Tag Archives: USAWA

The Chisholm Trail and the USAWA

By Al Myers

A Chisholm Trail limestone marker is located a half mile from the Dino Gym.  At one time cattle drives where going over the same ground as the Dino Gym Training Field!

A Chisholm Trail limestone marker is located a half mile from the Dino Gym. At one time cattle drives where going over the same ground as the Dino Gym Training Field!

I’ve had the great fortune of living in Abilene, Kansas my entire life. Most think living in Kansas means that you live in a “fly over State”, but my community is deep in history like all other places.  One thing of historical significance includes being part of cowboy history and the Chisholm Trail.  Next year marks a big year for the Chisolm Trail in Abilene – the 150th year kickoff celebration marking the trail beginnings. The actual anniversary of the trail is in 2017, but we are going to start the celebration a year early!   The Chisolm Trail was named for a venture trader by the name of Jesse Chisholm.  Jesse was not a cattle driver, but used this pathway for other trade purposes before any hooves had even hit the famous Chisolm Trail.  The unique thing about these long cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail was that originally it ended in Abilene, Kansas. The years of the cattle drives were not that long (1867-1885) but this time frame shaped the beginning of Abilene.  Abilene at that time was a “rough and tough” time as cowboys were often tired and exhausted from the many months on the trail, and wanted to have a little fun once they got their paycheck.  They spent this money on various forms of entertainment in Abilene, and things often got out of hand.  It took a Sheriff that knew how to rule with an upper hand to keep things under control.  And we had that in Sheriffs Wild Bill Hickok and Tom Smith which made them famous law enforcing icons in the Old Wild West.

This marker is located in Old Abilene Town, right beside the old stockyards.

This marker is located in Old Abilene Town, right beside the old stockyards.

Now it’s that time of the story that I make the tie between the Chisholm Trail and the USAWA.   Once the cattle drives of Texas Longhorns arrived in the Abilene Stockyards, they were loaded on railcar for the long train ride back east where top dollar was being paid for beef.  This only happened because of a man named Joseph McCoy, who convinced the community of Abilene to support his Stockyards for the Kansas Pacific Railway to run rail from Abilene for cattle transport and convincing legislatures to allow movement of Longhorns in Kansas.   Joseph McCoy indeed was the “real McCoy” to make all this happen to support his business interests, a phrase he often referred to himself as.  He built a hotel, saloon, bank, and many other buildings to support his enterprise.  His first shipment of Longhorns left Abilene September 5th, 1867 headed to Chicago. All in all, over 3 million head of cattle flowed through Abilene driven up on the Chisholm Trail.  This put Abilene on the map as a true cowboy town.

Now for some of you, you may have recognized the name Joe McCoy as being the name of a past all round weightlifter. That’s where these stories interweave, as the Joe McCoy that we know in the USAWA was a great-great grandson of Joseph McCoy. I knew Joe pretty well, and competed with him on several occasions.  Before his death in 2014 we visited at least once on the phone every month.  Joe always wanted to make it to Abilene to research his family history, but never did as in his later years physical limitations prevented him from traveling.   Joe McCoy was appointed as the first IAWA Registrar in 1987, the year of the beginning for the International All Round Weightlifting Association.  Joe competed in the second USAWA Nationals in 1989 held by John Vernacchio in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.  In that meet he lifted 170 kilograms in the Zercher Lift at 46 years of age, one of his favorite lifts.  He was one of the members of the “inaugural class” of USAWA members in 1988.  Joe had a great passion for taking pictures and later producing videos of meets which he shared with all.  I have several of his videos. He was a very likable guy, and would visit for hours with anyone.  In our visits I would always be amazed at the things he remembered – names of lifters, specifics that happened at various meets, and obscure weightlifting trivia.  He was immensely involved in the Missouri Valley Weightlifting Association, which I consider to be the precursor of the now USAWA.   At that time only in the Missouri Valley Region the all round lifts were contested in competition, promoted mostly by Bill Clark.  Joe supplied many of the pictures that were in the original USAWA Rulebook.  He was a very good lifter himself, and always gave everything he had on the platform.  He was involved in USAWA meet promotions, with his most famous being the Texas Deadlift Classic.   Joe was always full of enthusiasm at meets, and in his deep booming Texas voice would encourage fellow lifters nonstop above the sounds of the other meet noises.

This picture of Joe McCoy performing a two dumbbell deadlift is in the USAWA Rulebook.

This picture of Joe McCoy performing a two dumbbell deadlift is in the USAWA Rulebook.

