Local steinholder continues to dominate sport despite illness

·4 min read

Oct. 24—Step aside Reggie Jackson, Montana has its own Mr. October.

David Sturzen, the 2020 United States Steinholding Association (USSA) national champion overcame Covid and added to his three-year winning streak with a trio of wins over the past month, earning himself a trip to Germany along the way.

The long-coveted trip to Germany to experience Oktoberfest there was awarded to Sturzen after he won the USSA Arizona state championship at the Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe Oct. 9. Nearly a year before, Sturzen had won the USSA's virtual national championship, an online competition organized after Covid forced the annual New York event to be canceled, but the usual prize of a trip to Germany did not come with it.

"It was great to win this after having Covid," Sturzen said. "It was Covid that cost me a trip to Germany after I won the USSA championship last year and I was not going to let it take this prize from me again."

Masskrugstemmen, or steinholding as it is more commonly known, is a Bavarian feat of strength and endurance that pits contestants against one another in a competition to see who can hold a 1-liter stein of beer (weighing around 5.5 pounds) aloft the longest.

Masskrugstemmen is a mashup of two German words, "masskrug," meaning a one-liter stein of beer, and "stemmen," meaning "lift." Put the two words together and you've pretty much got the jist of the sport.

WHILE THE official U.S. Steinholding Association has a lengthy list of 15 rules, the basics are simple: no beer can be spilled, no elbows can be bent and extended arms must be kept parallel to the ground. The winner is the person who can hold up their stein the longest.

Undefeated since 2018, Sturzen has recorded hold times as long as 22 minutes, but could only watch as the fatigue of Covid cut his practice times to less than eight minutes. Undaunted, he continued to train with his sights set on the Arizona championship, another Great Northwest Oktoberfest title and a trip to New York for the USSA national championship, which is sponsored by Munich-based Hofbräu Brewery, if it is held this year.

With the Arizona and Northwest Montana titles already under his belt, he is well on his way to achieving his goal.

"I literally got out of quarantine and two days later, feeling terrible, I got on a plane and headed to Arizona for the qualifier. I felt fine besides the fatigue, but I had no energy," he said. "I really didn't expect to win, but I was able to muster just enough energy to get it done."

After winning the Arizona qualifier, Sturzen returned to Montana, where he won the Great Northwest Oktoberfest title with a time of 12 minutes on Sept. 25.

Back in Tempe on Oct. 9, Sturzed faced off with the best stein holders in Arizona, along with a few from beyond the state, including competitors from Nevada, New York and even Germany.

A hold of 11 minutes was enough to earn Sturzen the title and a trip to Germany for Oktoberfest next year.

Since winning the USSA virtual championship Sturzen has picked up a few other titles, including a personal-best 22-minute hold to win the last-ever Hofbräu Chicago championship in 2020, which earned him an elaborate Hofbräu stein shipped to him from the brewery in Germany.

Even with all of these wins, Sturzen still has his sights set on the USSA national championship in New York next year, and a second trip to Germany. Proud of his German heritage (his family shortened their name from Stürzenhofäcker when they immigrated to America) Sturzen says he looks forward to meeting his paternal grandfather for the first time when he makes the trip.

"If I can get a win in New York, I can use one prize for my wife and I and use the other to bring our kids along," he said. "It would be great to be able to bring the whole family to Germany to experience my roots and finally get the chance to meet my family there."

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 406-758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.

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Not even Covid could slow Kalispell's David Sturzen down as he continues to rack up the wins in the sport of steinholding. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

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Not even Covid could slow Kalispell's David Sturzen down as he continues to rack up the wins in the sport of steinholding. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

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Even battling fatigue after a battle with Covid, David Sturzen was able to defend his steinholding title at the Great Northwest Octoberfest this year. (photo provided)

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