Monthly Archives: February 2011

Wrist Wraps & Knee Wraps

by Al Myers

I just want to take today and clarify the USAWA’s stance on wrist wraps and knee wraps.   I know last week (in the Dear Dino Man column) I made reference to our organization not allowing any kind of wraps, and I have received a few questions regarding that.  The Dino Man’s response was a little extreme, because in truth our organization does allow wrist wraps and knee wraps in certain lifts.  That response was more aimed at the ridiculous use of lifting suits and supportive bench shirts, which allow a lifter to lift WAY more weight than they could without them on.  But today’s story is not about my opinion on supportive lifting equipment – so that’s all I’m going to say about that.  This story is about what the USAWA allows in regards to wrist wraps and knee wraps.

With the March Postal Meet approaching (the Eastern Open Postal), this discussion becomes very relevant.  This postal meet contains the 12 inch base squat as one of the lifts.  Last June at the Annual National Meeting of the USAWA the topic of knee wraps came up.  Where they allowed or not?  The membership was divided on this – meaning half thought they were and the other half thought they WEREN’T allowed!  Apparently in 1997 the use of knee wraps was approved by the membership  for the front squat and 12 inch base squat.  This issue was never brought forth in the Rule Book and thus a lot of lifters assumed from that point on that knee wraps were not allowed for these two lifts.  The only lifters who knew they were allowed were those in attendance at this 1997  meeting.  The problem this has created is that some lifters were wearing knee wraps for the front squat and 12 inch base squat in postal meets since then while others were not.  Several  USAWA records were established from that point on with  knee wraps.  It is nearly impossible to go back now and identify these occurrences  so the membership at the 2010 meeting voted again in favor to allow knee wraps for these two lifts ONLY  (front squat and 12 inch base squat) and make this point known in the current Rule Book.  This rule is now part of the updated 4th Edition USAWA Rule Book.   This knee wrap rule for these two lifts comes into accordance with the IAWA rule which also allows them.  The regular stance squat is an IAWA lift (not a USAWA lift) and knee wraps may also be worn with it.   Also,  dimension specifications of legal knee wraps were added.  They are not to exceed 2 meters in length, with maximum width of 10 cm and maximum thickness of 1 mm.

Wrist wraps have been allowed in the USAWA since 1997 for all lifts.  Before this wrist wraps were only allowed for lifts that allowed back hang and front hang (mainly the dumbbell swings).   The specifications of legal wrist wraps are not to exceed 1 meter in length, with maximum width of 10 cm and maximum thickness of 1 mm.  The rules also state if the wrist wraps contain thumb loops, they must be removed from the thumbs prior to lifting.  Now don’t confuse wrist wraps with wrist straps.   Wrist straps or lifting straps that attach the hands to the bar are NOT allowed!

Section VI. 12 states that all equipment (including wrist wraps and knee wraps) may be required to be inspected by the meet official at weigh-ins.  If the equipment does not meet the rules criteria, this equipment will not be allowed to be used in the competition.  I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding  wrist wraps and knee wraps usage in the USAWA.

Year in Review

by Al Myers

Next week I’m going to get the 2010 USAWA Year in Review Books printed.  Please let me know soon if you want one. The cost is $40 ($50 if you also want an updated Rule Book).  Please send payment to me and make your check payable to the USAWA.  So far, this is the list of those who have ordered a book.

Al Myers – Paid

Frank Ciavattone – Paid

Dale Friesz – Paid

Denny Habecker

Thom Van Vleck

Art Montini

Randy Smith

Longterm USAWA Members

by Al Myers

Dale Friesz has been an active member of the USAWA since the first year of membership in 1988. Dale has had more reasons than anyone to have let his membership lapse, yet he maintained his yearly membership to support the USAWA. Lifters like Dale are the foundation of our organization.