Joe McCoy spent most of his life in Glen Rose Texas, on the family ranch. Interestingly, Glen Rose offers up much Chisholm Trail history as well as Abilene. Glen Rose was right on the path of the Chisholm Trail, and features the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum which is one of the largest collections of Chisholm Trail history.  I’m betting the first group of 2400 Longhorns that hit the Chisholm Trail came from the grasslands very close to Glen Rose.

Just as Grandpappy Joseph McCoy had a big part of the history of the Chisholm Trail, so does his lineage Joe McCoy has had in the USAWA.

(This story is dedicated to the memory of Joe McCoy for his contributions to the USAWA and the IAWA.)

IAWA Meeting Time SET

by Al Myers

The IAWA World Championships is fast approaching!  I have been in contact with meet promoter Frank Ciavattone, and everything is “in place” for a great weekend of competition and fun.   An important part of this annual event is the annual general meeting of the IAWA.  All IAWA members are invited to attend.  The meeting will occur Friday evening, September 26th, at 7 PM.  The location of the meeting is the Old Colonial Café, 171 Nahatan St, Norwood, MA, 02062.  Frank has reserved us an outside garden type pavilion for the meeting.  If anyone wants to meet for dinner beforehand be there at 6 PM.  Frank told me that this is a favorite place for the locals!

The banquet will occur Sunday night, September 28th at the same place.  The IAWA World Championships Banquet will start at 6 PM.  The phone number of the restaurant is 1-781-762-2058.    Frank said he is very pleased with the entries so far for Worlds, and it is looking to be a 20+ lifter meet.  The deadline is approaching fast so get your entries in soon if you haven’t already!

Big T’s Birthday Bash OTSM

by Thom Van Vleck

As many know by now I turned 50 years of age.  When this was coming up my wife asked me what I would like to do on my birthday.  I have two interests and from those interests come most of my friends.  They are the Scottish Highland Games and Weightlifting.  I thought about it long and hard and I knew that if I could have anything I wanted it would be to have my friends at my home and throwing and lifting being a part of that.  So, the first Saturday after my birthday (my actual birthday was May 28th and the meet was May 31st) I hosted a Highland Games and an Old Time Strong Man USAWA meet.

The Highland Games came first thing in the morning.  Like the USAWA there are age groups in the Highland Games with records for eight traditional events.  Moving up a class gave me an opportunity to do something that I had not done in nearly 10 years which was set a World Record.  I had a group of 4 masters that included myself, 8 time Master’s World Champ Jim Spalding, 8 time Master’s World Champ Bill Leffler (who broke his own 60-64 age group record in the 28lb Weight for Distance at the meet), and USAWA member Dean Ross who is a 2 time MWC Champ himself!

Now, bear with me as I do a little self promotion.  I spent the last two years trying to rebuild my strength base with an eye on setting the Weight Over Bar World record as well as going top ten in all the events.  So here’s a not-so-short story on that:

My best event is the Weight Over Bar.  I love this event and it plays right to my strength.  I have done what seems like a million power cleans in my life and I think all that work paid off as the WOB event involves pulling a 42lb weight over a cross bar for height.  Much like the pole vault or high jump the bar will go up and the greatest height wins.  I broke and rebroke the WR in this event in 2005 when I was in the 40-44 age group.  In the 45-49 age group I ended with the 2nd best all time throw…but no record.  I made it a goal to work this event and try and break this record.  This was a two year plan.  When it came time for that event I had the beginning of a nasty callous tear on my right throwing hand.  If it went I knew it would seriously screw up my goal as my grip would be compromised.  So I decided to not do as many warm ups and jump to a higher starting height which was 17ft.  I started with the standing style (they keep records for the standing style and the “open” or spinning style) and easily cleared 17ft.  I then jumped to 17ft 10in which was a half inch better than the current best by Mark McDonald of Scotland.  You get three attempts at each height and I missed my first two!  Disaster!  Not warming up on the event was causing me some problems!  I took a moment and got dialed back in and rolled it over!  So, one record down and one to go.  Had I missed that I would NOT have been able to attempt the second one so that was very critical.  I then moved the bar up to 18ft 6in which would at least give me the second best all time WOB with the spin style and it would give me a warm up before going up to the record attempt.  This was usually an easy height for me but my grip was giving me problems.  It was hot and muggy and my grip just felt “greasy” and that didn’t make me feel confident.  Usually this height would be a cinch but instead I missed it two times and again found myself behind the proverbial “8 ball” needing to get my third throw to even have a shot at the open WOB record.  I got some words of encouragement and was able to make that third throw but now I had to jump a foot to 19’6″ to set the break the record held by Jeff Loosle.  That’s a huge jump and I was not real confident after my struggles.  I went through my mental approach, visualizing my throws, going through my mental check list of what points to hit and lined up for the toss.  I hit it perfectly and knew it, but I also wondered if this would be enough!  I looked up and watched as the weight literally rolled over the bar!  I then felt a searing pain in my hand and looked down to see I had blown my callous wide open!  Glad it waited!  A two year journey had been fulfilled.  Thanks for bearing with me in that “totally unrelated to the USAWA” news.

