Thursday, May 18, 2017

Jon Cole, Part One - Herb Glossbrenner (1994)

 Originally Published in This Issue (December 1994)
Article thanks to Jake Striefel.

Here's an earlier article on Jon Cole by Ron Fernando:

Jon Frederick Cole:
The Monarch of Might
by Herb Glossbrenner (1994)

Oftentimes we forget those whose indelible performances of yesteryear are stored in the vaults of history. In the hierarchy of amateur strength athletes one man stands above all others: I present the story of his eminence - JON FREDERICK COLE, who was indeed the Monarch of Might. He was a true Titan of Trichotomy.

The trichotomy of a man is labeled a combination of mind, body and spirit - functioning as a harmonious unit of the whole being. Jon possesses the mind of a scholar, the strength of Superman and the spirit of perseverance.

Cole was neither the best ever in Olympic lifting or Powerlifting but combining his talents, he remains even today as the best there ever was. This is indeed a bold acclamation. I have bestowed the title as History's Greatest Strength Athlete by verified statistics. I made my determination by a combination total of best results in the two competitive strength sports.

The powerlifts represent a true reflection of human strength. Weightlifting (the overhead lifts) demonstrate the epitome of explosive power and athleticism. A lifetime of statistical data made the compilation of this list much easier. The aggregate of the two sports exemplifies the best of both worlds.

I have not included the Clean and Press in this comparison for several reasons:

1) It was eliminated from the Olympic lifting disciplines because it deteriorated from a true test of strength over the years to become nothing more than a Clean and Jerk without foot movement.

2) All athletes after 1972 never practiced it.

3) I could not have rated them accurately.

4) It would not have changed the final outcome.

I wanted to include Paul Anderson and Vasily Alekseyev on this list. Paul did far more as a professional. I have already written of his claimed best lifts for the septathlon. I never asked him his single limits in powerlifting as an amateur. It would be pure conjecture to attempt to determine Alekseyev's possibilities in powerlifting. He was evasive when Bruce Wilhelm asked him. He may have never even tried a limit bench press or deadlift. You may hypothesize all you want. I won't. 

Another candidate for this list might have been Russia's strongest powerlifter Vladimir Mironov. I confirmed his powerlifting bests at 816-605-835. I could not substantiate his 639 bench nor his outrageous claim of a 926 deadlift. After checking my 500 Best All Time list in weightlifting I couldn't validate his claims of 1982 - overhead lifts of 375 and 463. I have them all and his name appeared nowhere. Therefore, bearing no credence I must omit him.

Marvel now at Mighty Cole. He never realized his true potential, but his inexorability has made him a living legacy among amateurs as History's Greatest Living Strength Athlete! 

Here's more from Ron Fernando on who was the strongest, Cole, Anderson, or Alekseyev: 


Jon Frederick Cole was born in Chicago, IL. on April 1, 1943. It was no April Fool that the Cole's 11 lb. 9 oz. bouncing baby boy would grow into manhood and become an Iron Game legend. Jon inherited genes from both parents that would eventually make him one of the strongest men who ever walked planet Earth. His father - Fred Zena Cole - was 5'8", 160 lbs. He died at 47 when Jon was only 10, from a heart ailment, after being weakened by rheumatic fever. Fred rose to rate among the world's best in boxing despite the handicap of a bum leg from a gunshot wound in war. Without a manager he never got a title shot at legendary Sugar Ray Robinson. 

Jon recalls fond boyhood memories of his father's exceptional hand and forearm strength. Jon would sit in a straight backed wooden chair. Fred would squat down and grasp a leg in one massive mitt. Bracing his leg with the free hand he'd levitate the chair and Jon. Jon Frederick fondly referred to Dad as "Popeye" with his big shoulders and muscular forearms which bulged with a network of thick veins. 

Jon's older sister Judy is now 56 and 5'7". He remembers her as a fabulous athlete. In Jr. High she long-jumped an Arizona State record of 18'10". Marriage ended her brief athletic career. 

His mother is still a bundle of energy. Now 82, she is constantly on the go traveling around in her Winnebago. At 5'1" and 160, she is stout as an ox. Jon proudly admits that even Arnold would envy her calves. 

In the 8th grade Jon endured bullying from an older boy. Being the target of relentless pursuit gave him stomach problems. They soon moved to a trailer park. It was a temporary solution which soon became permanent. Jon sent away for a mail order muscle course and barbell set. It was an instant love affair. 

