Category Archives: USAWA History

Oldest USAWA Members

by Al Myers

Jack Lano performing a Snatch. Is he the oldest current or past USAWA member?

After last weeks quiz, Tom Ryan presented some  additional questions on the USAWA Discussion Forum.  Tom’s questions were quite a bit harder than mine, and after much discussion on the forum, the group has came to a unified conclusion on the answers.  I think these should be shared in the USAWA Daily News because I know not everyone follows the discussion forum.  The answers to these two questions are a very important part of USAWA history.  These were Tom’s questions:

I’ve got another quiz question for you regarding USAWA members. Actually it is a two-part question:

(a) What deceased USAWA member was born before every other person who has at any time been a member of USAWA?

(b) Among current and past USAWA members who are still alive, which one has the earliest birthdate?

Immediately, I thought I knew the answer to the first question without looking anything up.  How could it be anyone other than the St. Louis Strongman Ed Zercher I ??  Ed competed in the first years of the USAWA and was in his early 80’s at the time.  I couldn’t imagine anyone who was a member born before Ed Zercher.  Ed Zercher I was born on 8-19-07.   But  I was wrong on this, and Tom pointed it out to me.  The legendary, ageless powerlifter Henri Soudieres actually has the oldest birthdate among any past USAWA members. He was born on 8-5-06.   There was some discussion that another lifter, the longtime well-known AAU Weightlifting official Jim Messer may have been the correct answer because he  had an older birthdate ( he was born on  10-19-05),  but his past membership in the USAWA could not be confirmed.  He competed once but it must have been just exhibition.

The second part of Tom’s question was even more difficult.  Everyone knows that the current active member who is the oldest is none other than Art Montini (Art was born on 10-11-27).   But surely there is a PAST USAWA member who is older?  Lots of names where proposed, and many lifters with older birthdays than Art were mentioned.  But are they still alive?  That is when the difficulty in answering this question comes into play.   My guess was none other than the man of many talents – Jack Lano.  Jack was born on 4-17-22.   No one came forth on the forum to prove me wrong on this – so that is the answer I’m going with.  However, Tom is still skeptical.  That is just how he is about confirming the facts (he will have to visit all past lifters gravesites before he is convinced),  but it is a good thing because he keeps me in check from giving out wrong information.   He is right in that several lifters were mentioned that had older birthdates, but confirming they were STILL ALIVE was the question.  I will gladly print a retraction of this story if someone proves things differently.  Please check out the discussion forum if you want more details concerning the discussions that led up to these answers.

And finally – thank you Tom for asking this question!  It was very thought provoking and brought up many names of lifters  that I have heard about.

Coming tomorrow

Since we are in the discussion mode of talking about old lifters, I want to mention a past USAWA member who was the oldest lifter to EVER compete at a USAWA National Championship.  He was 90 years old at the time.  This is a question that I have personal first hand information on, since this lifter was very close to me.  But that’s tomorrow’s story!!

Heart of America Festival – Day 2

(Webmasters note: This is a reprint of the meet report covering the Heart of America Festival that occurred in August 1963 as published by the oldtime lifting magazine, the Lifting News. Dale Friesz passed this along to me to share, which characterizes one of the early-days All-Round Weightlifting Meets. Dale’s brother, Leonard, is included in the results as he was a member of the Columbia Athletic Club at the time. Our very own Bill Clark served as Meet Director, Head Judge, and Meet Reporter. He also competed! Past meets such as these are the reason why Bill organized All-Round Weightlifting into the USAWA. You will recognize several of the “meet stars” as they are legends in All-Round Weightlifting today. The meet was a two day affair, so I will divide the story into two parts, one covering each day. Enjoy!)

by Bill Clark

On the second day the squat and dead lift marks of Saturday are used and four other events are added to test a man’s back, endurance and will power.  The front squat opens the second day and Miller was very unhappy with his 390 front squat.  Wachholz made 385 and Friesz 380.  The Jefferson lift was next and Wachholz almost caught the lanky Kansas wheat farmer.  Miller did a straddle with 650, but Wachholz surpassed him on bodyweight with a 640 and moved within range with two lifts remaining.  Paul was able to make “only” 600 in the hack lift, but Miller endured with a 650 effort.  In the Zercher lift, Miller made 425 while Wachholz was good for only 365.   The meet was Miller’s once again.  This time with a total of 3320 and 2148 points.  Wachholz was close behind with 3020 pounds and 2072 points.  Your writer was third and felt happy with a mediocre performance after not working out more than five times since February.  He squatted 470 cold, made a 530 dead lift, front squatted 320, straddled up 560, hacked only 500 (has done 600) and Zerchered just 420 – 40 pounds under tops.  This was the meet he had planned to make a 600 squat, but baseball took care of that boast.  Maybe next year.  Too much umpiring this year and not enough time in the gym.

