Joe Garcia Appreciation Award

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia's Appreciation Award

Another USAWA appreciation award was given to another great contributor to the USAWA.  Joe Garcia has been the USAWA Records Director/Record Keeper for the USAWA since the very beginning, and just recently stepped down from this position.  Joe’s efforts single handedly are the reason we have a very comprehensive record list in the USAWA.  We owe him eternal thanks for this, as the Record List is a very important entity within our organization.  It has been kept up to date with diligence for over 25 years, consisting now of over 10,000 records. That’s a lot of records!!!  Joe has undoubtedly spent thousands of hours  of work on this.  It also requires that things are done with perfection to prevent wrong information incorporated into our official Record List.  Not very many people would have the energy  and persistence to keep a list like this up to date!!!!

Again, I had hoped to present this Appreciation Award firsthand to Joe, but could not get something worked out in a timely manner so it was mailed to him.  Joe contacted me immediately by phone upon receiving this award to give his thanks to the USAWA for it.  He seemed very surprised and moved by this. I’m hoping at a later date to interview Joe to highlight his accomplishments and efforts as the USAWA Record Director/Keeper.

Congrats Joe!!!

Lifter of the Month: Joe Garcia

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia lifting a up a big Hip Lift!

The Zercher Strength Classic, a long held traditional meet held at Clark’s Gym, was the featured meet of the month of March.  So it comes as no surprise that the winner of this prestigious meet is crowned as the USAWA LIFTER OF THE MONTH for MARCH.  Joe Garcia defended a tough class of 4 hard-nosed competitors to take the overall win, and because of this, earned the lifter of the month.  Way to go Joe!!!!

I’m guessing that Joe has competed in more Zercher’s than any other lifter thru it’s 25 year plus history.  There is no harder meet than the Zercher – having to do 13 different all-round lifts in one day, and amongst the lifts several heavy lifts.  It’s the same as several meets packed into one!

Congrats to Joe Garcia for being awarded USAWA Lifter of the Month for March, 2014.

Top Performances of 2012

by Al Myers

Today I was thinking about all of the GREAT lifting performances done in the USAWA throughout this past year.  I have been fortunate to have witnessed many of these performances firsthand.  I’ve given it a little thought and I have came up with the LIST of PERFORMANCES that I have watched during this past year, and compiled my TOP TEN.  This list is completely of my opinion, and does not represent any official view of the USAWA.  It also only includes lifts that I have seen myself – as there are many other great lifts done in the USAWA that I did not have the privilege of viewing and thus are not on this list.  I have also  ranked them – but this was extremely difficult as they are all worthy of top recognition.  I might have well just “flipped a coin” to determine the order – but here it goes!!! I’ll even do the countdown from number 10.

10.  Doug and Jera Kressly’s Team Deadlift of 650 pounds.

Doug and Jera Kressly performing a Team Deadlift at the 2012 USAWA Team Championships.

At this year’s USAWA TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS, Doug and Jera entered the first Mixed Pair (male & female) team in the Championships history.  And to add to the drama of this – the two of them are married!  I was extremely impressed when we got to the last event, the deadlift, and they pulled 650 pounds. I was really worried Doug was going to let Jera down and not pull his weight on the lift!   

9.  Denny Habecker and his Clean and Jerk at the Gold Cup.

Denny Habecker at the 2012 IAWA Gold Cup in Glasgow, Scotland.

I’ve already told the story about Denny and his performance at the 2012 IAWA Gold Cup in Scotland, despite being sick with the intestinal flu.  I was impressed that he would even attempt to lift feeling like that.  However, I DID NOT sit in the front row when he was lifting as I didn’t want to be in the path of any possible eruption! 

8.  Joe Garcia’s 1400# Hand and Thigh Lift at the Deanna Meet.

Joe Garcia and his signature lift, the Hand and Thigh Lift, at the 2012 Deanna Springs Meet.

