Hall of Fame Biography – Howard Prechtel class of 1993

The Life of Howard Prechtel

by Dennis Mitchell

Howard Prechtel and one of his favorite lifts - the Hip Lift

Back in the late 1940’s Howard Prechtel was competing in Olympic Lifting. At that time it was the only way to compete. However, his real love in lifting was the odd lifts. That was what the All-Round lifts where called then. As power lifting became more popular he competed in that also. With the organizing of All-Round lifting Howard was in his true element. He still competed in both Olympic and Power lifting, while competing in All-Round meets, setting many National and World records. Besides competing he was active as a referee and meet promoter for both National and World meets. He organized the Gold Cup Record Day, which has become an annual event. For many years he held the Buckeye Record Day every February. He has been both the National and World President. Howard is also known for his ability as a “Bone Setter”. Though he had no formal training, he learned his skills from a fellow lifter who was a medical professor, and taught him the art of manipulation.

Howard Prechtel in his earlier days competing in Olympic Weightlifting

Here are some of Howard’s lifting accomplishments. At age 52, he did a Harness lift of 1,910 pounds for 22 reps in 30 seconds. At age 57, he broke Warren Travis’ record set in 1927, by lifting 1,111 pounds 5,460 times in 3 hours and nine minutes. What lift? The Travis lift! At age 62, he did a Roman Chair sit up with 908 pounds. At age 70, he did 105 reps in 75 seconds with 1,102 pounds, in the Travis lift. Other than his lifting accomplishments Howard was a decorated Marine in the second world war, where he served for four years in the Pacific. He took part in several invasions and was wounded twice. He seldom talked about this except that it was very horrible and it was best left in the past.

Al Myers Inducted into the RMSA Hall of Fame

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers receiving the RMSA Hall of Fame Award Picture Left to Right: Thom Van Vleck, Al Myers, and Chad Ullom

I recently was contacted by Greg Bradshaw of the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes (RMSA) and asked if I would do the honors of inducting our own Al Myers into the RMSA Hall of Fame. They asked that I do it at the McPherson Scottish Highland Games in McPherson, Kansas. Al was the Athletic Director of this games for many years and built it into one of the premier Scottish Games in the Midwest. In 2007, Al hosted the Scottish Masters World Championships in McPherson. I presented a speech for Al and in it are things I think you should all know about him and that his involvement in Strength Sports goes far beyond the USAWA. Al has had quite a career as an athlete and going into the RMSA Hall of Fame (there has been only 6 inductees in over 30 years) is a just reward for a great athlete and friend.

The following is my speech:

We are here today to honor Al Myers and induct him in the RMSA Hall of Fame.

Al is a veterinarian and his family includes his Wife – Leslie of 23 years, and three daughters – Emily, Katie, and Molly. Al has always counted on their support.

As a competitor, Al started in the Highland Games in 1987 at the age of 20. He retired in 2005, after 19 years of competition. During that time he competed in over 200 Highland Games and over 100 Powerlifting Meets. Al competed as a professional Highland Games athlete for 10 years, from 1990 to 2000. He held the American Record in the 16# Sheaf toss in 1995, with a height of 35 feet (which is when I first met him). His best throws in the Highland Games were 16lb Sheaf 35 feet, 20# Sheaf 31 feet, Open Stone 48 feet, Bramaer Stone 38 feet, LWFD 81 feet, HWFD 41 feet, 16# Hammer 130 feet, 22# Hammer 108 feet, and WOB 15’11”. Al’s favorite and best event was the Caber Toss – an event he always placed high in. He has won over 100 Caber Competitions in his Highland Game career. Al was a 6 time Rocky Mountain athlete of the year – from the years 1991 to 1996 and held several RMSA records. As if this weren’t enough: Al also had a whole other athletic career in powerlifting. He was a 12 time state champion, 3 time collegiate National Champ and 7 time National Champion.

You would think the guy might want to take a break, but Al has continued on in another sport: The United States All-Round Weightlifting Association. He just recently was awarded Overall Best Lifter at this past year’s National Championships. He has won 6 All-Round National Championships since “Retiring” from the highland games, and was the Overall Best Lifter in three of these. He has won 3 All-Round World Championships, and was the Overall Best Lifter in the 2006 World Championships, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland. At the awards banquet following this competition he wore his Kilt to honor Scotland and the Scottish Games.

But Al was NOT just an Athlete. He was the Kansas representative to the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletic organization for over 10 years. He was responsible for introducing many new throwers to the Highland Games and helped in getting new games started in other areas (including mine). Al has spent countless hours training new throwers at his gym, the DINO GYM, which is fully equipped as a Highland Games training complex! He has promoted several training Games at his place through the years to help build interest for the Highland Games athletics.

Today, even though he is retired as a thrower, Al is still very involved in coaching and promoting games. He just recently promoted the very first Highlander Nationals – which is a combination of Highland Game events and Strongman events.

But perhaps more importantly to those here today, he was the first athletic director of the McPherson Highland Games, and performed in that capacity until 2007. In his last year as athletic director of the McPherson Games, he hosted the Masters World Highland Games Championships.

Now, you might be thinking at this point that Al is Ten feet tall, weighs two tons, eats hammers and nails, and can take a shot gun blast standing…..his hammer actually travels faster than a speeding bullet, his run up on the Caber can derail a locomotive, and his WOB could clear the Empire State building……and those are his warm ups….

But joking aside, the reality is, Al is one of us and never made any of us feel any less. Scottish games are built on kith and kin, friends and family. Athletes used to participate knowing that the next day they might be called to fight side by side. Al very much embodied that friendship and made all of us that came after him feel like part of the highland games family. Al’s impact goes far beyond what I’ve talked about today. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this recognition and it’s a standard that I know many of us here want to maintain. Thanks, Al, and may God continue to Bless you and your family for many years to come.