Lifter Squat Front Sq Deadlift Hack Zerch Strad Total Points
Miller 530 390 675 650 425 650 3320 2148
Wachholz 455 385 585 600 365 640 3020 2072
Clark 470 320 530 500 420 560 2800 1817
Friesz 445 380 490 450 385 475 2625 1790
Hahn 400 320 475 475 385 475 2530 1771
Hamilton 280 205 420 420 315 440 2080 1714
Witt 470 295 525 315 335 500 2400 1596
McPheeters 375 475 500
Lewellen 385 500 500
B. Fellows 420 315

Meet Director:  Bill Clark

Officials:  Bill Clark, Don Wickell, Ed Zercher

The question here, then, is how these two great lifters rank with strong men of the past.  Surely, in two days, few men of this size have ever lifted more.  To dead lift 675, hack 650 and straddle 650 along with the others is a phenomenal performance, and Wachholz was superb.  His 640 straddle must rank with the best.

These men are not goons, as power lifters have often been called.  Wachholz has done over 800 as a mid-heavy in the Olympic lifts and won the 100 yard dash, final event of the meet, in an amazing time of 11.3 seconds, running on asphalt in tennis shoes after a hard day on the platform.  Wachholz also throws the discus well over 160 feet and has a beautiful frame, placing high in every physique contest he enters.  He’s married and has two children.  He works in a bank and travels thousands of miles a year to meets. (No relation between his work and his ability to travel).  The marks he set at the Power Festival were all personal records.  In addition, he entered several of the side contests and won them.  He was best in the bench press with 315 pounds and did a stiffarm pullover with 110.

Miller was impressive as always.  He stands 6’3″, and weighs 235.  In high school he was a top miler and turned down a track scholarship at Kansas University after finishing his senior year at Ensign (Kansas) High School.  In his final high school race, he covered the mile in 4:33.6 and wound up third behind two great runners – Wes Santee, who later ran the mile in 4:00.2 and was America’s greatest miler until barred by the AAU for excessive expense money – and Billy Tidwell, a half-miler who represented the U.S. on many international fields.  Miller has done 930 in the Olympic Lifts and was second in the Junior Nationals this year.  He won one other event in the Power Festival, doing an abdominal raise with 105 pounds.  When the meet was over, a side bet came to pass concerning Wilbur’s ability to lift cars.  He promptly picked up the rear end of a Volkswagon, engine and all, and held it a foot off the ground.  He made the lift from the normal deadlift position.

Ed Zercher Sr., an old-timer who has moved enough weight to kill an elephant in his forty years on the platform, refereed all the lifts and branded Miller and Wachholz as two mighty strong youngsters.  He pointed out that their lifting was different from that in the old days when bars were not machined, but allowed the pair could have held their own with many of the greats.  Zercher, at 56, proved to be a horse even yet.  He took 600 pounds on his feet, and without any supporting devices, made 10 reps and held his balance perfectly in the leg press.  He then built a Roman Chair all by himself with 235 pounds balanced on his feet: 145 pounds in his hands and 130 pound Art Tarwater sitting astride the chair doing presses with 100 pounds.  When Tarwater lost his balance, Zercher held the chair steady – much to the amazement of the onlookers.

This meet was held in a shelter house the first evening and on the grass under a large shade tree the second day.  People driving through the park would stop and watch the lifting until they grew tired.  The crowd changed many times and townspeople still talk about the show they say in the park – for no charge.  It seems until someone comes up with a better performance, this must go down as one of the greatest ever.

Heart of America Festival – Day 1

(Webmasters note:  This is a reprint of the meet report covering the  Heart of America Festival that occurred in  August 1963 as published by the oldtime lifting magazine, the Lifting News.  Dale Friesz passed this along to me to share, which characterizes one of the early-days All-Round Weightlifting Meets.  Dale’s brother, Leonard, is included in the results as he was a member of the Columbia Athletic Club at the time.  Our very own Bill Clark served as Meet Director, Head Judge, and Meet Reporter.  He also competed!   Past meets such as these are the reason why Bill organized All-Round Weightlifting into the USAWA.  You will recognize several of the “meet stars” as they are legends in All-Round Weightlifting today.  The meet was a two day affair, so I will divide the story into two parts, one covering each day. Enjoy!)

by Bill Clark

Wilbur Miller, the Cimarron Strongman, and Paul Wachholz, an outstanding athlete from Englewood, Colorado, waged a duel in the Heart of America Power Festival, August 3-4 in Columbia, Missouri, which brought nostalgia to the hearts of the old timers in the crowd and may have established an all-time record for weight hoisted in a two-day period.  The Power Festival, in its third year, is sponsored by the Columbia Athletic Club, Inc., and is a fun meet all the way.  Many lifts, pets of various lifters, are contested and except for eight established events, the meet follows only a vague pattern.  Often more than one contest is under way at the same time.  Last year Homer Lewellen, a mid-heavy from the host club, lifted in 34 different events and totaled well over 15,000 pounds during the two-day session.