Last week’s Quiz of the Week was a very important one for one simple reason – it gave recognition to those USAWA Members who have been yearly members since the first year of the USAWA.  These 5 USAWA member have showed extreme loyalty to the USAWA by being members all these years.  It is easy to miss a year of membership –  such as a lack of competing due to illness or injury.  I know this could have been  the case for a couple of these lifters, yet they STILL maintained their yearly membership despite the physical hardship. Most lifters don’t do that – they rejoin when they are able to compete again.   These lifters should receive an award for their loyalty to the USAWA (hmmm…. who’s the USAWA Award Director? I may have to talk to him about this.  Especially since NEXT year is the 25th anniversary of the USAWA).  Just for those who missed the quiz, I want to list these USAWA VIP members again:

Bill Clark

Casey Clark

Joe Garcia

Art Montini

Dale Friesz

Now I want to mention a few others that have been longterm members of the USAWA, but maybe now are retired or just joined a little later.  The initial class of members in 1988 included such notable lifters as Bill Clark, Bill DiCioccio Sr., Joe Garcia, Cindy Garcia, John McKean, Noi Phumchaona, Howard Prechtel, John Vernacchio, Casey Clark, Dale Friesz, Jack Lano, Art Montini, Tom Ryan, Bob Burtzloff, Phil Anderson, Steve Schmidt, John Wilmot, Harrison Skeete, Attilio Alacchi, Paul Knauer, Joe McCoy, Dave Hahn, Clay Oliver, Ron Sisk, Gonzalo Gonzlsez, and Ed Zercher.  There were several more than this that joined that year. However, all together, the USAWA membership was still short of 100 members that first year.

USAWA Hall of Famer Frank Ciavattone joined a year later in 1989.  He has been a member every year since.  USAWA Executive Board member Dennis Mitchell also joined in 1989 and hasn’t missed a year of membership.  A couple of long-term members joined in 1990 and haven’t missed any years of membership since joining – our President Denny Habecker and Hall of Famer Jim Malloy.  A few lifters, like John McKean and Steve Schmidt, only missed a few years of continuous membership due to lifting retirement only to reappear as active lifters. All these lifters  deserve special recognition for their many years of support to the USAWA.  The only USAWA club that has maintained club membership since 1988 has been Clark’s Gym.

John O’Brien: Part 2

John O'Brien "blowing up" a pop can using his incredible grip in one of our JWC evangelism shows!

by Thom Van Vleck

I will continue my story on my friend and strength athlete John O’Brien.

In part one I ended with John coming to one of our strongman evangelism shows.  John approached us about joining our team.  We are always happy when guys want to join us, but we also want to make sure they are in it for the right reasons.  Now, I’ve NEVER turned down anyone that wants to join us, but I also want to make sure guys know that it’s not “all about physical strength” but a real Christian ministry effort.  We don’t “show off” we “share” our God given talents for strength for God’s glory.

I invited John out the the JWC gym to meet with him about his desire to join the evangelism team.  John had this amazing and wonderful story about his son, Xavier (who recently became an Eagle scout!).  He talked about how he had drifted away from God and Church and that science had, in essence, become his religion.  He came to believe that science could answer any question about life.  Then along came Xavier.  He was born at 23 weeks (normal is 40 weeks!) and weighed 1lb and 4oz at birth.  His weight actually dropped to 15oz….LESS THAN A POUND!

The doctors told John that Xavier had a 25% chance to live and a 5% chance of being normal.  It was touch and go and things were tough emotionally for John and his wife Andrea.  But it was a moment when John realized that science did not hold all the answers and surrendered himself to a higher power.  Xavier began to improve to the amazement of all.  John credits God for Xavier’s progress and recovery and what a recovery it was and continues to be!  He is a top scholar in school, he looks like a normal teen in every way,  and he’s a mature, tough, likable young man that we are all proud of.

It was at that meeting that I knew John was a special man, not just in strength, but in all the ways that make a man a real man in my book.  John became a core member of the JWC Strongman evangelism team and we have had many great shows together which now number in the hundreds and I hope we have many more to come!  We have even traveled to the Arnold Expo in Columbus, Ohio where we met Arnold himself (a story unto itself!) and got to perform for hundreds.  If there’s any question to John’s “go time” attitude regarding his strength, it was at this show John drove a nail deeply into his hand during a tough bend and he not only finished the bend, he taped up and performed the rest of the weekend.

John is a world class bender.  Another core member of our group is Brett Kerby.  Brett was already a world class bender and John took a keen interest in it.  With Brett’s tutelage, John soon became the master!  It was funny that later he commented that Brett was not a very big guy and surely if he could do it, then John thought he could, too.  That’s John’s attitude about a lot of things….if you can do it….he can, too!   Brett and John have pushed each other to greater heights than they probably would have ever done alone.