Garcia and the Hand and Thigh Lift are becoming synonymous.  You think of one and you have to think of the other.  I keep thinking one of these days Joe G will lose his touch with the H&T which will  give me the edge – but it doesn’t look like it will ever happen! I knew my chances of winning the Deanna  meet was over at this point.

7.  Dale Friesz and his 154# Ring Fingers Deadlift at the Presidential Cup.

Dale Friesz won the 2012 USAWA Presidential Cup with this lift.

Last year Dale “the Miracle Man” Friesz performed a 122# Ring Fingers Deadlift and I raved and raved about it.  Now he’s UPPED his record to 154 pounds – that’s over a 30 pound increase!  This was the lift that WON Dale the prestigious PRESIDENTIAL CUP this year.  I beginning to think there must be bionics in that prosthetic leg of his.

6.  Larry Traub’s 529# Jefferson Lift at the National Championships.

Larry Traub (left) receiving his award at the 2012 USAWA National Championships in Las Vegas, NV.

Everyone knows Larry is an “out of this World” deadlifter, but at the 2012 USAWA National Championships in Las Vegas he also showed he is quite good at the Jefferson Lift as well.  Larry is 58 and only weighs 200 pounds, which makes his lift all the more impressive.  It would take over a 630# Jefferson Lift for an Senior Age group lifter (at the same BWT) to beat Larry in this lift with the age correction.  We make lifters weigh to verify their bodyweights, but we don’t make lifters show their ID’s to verify their ages.  Larry looks like he’s only 30.  Maybe it’s time for him to be “carded” at the next meet?


25 Year Promotion Award

by Al Myers

USAWA President Denny Habecker and the "first Lady of the USAWA" Judy Habecker receiving the 25 Year Promotion Award.

Another “special award” presented at Nationals was the 25 Year Promotion Award.  This award went to the 4 Meet Promoters who have promoted the most National Championships over the 25 year history of the USAWA.  These 4 promoters each have promoted 3 Championship events.  They are:  Denny and Judy Habecker (2010, 2007, & 2000), John Vernacchio (2004, 1989, & 1988), Bill Clark and Joe Garcia (2001, 1997, & 1995), and Art Montini and John McKean (2002, 1999, & 1991). 

So to sum it up – these 4 promoters together have promoted about HALF of the National Champinships to date!  That’s worthy of a special award in my book!  Congratulations!!!

Joe & his mutant finger

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia lifting a 186# Fulton (2" diameter) Dumbbell with his left hand.

I sure understand why someone would conceal a freaky birth defect from their friends, so when Joe Garcia commented at the restaurant table following the meet last weekend to all of us that one of his middle fingers was 3/8″ longer than the other – I immediately called BS on him in front of everyone!!  To make matters worse, several other guys at the table chimed in with a few snickers at my defiant response.  It left Joe with a blank expression on his face, and I’m sure full of embarrassment that he told a deep, dark secret  about this physical abnormality of his (or maybe the look  was his astonishment that I didn’t believe him??).  I’ve heard of guys having one leg longer than the other and having to wear a special built-up shoe to balance out their walk, but till now I have NEVER heard of anyone having an extra long phalanx.

This is visual proof that Joe can hook grip a Fulton Bar with his left hand. His entire thumbnail is covered with the hook.

But I’m a big boy, and own up to things when I’m proved wrong.  Joe immediately held up both of his hands and INDEED the middle finger of his left hand is much longer than the middle finger of his right hand!  There were several witnesses to this scene, and I owe Joe an apology for not believing him.  That is the reason I’m writing this story – it’s my lame way of apologizing.  But then again, it also means I’m pointing out Joe’s genetic defect (in an otherwise perfect physical specimen) to the World.  However, I don’t think Joe wants to keep this a secret anymore, or he wouldn’t have told me about it.  This must be his way of getting the word out about his FREAKY FINGER, because I bet keeping this secret to himself all this time probably was becoming a terrible burden to bear.  It’s a good idea NEVER to tell someone who writes blogs for internet websites anything you want to keep secret, because it won’t be a secret for long. 

