July 5, 2013
Taken by Surprise: Wes Piatt
By Jaala A. Thibault

"I grew up watching my idols in football and imagining what it would be like on the field with them. I admire the CrossFit greats just as much as those NFL guys ... it will be very surreal putting on the pads, per se, and going out onto the field as a competitor."


Nobody could have anticipated how the race for third place would end for the men at the 2013 SoCal Regional.

By virtue of his second-place finish on Event 7, Wes Piatt (pronounced “pie-it”) moved up in the standings to tie for third place with Tommy Pease. Winning the tiebreaker due to his higher placing on previous events, Piatt secured a podium finish and the final spot to the CrossFit Games.

“It was totally unexpected,” Piatt says. “Before qualifying (for the Games), I had a lot of plans for June and July. My family is moving from San Luis Obispo to Gilroy (Calif.,) to open our new gym, Coast Range CrossFit, my wife has a reunion and my firefighter friends and I planned a camping trip. But now the plans have had to be adjusted.”

He isn’t too disappointed, though.

“Oh my gosh, I am so excited to be on other side of the fence,” he says. “You know, I grew up watching my idols in football and imagining what it would be like out on the field with them. I admire the CrossFit greats just as much as those NFL guys … I have watched the CrossFit Games, so it will be very surreal putting on the pads, per se, and going out onto the field as a competitor.”

His wife, Megan, was also taken by surprise when her husband qualified for the Games this year.

“(I’m) not surprised in the sense that I didn't think he could do it, but surprised that it was actually happening,” she says. “It has been his dream for four years (to make the Games) and at Regionals, it was just so surreal that it was coming true.”

Piatt’s training partner, friend and coach Bill Grundler wasn’t as shocked by Piatt’s performance at Regionals.

“I am not surprised that Wes made the Games,” Grundler says. “Unless you are Rich Froning or Josh Bridges, the path isn’t laid out there. At Regionals, there are a lot of variables that come into play, so I knew Wes had a shot. Because our program always has variety and we train our weaknesses, Wes has no glaring holes.”

Since qualifying for the Games, Piatt and Grundler have added odd skills and longer sessions to his program. Hour-long AMRAPs and water workouts have become part of the mix to get him used to dealing with pain in different ways.

As a lifelong surfer, and now an Open Ocean Water Rescue certified firefighter, Piatt is comfortable in the water.

“We are putting his body under some stresses that he usually does not go through in the gym,” Grundler says. “Underwater running is a technique that big wave surfers use to train under stress with minimal oxygen, so we do this to see what pain Wes can endure. I don’t want to give away all of our secrets, but we will do normal training, too, of course. We won’t get away from the barbell.”

Piatt knows there is more to doing well in CrossFit than the physical demands. His mental toughness and positive outlook on life have helped him through tough situations.

During his last deployment to Kuwait with the Air Force as a Senior Airman, he realized some important life lessons that he carries with him daily.

“In Kuwait, I was a ‘Port Dawg.’ We were Air Transportation Specialists who shipped everything from tanks to toothpicks. Sounds kinda boring, but it wasn't until my last deployment (the same one that I was on when I found CrossFit), when almost daily we would have casket transfers. We would do full military honors on fallen warriors coming through Ali Al Salem Air Base.

“I would physically carry casket after casket of dead brothers, sisters, husbands and wives from one plane to another,” he continues. “It was gut wrenching, holding the handles of those cold metal caskets draped in American flags, trying to do my best to hold it together.”

Reflecting on his time in Kuwait, he explains that what he learned there has forever changed him.

“Even though I didn't know those (fallen) people, (I was) connected just by being in the military. We loved our country more than most, and these people gave it all for it ... I knew that someone somewhere was going to be broken beyond what anyone could imagine (because of this lost life). I carry that with me and it makes me appreciate what I have, the people in my life, the air I breathe, the flag I salute. That deployment really opened my eyes to what is important for sure.”

Stronger because of what he has experienced, Piatt admires that quality in other competitors, as well, specifically the South West Region’s Matt Hathcock.

“I’m pretty interested in meeting (Hathcock) because he has overcome some serious stuff to get where he is now. He is super strong physically and it seems, mentally. I’ve watched videos of him and I admire his work ethic, and that he is into heavy music, too. Something about him struck a chord with me, so I look forward to talking to him.”

Piatt’s goal for the Games is simple: do the best he can.

“I want to give everything that I have. The only thing I can do to mess up is not give 100 percent. There will be moments that I won’t want to do another rep, but when those moments come up and I pick up the barbell, I’ll be happy. As long as I do that at the Games, whether I end up top 10 or last place, that will be enough.”