King of the North powerlifting competition 2023 takes over Dickinson

Powerlifting showcase expands to three days in the biggest event of its kind in North Dakota.

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A powerlifter attempts to complete a deadlift at last-year's King of the North powerlifting event.
Special to The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON – Do you wanna know what it’s like to be “King”?

North Dakota's powerlifting scene is heating up as the "King of the North Powerlifting Competition 2023" approaches. Set to take place on Mar. 31 and April 1-2 at the West River Community Center's Ice Center and Cornerstone Arena, the event has expanded to three days due to popular demand.

With over 45 participants featured each day, attendees can expect to witness the best and strongest powerlifters showcasing their skills, with a mix of tested and untested lifts. The competition has become a huge draw for powerlifting enthusiasts nationwide, and the event is expected to be a thrilling spectacle for all.

The cost is $15 per attendee, and will feature everything from fitness discussions to dozens of vendors and sponsors displaying their products and services.

According to Jessica Neel, who is the co-owner of The Pit Strength & Fitness Center with her husband, Will, said the King of the North just keeps getting bigger and better every year. The Pit has been one of the main sponsors for the past three years, and Jessica said it will continue to grow because powerlifting is becoming a huge draw and participation is skyrocketing nationwide.


“Powerlifting in North Dakota is growing exponentially, and it’s a great outlet for athletes to have a healthy pursuit,” Jessica said. “They can showcase their skills, and athletes train for about three months before these events. The first year we did it, we had about 500 to 600 people come through and every year we’re pretty much adding an extra day onto the event.”

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A powerlifter goes for a personal best at The Pit in Dickinson.
Special to The Dickinson Press

The Neels have owned The Pit for the past two years, and got involved with the gym right after the covid pandemic died down, and Mrs. Neel said they have “seen a ton of growth” since they remodeled the inside and made some dramatic improvements. Mrs. Neel is a nurse and Will works in the oil fields, but they make time to ensure the King of the North comes off without a hitch. The event expanded from one day to two last year, and demand has forced the Neels’s hand into expanding it even further in 2023.

“We sold out about nine months ago, so we added an extra day,” Jessica said. “That’s pretty awesome, and we have athletes traveling from as far away as Connecticut, I believe, so they’re coming from across the country.”

There also will be a sponsored powerlifter named John Oldham who will be on-site and is coming in from Alabama for King of the North and “he’s super-fun,” Jessica added, and he will be mingling with the crowd and offering tips on technique and nutrition throughout the weekend.

“He gets the crowd going and kind of helps the lifters, and he’s sponsored by multiple companies in the US and he’s also a firefighter, which is cool,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

Phat Fish Brewery will again be providing the catering services, and there will be a bounce-house for the children to enjoy.

“We’re working with a lot of local businesses and the difference this year is that there’s more community support and more businesses sponsoring and getting into powerlifting, so that’s fun to see,” Jessica said. “Powerlifting is challenging and I think there’s more technique to it than people think, and there are different commands you need to do during your lifts.”

King of the North also is a judged event, and the lifters have to perform the lifts to the satisfaction of the three people evaluating the individual participants. The categories are broken down by age, gender and weight class, and if the participants cannot meet the given commands their lift is no good. The three lifts that are part of the competition are squat, bench and deadlift, and each participant gets three tries at each additional weight.


The Pit is a 24-hour fitness center, and somebody is on hand throughout the day and night to accommodate members. “If you sign up, you get a key fob, but we do have a staff member on site every day,” Jessica said. “And from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. we also have a full health and nutrition store that anybody can come to and purchase protein products and other pre- or post-workout necessities and supplements.”

For more information about the event, please visit or call The Pit – located at 96 10th Avenue West in Dickinson, next to East End Auto, and please visit or call 406-370-3868.

Gaylon is a sportswriter from Jensen Beach, Fla., but has lived all over the world. Growing up with an athletic background gave him a love of sports that led to a journalism career in such places as Enid, Okla., Alamogordo, N.M., Pascagoula, Miss. and Viera, Fla. since 1998. His main passion is small-town community sports, particularly baseball and soccer.
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