Tag Archives: John Vernacchio

2012 USAWA Year In Review

by Al Myers

The 2012 Year In Review is dedicated to the late, great John Vernacchio.

For the fourth year now, I have done a 2012 USAWA Year In Review.  This book contains all of the information that has been placed on the USAWA website throughout the prior year.  If a blog was written – it is included in this review book.  All together, this review book is 476 pages and contains 164,701 words!!!  Definitely not something you would get read in one evening!  I have had a few copies printed and bound, so if anyone wants one send me an email with your request.  The books cost $50, payable to the USAWA.  This was the cost of the printing so no money is being made here.  Of course, if you just want the file I’ll email it to you free of charge and you can print it out yourself.  The book is printed in black and white.  Color printing would have been 3 times as much! 

This book is not edited.  I just copied and pasted from the website.  I do this monthly as a way of backing up the website, so making this book is not really that much work for me.  And after the problems with the website this past week, where we lost over a days worth of material, it goes to show that the internet may not be a permanent source of this important information.  Having a hard copy book that you can place on your bookshelf will still be there in 50 years!!

John’s History in the USAWA

by Al Myers

John Vernacchio completing a Clean and Jerk.

It’s been a sad past couple of weeks with the passing of John Vernacchio.  He had many friends in the all-round weightlifting community.  However, it is a glorious occasion as well, because I know he is in heaven right now meeting family members and friends that have gone before him.  My bet is that he and Howie are having a hard training session together right now – with John pumping out those famous presses of his, while Howard is hooking up the belts to do a Harness Lift.

I would like to take today and share some of the accomplishments that John has achieved throughout his lifting career.  Most of this will be with his time lifting in the USAWA as I don’t have much information on his lifting before that.  However,  Joe Roark (Ironhistory.com) recently provided some important information on John that I wasn’t aware of prior to his USAWA involvement. Initially John did some competitive bodybuilding in his early weightlifting days.  These were his physique competition accomplishments:

Mar 12, 1960 was 11th at Mr. Jr. Middle Atlantic
Dec 09, 1961 was 7th in an Open Physique contest in Norristown, PA
Oct 13, 1962 was 18th in an Open Physique contest in Philadelphia
Apr 04, 1964 was 21st in a physique event at Holy Saviour

After that John become involved with Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting, lifting for the Holy Savior Weightlifting Team.  Joe Roark also provided some contest history of PL and Olympic meets that John competed in in the early 60’s:

Oct 19, 1963 at Atlantic Coast PL: curl 140, Sq 360, BP 200, Total 700 for 6th place in the 181 class
Mar 21, 1964 was last in an Open PL contest in Pittsburgh where his only successful lift was a 380 squat
Feb 13, 1960 in the 148 class at the Greater Philidelphia Open 200-170-235 = 605

In John’s Hall of Fame Bio, it stated that he won his first National Championship in 1961, at the National Collegiate WL Championships.  John also stated in his bio that his two favorites lifts were the Military Press and the Squat – which shows why John eventually found his calling in All-Round Weightlifting by enjoying two such different lifts the best. Most of his Powerlifting was done in his club – the Valley Forge WL Club.  This continued into the early days of the USAWA, as John usually brought a team from his club to represent in all-round meets.  The Valley Forge WL Club was a member club of the USAWA from 1989 to 1995. 

John Vernacchio (left) presenting Jerry Turner (right), a member of the Ambridge Club his award after a meet John was promoting.

John was one of the pioneer leaders of the USAWA.  He promoted the VERY FIRST USAWA National Championships in 1988.  That is still a meet the “old-timers” tell stories about.  He went on to promote three USAWA National Championships (1988, 1989, & 2004).  At this years Nationals, a special award was given to John for this contribution, as he was one of 4 that have promoted the most, at 3, USAWA National Championships.  I am really glad now that he received this final award from the USAWA before his death.  He deserved it! 

John was the second President of the USAWA, elected in January 1989 and serving till the end of 1992.  He also served as one term as the IAWA Vice President (elected in 2000).  In addition, he has served several terms on the IAWA Technical Committee.  He did several IAWA promotions as well.  He promoted three IAWA World Championships (1989, 1991, & 1997), as well as three Gold Cups (1992, 1996, & 2003).  John was “no stranger” to competing overseas.  Numerous times he attended the IAWA Worlds when it was held out of the states. I did some research and have discovered John competed in 12 World Championships!  He had a continuous 10 year run from the the first one in 1988 in Leicester, England to 1997 Worlds in Collegeville, PA.  This included World Meets in Glasgow, Scotland twice and England three times.  His last two World entries came in 2002 & 2005 in Lebanon, PA. John also promoted many Powerlifting meets and Olympic lifting competitions. He promoted the 1987 National Masters WL Championships as well as the 1991 Pan American Masters  WL Championships.  He promoted multiple Eastern Masters PL and WL Championships.