For years thereafter he never missed a workout. The first year he gained 30 lbs. of muscle. At a solid 143 lbs., school bullies gave him a wide berth. His inherent strength soon surfaced. His high school achievements were many. He earned four letters with two years of football and two in athletics.

The discus became his favorite athletic event. Uncoiling with an instantaneous release of explosive energy he'd sail the gleaming metal disc up into the wild blue yonder. It gave him an exhilarating feeling. To him it represented the epitome of athleticism - harmony of motion and proficiency of technique. He understood why historical art and sculpture portrayed the event as Olympic ideology. During his junior year at Glendale High School he spun the 3 lb. 9 oz. platter a junior American record - 178'8" for All-American honors. Jon received 36 college scholarship offers, including one from Annapolis. He chose ASU at nearby Tempe in 1962. His mother disliked living alone. He stayed with her until 1969.


An exceptional athlete, Jon was equally adept in academics. By 1966 he aimed earned his BA degree in English and got his Masters in 1969. With an unquenchable thirst he grew in stature and wisdom. In college (1963-1966) he lettered four years and made astonishing progress. He led the 440 relay team and zipped the 100 in 9.9 seconds. He was PAC-10 champ and All American his junior/senior years. Graduating to the regular 4 lb. 6 oz. implement he threw a school record 199.5" and heaved the 16 lb. shot 61'11.5". 

Bestowed by Mother Nature with a plenteous supply of fast twitch muscle fibers, Jon was inspired to diversify his talents. He channeled his athletics explosiveness into the competitive strength sports. Jon is convinced that he may have more muscle fibers per square inch than the majority. Those fortunate enough to have seen Jon throw or lift would concur. Everything was synchronized with his perfect body alignment. He tried Olympic lifting first. It was beneficial to throwing farther. Simultaneous contraction of all muscle fibers concurrently is conductive to athletic performance.


Cole never trained the overhead lifts in the conventional manner. He relied primarily on the corresponding assistance movements - rapid high pulls, shrugging and rowing movements, where he used enormous poundages. Lacking a knowledgeable coach to teach him proper technique, he relied on basic smart instincts to perform the lifts to the best of his ability. He liked overhead pressing and steep incline benches [he reportedly inclined over 500 in his prime]. It augmented his throwing.

Here's a great post on Jon Cole and his training from the old Power and Bulk forum:

Jon was flexible in certain areas. In the shoulders and ankles he was not. This convinced him to use the split style in weightlifting. He did a lot of flexibility work as an injury deterrent - including lots of heavy lunges with the bar on the chest. 

Nearing the end of 1967 he was closing ground on the world's best. He spun the discus to a personal record 205'1". Wanting to increase his strength even more, on September 16th of that year he entered his first powerlifting meet. It was an impressive debut at 242 - 1750 via 450-650-680 - for Arizona records. The strength lifting was beneficial to his overhead lifting. In December he did 375 PR, 300 SN, and 380 CJ for a 1055 total in the Oly lifts. 

Boyhood aspirations resurfaced during 1968, the Olympic year. Early indoors he chucked the shot 62'10" and sustained a severe arm injury. It kept him from participating in Track & Field's Olympic trials. Big disappointments didn't thwart his bulldog tenacity. Benching didn't bother the arm so he trained diligently for the forthcoming Senior National Powerlifting Championships. A few months away he tested himself - 1825 (465-645-715). This alerted his competition of an unknown newcomer appearing on the power horizon.

Powerlifting at 25 years of age, outside photos only.
Center photo is Mel Hennessey: 

The 242-lb. champ George Frenn, who days before missed making the Olympic lifting team throwing the hammer, was on hand to encourage the men who challenged his 1900-lb. total record. As expected, Minneapolis monster Mel Hennessey dominated the bench press with 536, a record! John Kanter, the burly squat master, and Gary Young, the deadlift record holder, kept a wary eye on Cole, the new kid on the block. 

With a calmly confident demeanor Jon benched 465 and kept within striking distance. Kanter and Young made borderline squats with 700. Cole outdid them with 705 (actual weight 710), a meet record. The others overestimated their strength. Jon ripped up a 720 (724 actual) deadlift and eclipsed Kanter with a lighter bodyweight tie of 1890. Young went for a three way tie and lighter bodyweight, but 780 was way too much. Making his first appearance on the national scene, Cole won it all. Frenn, relieved that his total record had survived, later in his column in Muscle Builder magazine chastised Kanter for showing poor sportsmanship. 

