“The Heart of Mayhem” Documentary Shows Different Side of Programming Behemoth

October 3, 2023 by
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CrossFit Mayhem and Mayhem Athlete are set to release a new short-form documentary on Friday, showcasing the story of Phil Gentry Jr, a CrossFit Mayhem athlete who turned his life around with the support of the gym and has created a resounding effect. 

Rich Froning started CrossFit Mayhem, known for its high-caliber athletes and elite coaching staff, in 2009, and he says that the daily WOD, regular members, and typical CrossFit activities weren’t a priority at first. But as the Cookeville area has grown and locals have tried out the sport that’s put their town on the map, Froning has become aware of the impact it can have on the general population. 

This is where Gentry, a disabled veteran who has lived in Cookeville his entire life, comes in. With ten years of on-and-off CrossFit under his belt, he’s become a fixture at the gym that goes beyond the elite. 

  • “The hard part for us for the longest time was to get past that, ‘oh, it’s just for elites, that’s the showcase of CrossFit’ but that’s not what CrossFit is. CrossFit is the everyday people doing it,” Froning said in the documentary. “It’s not going to get views on YouTube, it’s not somebody hitting a 400lb clean and jerk, but it is such a cooler story because a life has changed and has changed others’ lives.”

Gentry has had his fair share of “bad brain days” (as Mayhem coach Josh Malone puts it) since starting at the gym. For one, a hard fall during an obstacle course when he was in basic training left him with severe foot and ankle issues. 

He’s always had a problematic relationship with food, as well. He says one of the biggest challenges came in 2016 when he suffered a severe mental breakdown and was non-verbal. During this period of time, he had suicidal ideation and said that he wasn’t really in control of his thoughts or actions. 

  • “It was like I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t focus on anything, it was almost like my personality took a backseat to everything else,” Gentry said.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it and his tenacity fighting through, the CrossFit Mayhem community all agrees that Gentry is a shining star at the gym and truly exemplifies the spirit of CrossFit. 

In the documentary, Gentry walks in the door to the coffee shop inside the gym and is greeted with a round of cheers and ‘hellos,’ from regular affiliate athletes to coaches to Games athlete Sam Cournoyer. 

  • “I consider it an honor to be on that journey with him,” Malone said. “He’s a staple and a rock and a sign of consistency wherever he goes and I don’t think he necessarily realizes that about himself.”

The film, which was directed and produced by Josh Gunkler, will be released on Friday on the Mayhem Athlete YouTube channel.

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