John approached bending like he does most everything he does….obsessively….my kind of guy!   He began to bend all the time.  He told me a story that his division head at Truman State, where he teaches, came to him and said he had to stop bending in labs….because the students were afraid to come up to him as he bent 60 penny nail after nail and threw them in a pile.  He bent his first red nail in one of our shows.  I got the crowd all worked up and he had 60 seconds….he bent it in about 15 seconds…making it almost anti-climatic!  His best bends to date are the 4.5″ Red Nail (5/16th cold rolled steel), 7″ X 5/16th grade 5 bolt, and a 4.5″ X 1/4″ grade 8 bolt.  He also bends horseshoes and wrenches in our shows.

John is a good friend.  His recent accomplishment merited an update on an earlier article and I’m sure that there’s plenty more to come from him.  If the USAWA version of Old time Strongman catches on, I think John will be a top contender!

John O’Brien: A TRUE All-Round athlete

John O'Brien in a photo that decorates the Dino Gym showing an Ironmind Red Nail that John hammered shut for Big Al's amusement.

by Thom Van Vleck

John O’Brien has been my training partner, member of the JWC, and most of all, friend, for many years now.  When I think of what an All-Round athlete is, I think of John.  He is good, maybe a better word would be “great” at everything strength related.  I have written about him before but I’m hoping to add to what you already know about him and make the case for him being a TRUE All-Rounder.

He has competed in a strongman contests and Olympic lifting meets and placed or won his class in many contests.  He has competed in Highland Games and always places high.  He has competed in the USAWA with great success in about a dozen meets and has a couple dozen records to his credit.  Not to mention he is a world class short steel bender and performing professional strongman with over one hundred performances under his belt.  That, to me, it a true All-Round athlete!

John started lifting around the age of 13.  His older brother had a weight set at home and then at age 15 he started lifting for sports on programs set up by his coaches.  John mainly played baseball until high school and then he made up for lost time.  He played football (varsity for three years), wrestling, baseball, and track.  He said that he was best at football and baseball, but played the other sports so he could have access to the weight room year around.  He also mentioned maybe watching the girls run in track was a bonus!  Funny how many of us start lifting to impress girls!

John played on a football team in high school that had a dubious distinction.  They lost every game his junior and senior year!  The losing streak became so long that David Letterman started to track in on his show and when they finally won (long after John had left) they had some of the team members fly out to New York to be on the show.  John was a lineman and played both ways, he also played a couple years of college ball at Graceland College.

Then John entered graduate school at the University of Kansas to become the Chemistry Professor he is now at Truman State in Kirksville.  I was around this time that his oldest son was born very premature and lifting ended up being sacrificed for many years.  Then about 8 or so years ago John was very overweight and decided to do something about it.

John was training hard and lost 50lbs in the process.  There were a couple of students that were entering my JWC Strongman contest and they challenged John to enter, John told me they “teased” him and for them…..that was a bad idea!  John not only entered that contest….he won his weight class and rather decisively as I recall.

John had strength, but he is also very athletic, able to adjust to events on the fly.  He will tell you he operates off of “brute” strength, but I say it’s more than that.  He has an intelligent strength that is also athletic.  If strongman contests did not divulge the events, my money would be on John.   Recently, we were at Al’s Dino Gym where there is something called the “pill”.  A giant pill shaped metal object loaded with sand.  John spotted it, walked over and hoisted it…becoming the oldest person to do it (at age 42)….but more than that, what impressed me was his ability to lift it without much planning or practice, or even warm up!!!!  He walked up, sized it up, then lifted it!  That’s more than brute strength.

John said after that first JWC contest he began to only train for strength, beginning a  lifting career in his mid 30’s….when most guys are quitting!  Since that time, he has competed in Olympic lifting, Strongman, USAWA, Highland Games, and most recently, Highlander meets.  John has done well in all and is a two time masters National Champ in Highlander.  More importantly, that first contest was how we met and our friendship began and most of these contests were events we traveled to and/or competed in together!

Another aspect of our relationship started right after that first Strongman Contest that John entered and won.  The next day the JWC was doing a strongman evangelism show at the local YMCA.  I noticed John was in the front row.  He told me later he watched us and thought, “I can do those things” but more than that, he believed in the REASON we were doing them.  Which I will go into in Part 2 of my article!

Next:  Part 2 of “John O’Brien: True All-Round Athlete”.

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