vs. the red hot San Francisco Fire.
Lauren Conner was a track star at the University of Arkansas. Lauren, a former police officer, currently trains at CrossFit ARX in Toms River, NJ. Lauren is a very well rounded fitness athlete; with excellent strength; she is outstanding at body-weight movements; and she possesses a tremendous competitive spirit, which should help fire up her teammates as they look forward to the upcoming inaugural season of Grid.
The Brawlers jumped out to a huge lead, winning the first four races (in Grid their are 11 races in each match). But then sandbags entered the equation. Apparently sandbags are the Brawlers’ kryptonite. Couple the difficult movement of deficit handstand push-ups with sandbags as well as a few tough calls from the refs, and the Fire came from behind to win in the final race to defeat the Brawlers 17-15.
I think we caught a couple of tough breaks. It hurt us not finishing the handstand push-up race and we’ve had a lot of trouble with that damn sandbag. — Justin Cotler
Will the Brawlers Bring a Championship to DC?
If you asked me this question prior to this past weekend, my answer would have been “Eventually, but not this year.” I could tell after watching the Vegas combines and after interviewing Justin Cotler that we likely had the best coach and I knew our athletes were awesome. But I did not think we could compete with teams like the Rhinos, led by former CrossFit games winner, Iceland Annie, or the super star filled LA Reign. But the Brawlers are for real. And with rules like bonus points given to the team with the highest female combined lifting totals, there are very few teams out there that can compete with the balanced and super strong women of DC.
So get ready DC, a champion (other than the Nationals), might be coming to us this fall!
But I can promise you by the time the season starts, we will be the best team in the league. I won’t sleep until we are. — Justin Cotler
These past two days have shown me a lot of things: I can be on the floor with two barbells and never have to touch them ever, we have a very strong group of girls that can do everything, our guys will never shy away from a fight, our coach will never shy away from a fight, our management are pretty smart, and I am so proud to be a BRAWLER! — Taylar Stallings
Hard to argue with someone stronger than me. I know I am excited. I cannot wait to see the other drafted women and men compete. Clearly Brawlers management has an eye for talent! To find more about who else DC drafted click here.
Are you excited about the NPGL? The Brawlers? Is Taylar Stallings stronger than you? Let us know in the comments section.
Justin Cotler’s quotes were originally published at NPGL.com. Taylar Stallings quote was published on her instagram account @Taylarmade — where you should definitely follow this star in the making. And I want to give a special thanks to the NPGL for providing Strong Figure with such awesome photos.
Since writing this article, we are sad to discover that Alea Helmick will not be participating in the NPGL. We do not know officially why Alea has made this decision and although we have read most of the rumors, even in our own comments section, we do not want to speculate on what is certainly only circumstantial evidence. The Brawlers have replaced Alea with Ingrid Kantola.