John was an active participant in the USAWA National Championships as well.  All together – he competed in 15 Championships (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2007).  He won numerous Best Lifter Age Group Awards through the years: 1988 Best Lifter 50-54, 1990 Best Lifter 50-54, 1992 Best Lifter 55-59, 1993 Best Lifter 55-59, 1997 Best Lifter 60-64, 2004 Best Lifter 65-69.  He probably won more Best Lifter Awards than this number, as this information came from the old meet results and often not all Best Lifter Awards were recorded.  His highest overall placing at the USAWA Nationals was 4th overall at the 1988 Championships.  He had 4 total “top ten” finishes at Nationals: 4th in 1988, 10th in 1989, 6th in 1990, and 8th in 1997.  John “V” also really supported the IAWA Gold Cup.  He competed in 13 Gold Cups, including Gold Cups  in England and Scotland.  He entered the “very first” Cup in 1991 directed by Howard Prechtel in Lakewood, Ohio and performed a 190 Kg 12″ Base Squat.

John Vernacchio

by Al Myers

John Vernacchio Sr. - December 27, 1937 to September 2, 2012.

The following newspaper article was given to Denny by Dick Durante at John’s funeral.  The article tells about the Holy Savior weightlifting team going to California in 1980 to compete in the World and National Weightlifting and Powerlifting Championships.  John took second in his class in both events.

Holy Savior Weightlifting Team


by John McKean

John "V" Vernacchio performing a hip lift

I’d just met the extremely muscular 40-something-year-old weightlifter, and it appeared he was trying to kill me! I often have that effect on people, but they usually have to talk to me at least for a few minutes prior to reaching for my throat; not so for no-nonsense John Vernacchio; he was all set to drop a 300+ pound barbell on my head practically at first sight! You see, I was the head judge at one of the very first National Masters Olympic lift meets, held at our own Ambridge VFW. John was noticeably more husky than most of the masters competing, and had opted to take one of the heaviest final clean and jerk attempts. It was a mighty struggle but John thrust it overhead to a good lock. Only problem was that his feet weren’t too content with their position. John shifted a little to get balance, then a few more steps toward the front of the platform, followed by some faster shuffling forward, then a bit of a run to catch up. With merely one foot of platform left, I reflected on one sage old judge mentioning that the head ref should always hold his position, no matter the jeopardy. Forget that, my integrity wasn’t so solid, and I dove for the audience!!  But I kept an eye on ole John, who now just took baby steps, finally staying steady – he actually returned the bar to the edge of the platform after the relieved down signal, and earned three white lights! I shook my finger in amusement at John, who, I’m convinced, started my rapid subsequent hair loss in those scary few seconds!!

Oh, I got even with him some years later, via my then 6-year-old wild child youngest son, Sean. John was holding one of his elaborate All-round meets in his big carpet store and warehouse near Philadelphia. As was the case with most of V’s promotions, this was very well attended, and the warehouse portion certainly was a huge, wonderful facility to stage such events. The store section was closed to the public that day, but well furnished and a nice place to sit or lay down to relax before or after attempts for us lifters. But some of the guys complained to John about the “damn bird” in that room which was somewhat annoying when trying to rest! John said there were never any birds in his store, but came out for a listen. He THOUGHT he heard a slight “peep” after a while, and old time lifter, Paul Eberhardinger, identified it as a parakeet. Completely puzzled, John & Paul searched every corner of the room, hearing several more “peeps” all the while, but seeing no bird. In desperation, John started lifting sections of his sample carpetting. Finally on one pull of a plush piece, John came eyeball to eyeball with a smirking Sean who just looked him square in the eye and said “PEEP!” John coulda strangled the impish little lad! Later that day, Sean managed to throw a rock at a beehive and kick up an angry swarm of bees, and still later, John found he’d uncovered a deep open retaining pit outside the store and was attempting to do parallel dips over the treacherous hole!! Not that John ever told me, but I suspect Sean still has a lifetime ban from any Philly meet!!!

Yes, it was always an adventure and a first class thrill to compete in any Vernacchio contest! He went all out to make sure every detail was in place so competitors were free to do their very best. His combination olympic & powerlift weekends via his Easter National Masters contests were legendary! His enthusiasm was so contagious during these events, that he even managed to talk ME into olympic lifting on the Sunday Olympic lift portion, and I actually ENJOYED it, even as an awkward 42-year-old novice to those tricky lifts! I’ll never forget the time Art & I were at the Easterns and the overall best lifter trophy (both days-olympic & powerlift total), a huge sucker, was awarded to Art Montini by a proud and smiling John Vernacchio  – Art smiled back, but then whispered to me, “Get the car started quick, and let’s get outa town in hurry; they must have made a mistake!!”

John was always a joy to compete with at all the many all-round contests we shared. Always grinning, he was as good a competitor as he was a coach & friend. Yet for as strong and dedicated a lifter that he truly was, he never took himself all that seriously – He laughed as hard as the rest of us when this very powerful man was beaten by my older son Rob, then 10 years old, in the hack lift one year (try as he may John just couldn’t get much more than a bare bar up past his massive thigh biceps!!!). Or the time during one of his IAWA world championships that he planned just ONE Steinborn lift (because it caused him TREMENDOUS shoulder agony to get the bar onto his back), but was three red lighted because he didn’t squat deep enough! (Yeah, he easily corrected that on a second attempt, laughing all the while!).

Yep, we’ll be telling John Vernacchio stories forever in the USAWA – there were so many crazy antics with him around, and he was so well loved by everyone! When you think about it, John will certainly ALWAYS be with us!

John’s Funeral

by Al Myers

John Vernacchio's funeral handout.

This was sent to me by Denny Habecker, which was the funeral handout from John Vernacchio’s service.  I know John had many friends from all over the World that were unable to attend his funeral, so that is the reason I’m sharing this on the website. 


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