This year, however, the number of events was cut down by the tremendous interest in the Miller-Wachholz battle.  There are two sets of trophy lifts in the meet.  On the first day, a Saturday, the contest is the jerk from the rack, squat, and dead lift.  The entire meet is on a bodyweight formula basis because never more than 15 hardy souls enter.  Medals are given for each lift and trophies back five places overall.  Leonard Friesz won the jerk from the rack with a 350 jerk at a bodyweight of 198.  Miller was close behind with 370 and Wachholz was third with 320.

Lifter BWT Jerk Squat Dead Lift Total Points
Miller 235 370 530 675 1575 1014.30
Wachholz 195 320 455 585 1360 932.96
Friesz 198 350 445 490 1285 876.37
Witt 214 225 470 525 1225 807.98
Hahn 187 275 400 475 1150 805.00
Tarwater 130 230 260 410 900 801.00
Fellows 160 265 345 400 1010 776.69
Hamilton 145 230 280 420 930 766.32
Skinner 129 230 280 340 850 760.75
McPheeters 232 260 375 475 1080 698.76
Lewellen 190 280 385
B. Fellows 238 305 420

Meet Director:  Bill Clark

Officials:  Bill Clark, Don Wickell,  Ed Zercher

Friesz, an army captain stationed in Columbia, stayed in the running with a 445 squat, but Miller made 530 to grab the lead and Wachholz came up with 455.  In the dead lift, Wachholz shot ahead of Friesz with a great 585 effort and a near miss with 600.   Miller opened with 600, a weight he does five reps with, then jumped to 675.  He held the listed world amateur heavyweight record at 672 1/2 and made the 675 so easily that 700 or more seemed quite possible.  Miller is a perfect deadlifter.  The weight never touches his thighs as it goes up.  His shoulders are back before weight and thighs get together.  The 700 broke loose twice and went easily to the knees but Wilbur couldn’t get his shoulders back after such a fine effort and the lifts were no good.  He vowed that he would make 700 in Leavenworth in September.

Miller thus won the first day’s trophy event with a 1575 total and 1014.3 points.  His dead lift was a world mark and his lifts and total were all Missouri Valley records.  Wachholz made a 1360 total and established himself as a strong young man. He strengthened this fact considerably the following day.


Ken McClain – An All-Round Pioneer

by Al Myers

Ken McClain performing a Clean and Jerk with 162.5 Kilograms in 1989.

As I was checking over the USAWA Record List to see what records were broken in the JWC Straight Weight Postal Challenge, I noticed that John O’Brien, of the JWC, broke a record that was held by Ken McClain.  John did a 335 pound Continental to Chest in the 40 age group, unlimited weight class breaking the record of 320 pounds held by Ken McClain, which he established  in the FIRST YEAR of the USAWA, in 1987.  Everyone that has been around for several years in the lifting game in the midwest has heard of Ken McClain.  He is a legendary Olympic Lifter (multiple World Championships and several times Mo Valley lifter of the year) , and he competed in the very beginning of the USAWA  preceded by a lengthy All-Round Weightlifting career in the Mo Valley.  He is  indeed an All-Round Weightlifting Pioneer!

It is quite a honor for John to break a record held by Ken McClain that has been around this long in the USAWA Record List.   John deserves a “pat on the back” for this accomplishment, but at the same time it is pretty obvious this lift was MUCH under Kenny’s abilities.  After all,  at the time this record was set  he was STILL performing Clean and Jerks in Olympic Meets close to 400 pounds.  This lift was listed in the record list as being performed in Wichita, Kansas. I know the meets in Wichita at that time were performed in Sailor’s Gym, which had the reputation of being the most hardcore gym in the city.  Also,  many of the meets contested there  were 25 lift marathon meets, under the direction of Bill Clark.  Bob Burtzloff competed in several of these meets, and when telling me about them, explained that you had to “pace yourself” to have enough energy and strength left to finish the meet.  Most of the time the lifters didn’t really even warm up for the next lift, and only took  a couple of attempts with the last one being 90-95% of your max so you could conserve your energy in order to get a lift in all the events.  Bob said it wasn’t uncommon for half the entrants to have dropped out by the end of the day!!