Now on to the meet report!

We started with the new “unofficial” lift of OTSM which is “Thor’s Hammer”.  I was curious how this event would play out.  Would it be too dangerous?  Would it be too hard to judge?   When you have a new event you just don’t know until you test it out.  Art Montini was the brave soul that started us out.  I had a warm up bar set up as well and everyone was trying out different things.  You quickly realize that you can’t handle as much as you think and adjustments were being made.  Dean Ross jumped in next followed by Mike Murdock and Denny Habecker.  Art ended with 15lbs, Dean and Mike at 20lbs, and Denny at 25lbs before John O’Brien and Eric Todd jumped in at 30lbs.  I had done 40lbs in the one time I practice this event and figured I’d just start there.  John made 35lbs and Eric finished with a successful 40lb attempt.  I felt a little sheepish jumping in after those two were done and was wondering if I had made a tactical error in not taking an earlier attempt.  However, my nerves were calmed when I hit the 40 and I was able to finish with 45lbs.  Not often I lead over those two guys at any point in a meet and I knew they’d crush me later but I have to admit it was a nice birthday present to beat two guys I have so much respect for even if it were just one lift!

We next went to the Cyr lift.  Again Art led us off and got the party started.  Again Art, Mike, Dean, and Denny took their turns.  Art and Mike finished with 30lbs, Dean with 65lbs, and Denny at 85lbs.   I started with John’s starting lift which was 125lbs.  It was so tough I decided to end there.  John went on to tie his own USAWA best in this lift with 140lbs before missing 150lbs on a third.  Eric stole the show at this point and opened at 150lbs.  He then jumped to 170lbs and then made 180lbs.  This is special as he’s had an injured elbow that needed surgery.  So it was nice to see Eric pushing big weights again!

We ended with the Dumbbell to the shoulder.  I love this lift and had to fight Al Myers to even consider it.  I think it’s a really unique event and the small crown of spectators really seemed to enjoy watching this lift.  I think for spectators the slow, methodical style of this lift and the simplicity of the rules allows them to cheer and follow along as the lifter struggles to complete the lift.  However, for the lifter, this is one of the more painful lifts I have ever done and my sternum was sore for days after!  Art edged out Mike Murdock with a 60lb effort to Mike’s 50lbs.  Dean edged Denny with 130lbs to a 100lbs effort.  I opened with 200lbs then jumped to 235lbs which would be a personal best for me in competition.  After getting that I retired and set back to watch John and Eric battle it out!  They both made my best attempt of 235lbs look easy and jumped to 265lbs.  Both made it with some effort and then both jumped to 300lbs  This would tie the all time best in this event by Chris Anderson.  300lbs would also be a 35lb contest PR for Eric and 30lb contest PR for John.  So quite a jump.  Both athletes looked like they were wrestling a bear but both ended up successful!  Eric called for 305lbs which was all I could fit on my bar.  This was twice Eric has maxed out my equipment with the last time being on the Dinnie Stones.  John said he’d had enough so it was just Eric for the 4th and final attempt.  By now the Highland Games were completely over and my gym was filled to over flowing.  Eric  pulled the Dumbbell in and then tried to get a solid set on his belt to continental it up.  He seemed to slip on this a couple times and I was wondering if he were going to get it.  As soon as he got a solid set up on his belt I think we all knew that Eric was not going to fail but there was this little detail of finishing a very painful lift!  Eric bounced it up until Mike Murdock gave him the down signal.  I mention the fact Mike was judging as he is one of the toughest judges I’ve seen and if he says you got it….YOU GOT IT WITHOUT QUESTION!

It’s always nice to end a meet on a successful lift that breaks a record!  Several records were broken and I believe the Thor’s Hammer is an OTSM event that’s here to stay!  Everyone seemed to like it and after we were done the highland games throwers came to the platform to give it a go and this went on for another hour!

I had said I was going to crown two champions.  The overall weight lifted regardless of age or bodyweight and then the formula winner.  Eric Todd won the overall weight lifted with 525lbs.  John O’Brien was 2nd and I was third.  The age and weight adjust rankings go like this:  Eric 410.97 and still first, John 374.65 and still second, Thom 340.31 and still third.  Now we have a change.  Dean and Denny now flip at 4th and 5th with Denny at 251.33 and Dean at 220.92.  Art and Mike maintain their placings with Art’s adjusted total at 149.14 to Mike’s 128.23.


