by John McKean
Howard Prechtel phoned me to describe, in his typical factual but low key manner, his idea for a meet where IAWA World Champions would strive to set individual world records in their favorite lifts. He was most pleased to inform that the Wide World of Sports was VERY interested in TV coverage! Of course a large Gold Cup would be awarded to each successful contestant in this “World Champions Record Breakers” meet (in later years , Gold Cup meet was easier to say & inscribe on trophies!).
Soon, all lifters were wildy excited about this concept, and planned to travel to Cleveland( Lakewood), where the meet venue was a large High school, famous for its legendary football teams, and other athletics. However, as Howard later told me, with a bit of mirth in his normally somber tone, one prominent US lifter wasn’t too thrilled. Seems this specialty lifter had not ever entered or won a World Championship, but, in his own ,rather unhumble opinion, was very worthy of competing ( a legend in his own mind !) in this unique record day event. He phoned, more than once I believe, and pleaded, begged, and implored Howard to let him appear before the TV cameras! But Howard was always very principled, and held his ground – ONLY legitimate world champs would grace the stage!
Another famous lifter was quite excited to demo his skills to a televised international audience. But, though “sparse” of hair,had a bit of vanity to him and often wore an absurdly thick , wavy brown wig when out on the town. So, in preparation for his network debut, he had his wife, a professional hairdresser, dye his sidehair to yield a perfect, flowing brown tone to exactly match the shade of the 6″ muffet that was to be pasted to the top of his bare skull.Only problem was, our boy fall asleep during the dying process, the extra time converting his remaining real hair to jet black!! The hair piece had to remain at home, and fellow contestants had to bite their lips to suppress chuckles when they saw their newly done old pal, the darkest haired chrome-dome in history!
During the meet, everyone marveled at Howard’s organizing skills -the weight set up & appearance of the large auditorium was spectacular! The Gold Cups on display lit up the room to create added excitement & atmosphere of a truly important, historic event. The only disappointment, and it really seemed minor at the time due to everyone’s enthusiasm with the lifting, was that the filming crews never showed.
Spectator involvement may have been the largest ever -as mentioned this was a Saturday at an athletic based high school and most student athletes were there for Saturday training. These kids didn’t even mind sharing their spacious weight lifting room with competitors; they were thrilled to see real competition style lifters warming up beside them. One of the bigger football players , a nice,polite young man, couldn’t help himself but ask my (then) 12 year old son,Rob, what he could possibly be lifting in what was deemed by them a virtual “professional” weightlifting contest. When Rob described his intent to do a hand and thigh with 800 pounds, the senior linebacker almost fainted! And when Rob went off to lift, EVERY athlete crowded in to watch a grade school child pull a hard fought 800 ! In fact, Rob was so intent on this performance that he apparently broke tiny blood vessels in his cheeks and was red faced for a week!!
In this, and following Prechtel meets, lifters were supplied every comfort and convenience by Howard. He was, indeed, a Bob Hoffman of all-round lifting, and even looked like the ole “Father of Modern Weightlifting”, with a similar beneficial demeanor! We’ll miss ya, Howie, your meets and your character were pure quality, and your hard work & dedication to promoting them will forever remain as “golden” as your cups!