This will be the first of three parts of my reminiscing the years 1965 through 1975. Without hurting anyone's feelings, I hope, I'll try to describe people I met as I saw them.
My first year in competition was in 1965. I entered my first meet in Dayton. This was when I first met Milt McKinney.
Milt was a 123-lb. lifter at the time. We soon became friends and he went on to be our first World champion at 132. Milt, George Crawford and I were all being coached in those early days by Bob Matz.
We all trained at Bob's garage in Toledo. I drove every Sunday from Dayton for three years, only missing 3 or 4 times. Bob had a way about him that made you push beyond your limits. All three of us were able to win the first Worlds. Milt is gone now. He decided to take his life. This is not a rare situation with lifters. Seems many powerlifters sacrifice marriages, careers, and a lot more for this sport. When the lifting starts to fade there appears to be nothing left. I'm not sure this was Milt's case, but he did lose a great family and job.
I know few successful marriages in the game. I'm speaking of older, upper caliber lifters. Lifting becomes so much a part of you that at times nothing is more important. I can say that from personal experience. I've also know few lifters who have promising careers. There are, of course, exceptions. Ron Ray comes to mind, as does Dave Keaggy, Tom Farchione, and Tony Carpino to name a few. Ron and Dave are multi-millionaires and were while they were top lifters in the country. Dave, as far as I know, also has a very stable and happy marriage as well.
I mentioned George Crawford. George was a unique guy.
His personality was great and he was always the funny and comical one. In those days George was Dr. Squat. I've seen him do unbelievable things squatting.
Even today they would be impressive. After winning in 1971, George never seemed to improve. He had a very rough divorce which may have been the reason. I know he went on to be a union plumber and what he is doing today, I don't know.
Back in those days you didn't have to win the Seniors to lift in the Worlds so most of us lifted usually in a Winter contest, a mid-Summer one and then the Worlds in November. However, in '71 I decided to lift in the Seniors against John Kanter.
John was already a legend having won Nationals at 198 and 242. Now he was back at 198 and totaling over 1800. That was a BIG total then. I also knew John never took steroids. The Nationals that year was my third. I had lost to Ray and Weinstein in 1969 but won in 1970. I was supposed to lose to Kanter. He was a guy who hated to lose. No one likes to, but he hated it. I went 1805, he did 1775. He warned me to train hard to for the Worlds because he would be there.
A month before the '71 Worlds I tore a spinal erector muscle and decided to pull out. Now you don't say quit to Bob Matz! He got me so fired up that my back could have been broken and I would have lifted. It was the closest contest I've ever had but I was able to win on body weight.
A year later I weighed 227 and Mel Hennessy weighed 221. Mel was a huge 5 foot 3 inch lifter who trained with Jerry Jones.
Mel, before then, was the greatest bencher of all time. He had done 571 at 225. He too was favored to win that year. However, I out benched him and he seemed to lose his confidence. He did 565, I did 575, just missing 590. In those days we benched first. He was reported to be squatting 740-750 but only managed 715 to my 700. Nonetheless, he had the lead going into the DL. I won with a 1975 total to his 1910. I don't know what became of Mel, but not much was heard from him since around 1974.
I mentioned Kanter and it reminds me of Jon Cole, as they were fierce competitors. Cole was a god in those days.
Six feet, 242, small waist and handsome. He had his beard styled perfect and he was hitting big totals at that time . . . 2140 at 242 and later 2370 at 280. Even today those are top totals. However, Jon never won a World title. He chose never to compete in one. I'm not sure why, but hearsay was that Jon wore a bit more than the standard required lifting suit and regulation wraps. I, for one, saw him wrap his knees once with six inch double thickness bandages. But the officials never said a word. In defense of Cole, he went on later to compete and hit near the totals he did before, under international referee scrutiny. In my opinion he was the greatest all around strength star ever. He was also the best athlete our sport ever had.
Jon Cole reminds me of John Kuc.
Man, what a guy. He lifted in the very first Worlds and nearly won with an 875 deadlift. He had pulled 820 on his first attempt and that lift made him another lifting legend. Kuc was and still is a quiet mystery man, never saying much but lifting a lot of weight. When he bulked up to 320 he was some kind of BIG.
I'm not sure whether John ever liked me much, but we lifted in quite a few places together and I had a great deal of respect for his lifting. One odd thing I noticed was that John never lifted in a Worlds outside the USA. He seemed to go into retirement those years it was away.
Kuc reminds me of Jim Williams.
He too was a legend and the holder of the highest bench press ever. Kaz has the official record of 661 but Jim did 675 and a near miss with 700 at the Worlds in 1972. Jim never really trained hard on the other lifts but did reach 865 in the squat and 780 deadlift. With proper training he could have been the greatest. He still benches 600 I hear and does well nowadays financially. I think Jim could have been a great football player or wrestler if he wanted. Jim and I always got along well and all who knew him liked him.
Don Reinhoudt came in third in 1972 and pushed the big names then.
Don was Mr. Nice Guy, and I mean nice. Never got real mad and always treated people with the utmost of respect no matter who they were. Don wouldn't say a word like damn or hell. He would say "golly" or "shucks" but he came on as the biggest and strongest super yet. His 2420 was just recently broken after so many years. He, like me, never put his best lifts together in one meet. Had he done so, he would have hit 2455. Don had a big advantage in having a loving wife who was a top female lifter. This helps. Cindy was his coach as well. Many times she even lifted off for him on the bench.
We all became great friends. Don went on to win the World's Strongest Man contest and I heard recently he will enter this year. Unofficially, he just did 160-lb. dumbbell presses for 20 reps. The most ever. If this is true, Kaz will have a match.
In 1971 I met Tony Fitton.
Tony was a 198 pounder then and had just reduced down from 300. Tony and I became close friends and are still today, although we did have a bad spell for a while. Tony is one of the outstanding writers in our sport and his knowledge in lifting and steroids is unmatched. He will soon come out with a book on steroids no that no doctor could write. Watch for it. Tony was a coach for the great Ron Collins who I will cover later on.
Tony liked to buck the system. No matter what the rules were, Tony could figure a way around them. This caused him much trouble with Vic Mercer, England's chairman. Tony was also a good lifter who placed third in the Worlds. I'll touch on Tony often in the next two parts. During the years I've known Tony he has always been a lifter's friend and would go out of his way to help. He now lives in Auburn, Alabama, where he is involved a bit with Kaz and other mail order services.
Next, I'll cover my travels and touch on Carl Snitkin, Pam Meister, Terry Dillard, Terry McCormick, George Zangas, Joe Zarella, Terry and Jan Todd, Hannu Saarelainen and others . . .