Doing some heavy lifting

Friends challenge each other with bodybuilding feats


Jayson McNett looks as if he was chiseled, not born. He’s a big boy; 330 pounds worth, in fact. Find an ounce of fat and win a prize.

McNett is a Lucas County deputy sheriff, working out of the county jail. You wouldn’t think he’d get much guff, even from hardened criminals.

“Well, sometimes,” he said. “It’s always the small guys.”

You don’t want to mess with Norm Cairl on the job either. He’s with the Toledo Police Department’s SWAT team. He gets to play with the big guns.

And it doesn’t hurt that the 242-pound Cairl can bench press 501 pounds, dead lift 589, and squat 786 pounds.

Cairl has his own keys to Iron Works Gym and often arrives before owner Jimmy Momany, who’s not much of a morning person.

“If you can’t trust the police, who you gonna trust?” Momany asks while yawning.

In the late 1980s, Momany was a world champion, benching three times his body weight. He then turned his attention away from power-lifting to bodybuilding and became the first — and thus far only — Toledoan to earn professional status with the International Federation of Bodybuilding.

Slap some oil on Momany, ask him to strike a few poses, and those 52-year-old muscles would still bulge, ripple, and glisten with the best of them.

His main interest these days, though, is Iron Works, and it is a serious interest because this is a serious gym.

If your fitness center interests include line after line of shiny machines equipped with individual TV screens, juice bars, indoor tracks, and gazing at pretty girls in spandex, this ain’t the place for you.

Iron Works is a hole in the wall of a small, tired strip mall hidden behind a gas station at the corner of McCord and Angola in beautiful downtown Holland. If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t know it was there.

Oh, Jimmy has some nice second-hand machines. There’s a TV. There’s a cooler filled with healthy drinks behind the counter. Depending on when you stop by, there might be a few pretty girls. Gaze too long and you could end up in traction.

This is a gym for barbells and weights. It’s old-school. It’s a gym for power-lifters. It’s the gym where you find guys like McNett and Cairl. Serious guys.

How serious?

McNett, 33, started training and competing seven years ago. A couple weeks ago, he entered a national event in Grand Rapids, Mich., and bench-pressed 816.8 pounds. It is a World Powerlifting Congress super heavyweight division world record.

“I didn’t expect it,” he said. “I went to have fun and was really concentrating on my teammates, who had more people in their weight classes. I was warming up and a friend asked me what I was looking to do. I said, ‘anything over 800.’ My first bench was 733 and everybody was saying to go after the record. Why not?”

So he went after it. And what does he tell guests at the county lockup when they ask what he benches?

“Buicks,” Momany quipped before McNett could answer.

McNett also has recorded one of the top squats in the world at 1,100 pounds. He dead lifts more than 700 pounds.

He won’t be making the trip to the WPC Worlds in West Palm Beach, Fla., next November by himself. Based on the weights mentioned earlier, Cairl also qualified at the same national tournament in Michigan.

They’ve been training together for 2½ years, unlocking the door at Iron Works, often before the sun is up, five or six days a week.

But Cairl, 53, has been at this for a while, longer even than the 27 years he’s been working with the SWAT team. Early on, he won the Toledo Open and finished third in his first state meet, catching what he calls “the bug.”

Cairl has won state competitions eight times in four different weight classes and is a regular at the Police Olympics. His three-lift total ranks in the top 25 nationally in his weight division and he owns the fifth best all-time squat (805) in the 40-and-over age group.

“Norm got better with age, and you don’t see that very often,” Momany said.

Cairl could compete solely in the masters division based on age, but still enters open competition, “because I still like to go against the young kids.”

Probably, too, because he can still whip ’em.

Both of the law enforcement officers think their avocation helps with their vocations.

“The obvious reason for me, I guess, is all the equipment we carry,” Cairl said. “But I’m also a huge believer that if you look confident, people are less apt to test you.”

Added McNett: “We know we can handle ourselves and not collapse under pressure.”

Collapse? These guys? There’s a better chance the floor at Iron Works will collapse first from all the weights in the place. It’s a serious gym for serious lifters … and for a world record-holder..

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: or 419-724-6398.