Ken McClain – An All-Round Pioneer
by Al Myers
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.