USAWA: The First Year

by Al Myers

Steve Schmidt, of Clark's Gym, was the first member of the USAWA.

This is a big year for the USAWA. It is our 25th ANNIVERSARY of being an organization. I got wondering the other day, “just when was the official beginning day of the USAWA?”. I had a general idea of when this was, but not for sure on an actual date (if there even was one). So I did some research and now I’m going to share what I found out with everyone. The “FIRSTS” are always noteworthy. Here it goes, and I’m going to try to stay on a timeline.

November 29th, 1986

Bill Clark met with several lifters from England in Grimsby, England to “draw up the final plans” of the IAWA. There had been previous meetings, but this was the date the final, BIG DECISIONS were made. The USAWA origins correlates directly with the creation of the IAWA (which will be the topic someday of ANOTHER STORY. I will try to keep on track here.). The constitution and bylaws of the IAWA were approved, which were the basis of the original USAWA bylaws. On this day it was decided that each individual country involved with the IAWA would form their own governing body. Also, the Rules of the original 110 lifts were decided upon.

January 1st, 1987

The first USAWA officers took office. These officers were appointed (by Bill I assume) at the November 29th meeting. This included Jon Carr of Missouri as President and Joe McCoy of Texas as Registrar and Record Keeper.

July 1st, 1987

The USAWA began collecting memberships. Dues were $12, of which $6 went to the USAWA bank account and the remaining $6 went into an IAWA bank account. Club dues were set at $10 and sanction fees set at $10 (which are the SAME FEES we charge today!!!). Steve Schmidt was the first person to buy a membership card in the USAWA.

September 20th, 1987

The first sanctioned USAWA event was held in Clarks Gym. Steve Schmidt put on a solo exhibition of lifts. He did a 2450# Hip Lift, 405# Neck Lift, 3205# Harness Lift, 1125# Hand and Thigh, and a 270# Wrestlers Bridge Pullover and Press. Steve’s Bridged Pullover and Press is still in the Record List, and is the oldest record in the current Record List. This sanctioned event would also make Steve the first USAWA member to officially do a lift in the USAWA.

July 9-10th, 1988

The FIRST EVER USAWA National Championships were held in Plymouth Meeting, PA. John Vernacchio was the meet director. The meet’s best lifter was Steve Schmidt, followed by Phil Anderson, Joe Garcia, John Vernacchio, and John McKean. The Team Champion was John’s club, the Valley Forge Club.

Bill Clark began publishing THE STRENGTH JOURNAL in the fall of 1989, which covered all the news of the USAWA. Bill continued this until 2009, and throughout the years “turned out” over 150 issues. This publication was the “backbone” of the organization for years. All of this research came from old Strength Journals. As I said earlier, this year will MARK the 25th USAWA National Championships held. That is why we are going “big time” and having our National Meet in Las Vegas this year. I plan to have several awards to present to recognize those that have been involved with the USAWA since the beginning.

But back to my original question – Just when did the USAWA officially start? I’m going to say July 1st, 1987 as that was the day the USAWA was officially “open for business” and collecting memberships. Also I like that day because it is the same time most of us will be in Vegas, so that we can celebrate this special day the way it should be celebrated.