Going into the 2012 competition season, Courtney Wuistinger was looking for redemption. The year before, he entered the CrossFit Games Open with high hopes after having competed in the sport since 2009, but things didn’t go as planned.
“My overall conditioning was pretty good, but my skills were not ready,” he says. “I also suffered a lot on the high rep movements. I had a very stressful Open that year. Nothing was working out well, I couldn't relax, and I think I put too much stock into it and wasn't having any fun, and my performance suffered from it.”
After missing the cut for the 2011 South Central Regional, Wuistinger dedicated himself to getting better. He tailored his workouts to address weaknesses, focusing on range of motion and lifting technique, and programmed longer workouts with high rep schemes which took him out of his comfort zone.
Fast forward to March, 2012. Wuistinger groaned when he first saw Workout 12.1. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, he wasn’t exactly a fan of burpees. His first attempt produced 115 reps, impressive for a man his size, but Wuistinger wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more in the realm of 125 reps, which would make him competitive with the top guys in the region. Prior to his second attempt, he had no “special strategies other than to get out quick and get a lot of reps before fatigue set in, then just ‘keep moving.’”
The strategy may not have been “special,” but he got his 125 reps. A recent breakthrough with his snatch form led to a 2nd place finish on Workout 12.2. In Workout 12.3, he continued to excel, taking 5th place in spite of a movement—toes-to-bar—which was like kryptonite to him last year. By this point in the competition, he was well on the road to qualifying for the 2012 South Central Regional and banishing a few demons along the way. The hard work had paid off.
With the last pull-up and thruster counted, Wuistinger found himself in 2nd place overall in the South Central Region. With the Open hurdle cleared, this former college football player expects the Regional to be the real crucible.
“In all honesty, I'm ready for a ‘real’ competition,” he says. “I have never felt the Open truly replicates what it’s like to be in the competitive arena. Being able to line up against the best helps me perform better than I ever could. In football or powerlifting, I would not play or lift well at all in practices and training, but when game time comes around and I can see my opponent, my mind only thinks about beating them. I tend to get very aggressive when I'm about to compete at something athletic. In my mind, ‘I don't give a damn who or what you are, I'm going to beat you, and there's nothing you can do about it.’”
Wuistinger is quick to temper the above statement with a nod of respect toward the competition.
“Now, I need to be clear that this attitude falls right in line with my respect for my fellow competitors. I think having respect for your competitors is critical, it keeps you humble when you get beat, and it keeps you smart about your capabilities and what you need to do to position yourself to win,” he says. “Plus, I'm a teddy bear off the field. I want to be friends with everyone. If I want to be respected by you, then I need to give my respect first.”
Measured and thoughtful, Wuistinger stands as yet another example of a CrossFitter with intelligence as well as athletic prowess. An Ivy League graduate of Dartmouth College, he works full-time as a mechanical engineer, and considers himself a history buff. He and his wife Jamie are also avid travelers who love exploring other cultures, “crawling through old catacombs and walking among old ruins.”
In addition to being very fit and smart, Wuistinger is also very brave. He admits to being a “huge nerd” who collects old video games, which take center stage when he and Jamie entertain at the house.
“Nostalgia is addictive, and it's fun to be able to go back and relive those fun moments you had while growing up,” he says. “It's even more fun when you have a party or guests over and someone notices the collection, the old games get pulled out, and everyone becomes a kid again.”
The games might collect some dust while Wuistinger focuses on the South Central Regional and beyond. He trains at CrossFit BOLT in Coppell, Texas, where he’s received a tremendous amount of support from the community. “Without them, none of this would be possible,” he says. “Especially the ones that saw how down I was after the Open last year. All of these people hold a special place in my life. They know who they are.”
For the next month, he’ll be practicing high-skill movements like muscle ups, rope climbs and ring handstand push-ups, all of which he might see in San Antonio. He’ll also incorporate some of Rudy Nielsen’s Outlaw programming, which he finds innovative.
Following his performance in the Open, Wuistinger believes he has a “golden opportunity” to make the CrossFit Games and will expend every ounce of energy to get there.
“Now it's game time, my goal is the podium even if I have to crawl to get on it,” he says.
If he gets there, expect the nerd to overtake the beast—at least for a game or two to celebrate. Then it’ll be back to training, with the Home Depot in his sights.