Jon was off and running. He set his sights on George's record. On November 3rd in Phoenix he obliterated it with 1975 (485-740-750). Actual weighed lifts were 491-752-761 for a 2004 unofficial total! His squat and total were were U.S. records. He entered several Oly weightlifting meets in 1968 also. In December at Dick Green's meet in Safford he gave the Iron Game sister sport something to smile about - 1035 (370-290-375).

With George Frenn, '68 Mexico Olympics

Cole developed a camaraderie with George as they toured Europe together on the U.S. track squad. Jon had a premier year in throwing. He won the 1969 AAU Nationals in the discus. He upstaged world record holder Jay Sylvester, defeating him with a toss of 208'10". In the meantime, overseas word reached them of Kanter's record breaking tangent. 

 John Kanter

He'd won the 1969 Nationals easily in their absence, and on June 14th stole Cole's total and upped the squat mark as well to 535-760.5-705 for the first official 2000 at 242. Jon returned to the States, and it was retribution time. Shortly thereafter in a meet Cole scored 2005 (495-745-765). Frenn lifting against him went 445-765-700 for 1920. George had his squat record back and Cole the total. 

In 1970 Big Jon continued to diversify his three strength talents. Again, he and George hit the European circuit. He was most impressed seeing Frenn squat 730 in Poland. An omen for things to come?

Frenn and Kanter skipped the Senior Powerlifting Nationals in New Orleans. Jon's sole competition was Hennessey. Mel, who was build like a trash compactor at 228, 10 lbs. lighter than Jon. He twice missed 550 when it was discovered that all bench press weights above 480 were overloaded by 20 lbs. Miraculously, he succeeded with granted further attempts once the correct weight was loaded - 550 - and then a new U.S. record of 571! Cole notched all three- his final of 520 was actually 540! The bench press master saw his 50-lb. lead evaporate in the squat as Cole notched all three - the final being 760. Hennessey finished runner-up with 1885. Cole pulled a monster 780 (actual 779) deadlift for 2060. He out-lifted, at 242, all the Supers who would become famous - Cundy, Fletcher, Cassidy, White, and Williams. 

In El Paso, Texas, in November, Jon really clicked, doing 525-780-785 for 2090. Muscular Development magazine called him PERHAPS the best powerlifter in the world. At 242 he was far better than and Super (Weaver held the SHW total at 2040). One week later on November 7th, Jon registered 1090 in the overhead lifts (380-310-400). 

On December 13th Frenn stole the spotlight. He regained his long lost total record. His squat was fantastic - 840 (actual 853). With a 740 deadlift he crashed the 2100 barrier. Cole was most surprised at George's 520 bench press (a 60 lb. improvement). 

More on George Frenn: 

Jon responded to the challenge and once more kicked it up into high gear. He set his sights on a meet in Tolleson on March 14th, 1971. His newly grown patch of facial foliage made him an even more imposing sight. One awe-stricken youngster shouted, "C'mon Hercules!" every time Jon came out. He made a 525 bench press easily but mis-grooved 540. He squatted 800 and missed 820. The spotters guided him back into the rack. One fellow who was trying to be helpful wasn't. He picked up one end and twisted Jon's back. It didn't seem to affect his deadlift as Jon became the third member in the 800 club (Frenn - 812.5 at 244 and Cundy 801.5 at 275). He ripped up the biggest lift in history - 815 (actual 813). 

Jon, who at this time was Assistant Track Coach at ASU, was now called by Muscular Development magazine the BEST powerlifter in the world. The word "perhaps" was no longer applicable. 

Jon wanted to skip the 1971 Seniors in Dallas. Pressured by promoters and friends he entered at SHW. He had squatted 865 shortly before the meet and came in at 266. His instincts were correct. The warmup room was poorly lit and a huge bar thicker than normal circumference was to be used for the SHW squats. 

"What's this?" Jon inquired. 

"That's the bar Paul Anderson used!" came the reply.

"Humph," Jon growled, "I ain't Paul Anderson!" 

Jon was badly out of "sync". It was his worst ever competition, and the only one I know that he failed to total. He barely made 582 and mis-grooved other tries. He was trying higher heels on his lifting boots which hindered his squat. He missed three squats; the final 820 was low, but he couldn't fight through the sticking point. It was a great letdown for both himself and his fans.

Retaliation followed quickly. Three weeks later, October 3rd to be exact, he appeared in Phoenix. His bodyweight was 266 once again. The result this time was much different. He wore swim trunks, T-shirt, and legal wraps and popped some big numbers before national cardholders - 565-820-835-2220! After this staggering display of strength he reduced back down to a more comfortable 240 and focused his attention on his teaching and coaching responsibilities. 

To Be Continued in Part Two . . .             


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