Just out of curiosity, I checked the USAWA Record List to see how many records are still “on the books” from the first year of USAWA record keeping in 1987.  I counted 37 records.  That isn’t much considered the record list is over 9000 records long now!  The good news is that Ken McClain still has some records from 1987.  These records are a 240# Clean and Press with Dumbbells – Heels Together, a 353# Jerk from the Racks, and a 165# One Arm Snatch (Right).  These were done in this same meet in Wichita on the same date, and in the Masters 40 age group, unlimited weight class.  Truly very impressive lifts!!!  These are the only USAWA Records that Ken McClain has, as he retired from All-Round Weightlifting after that. But when you look back in the old Region IV  All-Round Record List (which I consider the fore-runner of the USAWA), you will see the name Ken McClain splattered all throughout it!  He “had” the Military Press record at 300# which he set  in 1968!  This was done in the 242# class. Only the SHW record was higher. (By the JWC lifting legend, Wayne Jackson at 330#).  How ’bout a 350# middle fingers deadlift?? A lift like that would turn heads today.  Kenny did that for record in 1984.  In 1981, he did a Pinch Grip with 185 pounds.  In 1984, he did a one handed Dumbbell Clean and Jerk with 150 pounds. Plus many more from a period of close to 20 years.

Guys like Ken McClain need to be remembered by the USAWA.  Just due to timing, their participation may have been limited in our organization (or for others not at all)  but their  contributions they made to the sport of All-Round Weightlifting  in the United States is great.  As I’ve said many times before, these PIONEERS  “paved the way” for the formation of the USAWA, which gives us an organized place to compete  in All-Round Weightlifting Meets today.

A Look Back in USAWA History

by Al Myers

5 Years ago (June-August 2005)

* Frank Ciavattone won the USAWA/World Heavy Lift Championships in Walpole, Massachusetts on August 27, 2005.  Twelve competitors were in the competition.

* Steve Schmidt had a busy summer putting on strongman shows.  In North Judson, Indiana on June 18th, 2005 he pulled a 58,200# caboose 90 feet with his teeth.  On August 27th, 2005 in Knox, Indiana he pulled with his teeth a 18-Wheeler weighing 32,200 pounds.

*  Mike McBride wins Best Lifter at the USAWA National Championships on June 25-26, 2005 in Youngstown, Ohio.  The meet was hosted by Dick Hartzell and Carl LaRosa of the Jump Stretch Training Facility.

* The United States was the winner of the IAWA World Postal Championships promoted by the West Australian All-Round Association.  The six-man USAWA  team members included: Ed Schock, Eric Todd, Abe Smith, Al Myers, Lon Beffort, and Mike McBride.

* Frank Ciavattone, on June 11th 2005, performed a 800# Neck Lift at the New England Championships.

10 Years ago (June-August 2000)

*  On September 2-3, 2000, the IAWA World Championships was held in Mansfield, Massachusetts, hosted by meet director Frank Ciavattone.  A total of 39 lifters entered.

* Art Montini received the Ciavattone Award at the IAWA Awards Banquet.   This award was given annually by the Ciavattone Family in remembrance of Frank Ciavattone, Sr.

*  Howard Prechtel, the President of the USAWA and the IAWA at the time, broke a harness lifting record set by Warren Lincoln Travis in 1906.  To accomplish this record, Howard lifted 510 pounds for 3120 repetitions in 62 minutes, for a total poundage of 1,591,200 pounds.

* Three USAWA Clubs participated in the Postal League.  These clubs were the Powerzone Club, Ambridge BBC, and Clark’s Gym.

*  The 2000 USAWA National Championship’s Best Lifter was Ed Schock.  Schock just edged out Frank Ciavattone, John Monk and John McKean.  This championship  was hosted by Denny Habecker on July 1st and 2nd.

*  Bob Hirsh was inducted into the USAWA Hall of Fame.

15 Years ago (June-August 1995)

*  Clark’s Gym was the host for the 1995 USAWA National Championships held in Columbia, Missouri on June 3-4.  Kerry Clark was the  Female Best Lifter and Art Montini was the Male Best Lifter.

*  Howard Prechtel broke a long standing record set by Warren Lincoln Travis in 1927.  Travis had lifted 5,500,000 pounds using 1000 pounds for 5,500 repetitions in the Back Lift in 3 hours, 9 minutes.  Prechtel did 1,111 pounds for 5,460 repetitions for a “total poundage” of 6,066,060 pounds.  Howard was 57 years old when he accomplished this amazing record.

*  Howard Prechtel hosted the 1995 IAWA World Championships in Eastlake, Ohio on August 12-13, 1995.  Bob Hirsh was the men’s Best Lifter and Noi Phumchaona was the women’s Best Lifter.

20 Years age (June-August 1990)

*  The third annual IAWA World Championships was held in Glasgow, Scotland.  The best USAWA performances were by Noi Phumchona (2nd among women), Art Montini (second among the masters) and Barry Bryan (third among the men).

*  Barry Bryan was the top Open Male Lifter at the USAWA National Championships, hosted by Attilio Alacchi on July15-16.  Art Montini was the top Masters Lifter.  Jeanne Burchett was the top women’s lifter.


(Credit is given to The Strength Journal, written and published by Bill Clark, for which all of the preceding information was found for this historical review.)

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