A Big Thank You to Bill Clark

by Scott Schmidt

I spoke to Bill Clark in early September to confirm his receipt of my membership check. At the end of our conversation, when I said “See you in Lebanon” and he replied “No you won’t, I’m done”, I felt the air go out of the balloon, because one of the Icons of the Strength Sports was stepping down. I’m certain Bill will receive many tributes and accolades for all the effort he has put in to keeping the games strong people play alive. But I wanted to send my own recognition, so the folks out there who have relied on Bill to keep things going, will realize, it’s time to step up, and bring their leadership qualities to the table, so our whole organization can continue to thrive and prosper.

Bill Clark had a vision to promote the competitions of Olympic Weightlifting and All Around Weightlifting for many years. If it wasn’t for Bill Clark introducing the Masters program to Olympic Weightlifting back in the 70’s, and bringing the All Around’s in by the late 80’s, I’m certain many of us would have missed a lot of fun memories and achievements in our lives.Being able to succeed at the tough sport of moving iron brings a lot of good qualities to your life style. When you consider all the people who have been influenced by the good things Bill has promoted, I think the man deserves a whole lot of credit for his efforts.

So, in summary, thanks a ton, Bill

ADIOS to the Strength Journal

by Al Myers

“Adios” was the lead story headline for the latest Strength Journal, which I received yesterday. And with this – I mean the last Strength Journal. Bill Clark has published the Strength Journal for over 20 years covering news from the USAWA, but over 50 years including other strength news. I read this last Journal with great sadness, as I’m sure most others did as well. But as Bill said in this last Journal, “All things must have a finish. That’s this letter.” I owe Bill Clark a great deal of gratitude for getting me started in the All-Rounds. I clearly remember my first time meeting him several years ago. I was winding down my powerlifting career and just wanted to see “what this all-round lifting was all about”. So myself and several of my training partners headed to Clark’s Gym in Columbia on a cold December day to try out a record day on Saturday, followed by the Goerner Deadlift Dozen on Sunday. Bill knew we were coming and greeted us at the door (he also knew we were Powerlifters) and one of the first things he said was for us to look at the sign by the door. It had the Gym Rules which spelled out NO WRAPS and NO DRUGS ALLOWED. Bill is one to get right to the point. I knew right away that this was my type of gym and that I was welcome!! Immediately I found out what all-round weightlifting was all about – and I was very intrigued. Steve Schmidt was there that day and was going for a repetition Back Lift record. I had no idea at the time the importance of the record he was breaking. I do now – it was the greatest Back Lift repetition record of All-Time. I also met Tom Ryan that weekend. Tom helped us tremendously – and showed us the proper way to do these strange new lifts that we were trying for the first time.

Bill immediately put us to work breaking USAWA records. Of course we were just focusing on bench press type lifts at first, until Bill said, “I have never seen that much bench pressing in Clark’s Gym before.” I soon found out that All-Round Weightlifting was much more – when Bill brought out the ring and challenged us to Finger Lifting. I thought later that this must have been his way to test us – to see if we really had what it takes to become All-Round Weightlifters. We maxed on every finger of each hand and Bill made us go all out. After all – He WAS!!! I left that weekend with several sore fingers but knowing that this sport was for me – thanks to Bill Clark. I would like to know how many lifters Bill has introduced to All-Round Weightlifting – I’m sure it is more than I could count.

The Strength Journal has been the backbone of the USAWA since the start. It will not be the same not receiving any more of them in the future. In the past when I found a Strength Journal in the mail – I would open it up right away – even before looking at any of my other mail. I would like to think that I could maybe talk Bill into writing a few stories for the USAWA Daily News in the future. But I know Bill has said in the past that he would never put anything on the internet – and Bill is a man of conviction so I believe I probably won’t be successful in this endeavor. But I will keep trying to change his mind on this so hopefully we can read the words of Bill Clark again.

Bill, I know you probably will never see this, but THANK YOU for everything you have done for the USAWA. THANKS for the many years of publishing the Strength Journal. THANKS for the leadership you have given to our organization. And most importantly – THANKS for getting me started in this great sport of All-Round Weightlifting.

Challenge Barbells

by Al Myers

John Conner, of the Dino Gym, lifts the Dino Gym's Challenge Barbell. This Challenge Barbell weighs 585 pounds and has a 2.5" diameter handle. When John did this - he deadlifted it for three reps!!

Every gym or club should have a Challenge Barbell.  There is nothing as inviting as a heavy, already fix-loaded barbell that just sits in the corner of a gym just daring someone to lift it!  The lifting of a Challenge Barbell becomes an issue of pride among gym members – everyone wants to be part of “the list” of those who have succeeded. It gives great motivation to those who haven’t yet – and inspires their training to keep improving, until the day comes when they are successful in lifting the Challenge Barbell.  The overwhelming sense of accomplishment is felt when a Challenge Barbell is lifted – knowing that you have have overcome the challenge laid out in front of you.

Most Old Time Strongmen had some sort of Challenge Barbell or Challenge Dumbbell that they would use in their show acts. It usually was specifically made to emphasize their strength in a particular lift. They would flaunt this Challenge to other strongmen – and when others would fail with it give themselves a “pat on the back” and proclaim themselves as the strongest!!  Often these Challenge Barbells would be made in a way that made them difficult to lift without practice on them – thus giving the owner a tremendous advantage. Most Challenge Barbells were poorly balanced, or had hand spacings that weren’t optimal for other lifters.

I am going to be doing stories about several Challenge Barbells of famous Old Time Strongmen over the next few weeks. If anyone has a Challenge Barbell in their gym or club, please send me the details and I will run the story of it right here, in the USAWA Daily News.

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