(age/weight/class)   Thor’s Hammer    Cyr Lift   Dumbbell to Shoulder   Total

Mike Murdock (74/180lb) 20lbs            30lbs (record)     50lbs (record)      100lbs

Art Montini (86/175lb)       15lbs             30lbs (record)    60lbs (record)      105lbs

Denny Habecker (71/195lb)25lbs            85lbs (record)     100lbs                   210lbs

Dean Ross (71/266lbs)         22.5lbs        65lbs (record)    130lbs (record)  217.5lbs

Thom Van Vleck (50/275lbs)45lbs        125lbs (record)    235lbs (record)  405lbs

John O’Brien (45/285lbs)   35lbs          140lbs                  300lbs (record)   475lbs

Eric Todd (39/257lbs)            40lbs          180lbs (record)  305lbs (record)    525lbs

Thanks to everyone that came and made my Birthday so much fun and a success.  I appreciate the guys being patient and waiting on the Highland Games to be over before we started the lifting.  A special award to Dean Ross who was the only guy that did both other than me!

The rest of the story….

by Eric Todd

Growing up, when we listened to the radio, it was always 61 Country (an AM station out of KC) or KMRN (a local AM station). On both of those stations, I enjoyed listening to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story”. Last year, I wrote an article called “Where Do We Go?” that detailed some of the reasons that I feel our membership in the USAWA is not terribly substantial. Well, in this article, I would like to discuss “The Rest of the Story”, benefits of all-round that draw lifters to the USAWA.

The USAWA offers something for everyone. Everyone has their own strengths. There are a multitude of lifts in the USAWA across many different aspects of strength. There are grip lifts, heavy lifts, 2 man lifts, dumbbell lifts, and barbell lifts. There are eccentric lifts and very standard lifts (variations of the Olympic and powerlifting movements). So there are many different ways to demonstrate your strength. One should never be bored doing all-round. Even if you have an injury, or are limited in some way, you should be able to find some way to excel in the USAWA.

Secondly, the USAWA is drug tested. If you are new to the USAWA, you will probably be tested. IF you have dramatic increases in your lifts, you will probably be tested. Please take no offense. It is how we maintain the integrity of our drug free organization. I, for one, take a great deal of comfort knowing that I am lifting on an even playing field with other drug free lifters.

There is definitely camaraderie, a brotherhood, whilst lifting in the USAWA. It is a small enough organization that you get to know most of the good folks lifting within it. Because of this, the meets are not only competitions, they are like family reunions. I want to out lift the other competitors, but I am rooting for them all the while to lift their very best. It is the best environment to be lifting in.

Then there are the Heavy Lifts. No other organization has them, to my knowledge. If you want to inflate your ego a little, and swell up in the chest, do some Heavy lifting. Through no other means will you lift as much. I have done a ton or more in 4 lifts now, and I am not close to being the best of the best.

There is nothing more old school than lifting all-round. Because of that, you will get to lift in some of the coolest old school gyms you have ever seen. If you love the history behind weightlifting, some of our old school USAWA gyms are wealthy is weightlifting history. I know I have not been to all of them, but if you want to experience strength training and weightlifting history, visit Al’s Dino Gym, Clark’s championship gym, or the JWC Training Hall. I am sure there are many others in the USAWA.

The USAWA is a very unique organization for strength training. Sometimes it can be humbling, but is always a great time. For any strength enthusiast who has not tried competing in a USAWA meet, you are missing out. I suggest coming out. You will meet some great people and get to challenge yourself in ways you never had before.

Big T’s OTSM (First Update)

by Thom Van Vleck

I have some more information on OTSM being held at the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Entry info and a link to the first story on the meet can be found under the USAWA Future Events section.

This meet will be held outside weather permitting.  If the weather is bad, we’ll move it inside.  Each lifter will be given the chance to look at the records and attempt one record attempt on a lift outside the competition once the meet is completed.  Additional records will be up to there being time.  I wanted to mention this in case there was anyone coming that planned on trying some record attempts.

I thought I might catch some flack regarding my decision to have two champs.  One based on the formulas and the other based solely on most weight lifted.  So far not a peep.  I think it will be interesting to see if they are different!  Just so you know, it’s not my plan to do this with the OTSM Championships.

In addition, This meet will happen regardless of the turn out.  The idea of having this in conjunction with a Highland Games meet is I hope to get some new members to sign up.  You will notice I don’t have a deadline.  All comers!  So don’t worry about the meet being cancelled due to low turnout.  THIS WILL HAPPEN!

Finally, bring some shade, sunscreen, and a folding chair.  It’s pretty wide open at my place so shade is tough to find.  I don’t sunburn and don’t notice it….but we’ve toasted a few of the fair skinned lifters and throwers at my place!

Hope to see you there!

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