Joe’s deviated digit got me thinking about all the birth defects I’m glad I don’t have and the birth defects I would be alright having.  Having a mutated member like Joe has would give all kind of advantages to lifting weights.  Being able to hook-grip a 2″ bar would sure come in handy at times, and that extended extremity would sure help ya out on the finger lifts!  I suspect it was even an advantage to Joe when he did his World Record Hand and Thigh Lift (or maybe that is WHY it is longer – it got stretched out holding onto 1900 pounds???)  I will say this about Joe’s outstretched feeler, I doubt if the kids picked on him in school because of it.  Because if they did – he could give them the middle finger salute in GRAND STYLE!!

Best Lifting Performances in Past Deanna Springs Meets

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia uses his signature lift, the Hand and Thigh Lift, to lift 1400 pounds to secure his victory at the 2011 Deanna Springs Meet. That win gives Joe 10 ALL TIME wins in this meet, which is the most of any lifter.

The annual Deanna Springs Memorial Meet is coming up this weekend at Clark’s Gym, in Columbia Missouri.  I have been to this meet several times, and it is one that I enjoy.  It provides a unique combination of lifts – Crucifix, Cheat Curl, Deanna Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, and Hip Lift. We always start with the Crucifix and Cheat Curl and then finish with the “heavy stuff”.  These first two events are merely warmups for the serious heavy lift events.  The competition often will come down to the last event of the day, the Hip Lift, to decide who the winner is. 

A couple of years ago Dale Friesz wrote a very nice story summarizing the history of the Deanna Meet.  It is mainly a long list of victories by Joe Garcia, the Clark’s Gym Phenom. Last year at the Deanna Joe won his TENTH Deanna Meet – out of the 16 meets in the history of this long running meet.   Abe Smith has won two (2002 & 2007), John Carter one (1997), Josh Pemberton one (2000), Steve Schmidt one (2006), and myself once (2008).  The only reason I was able to win in 2008 was that I was the only one who showed up that year!!! LOL  Most of the time at this one I’m  sucking up the chalkdust thrown up by Joe after his  big finale Hip Lifts!

Today I want to look back at some of the BEST lifting performances ever done at the Deanna Meet. I am only going to include meets from 1998 on, as that was when the lifts remained constant at the five done today. 


1 Abe Smith 2005 4111.98
2 Joe Garcia 2011 4018.08
3 Joe Garcia 1999 3876.54
4 Joe Garcia 2009 3711.88
5 Joe Garcia 2006 3655.85
6 Steve Schmidt 2003 3654.37
7 Joe Garcia 2004 3650.87
8 Al Myers 2011 3630.91
9 Joe Garcia 2002 3627.67
10 Abe Smith 2003 3620.00


1  Sam Huff  2005  4700
2  Joe Garcia  1999  4525
3  Al Myers  2011  4385
4  Al Myers  2010  4230
5  Eric Todd  2005  4145
6  Joe Garcia  1998  4140
7  Joe Garcia  2002  4120
8  Abe Smith  2005  4105
9  Eric Todd  2002  4045
10  Joe Garcia  2006  4035

Bill Clark, USAWA, and the rest of the story.

by Joe Garcia

Part One:  Our beginning.

Bill Clark (left) receiving the USAWA Lifetime Achievement Award from Joe Garcia (right).

Most of you probably know that Bill is the founder and creator of the USAWA.  Recently the organization decided to honor Bill, and a letter of appreciation and a Lifetime Achievement Award were presented to him at the Goerner Deadlift Dozen Plus One a few weeks ago.  I also thought it would be both fun and instructive to go over the history of the USAWA and some of Bill’s story.  We sat down the other day for a lunch and I interviewed him about both subjects.  Keep in mind that this is bare bones as it would take a book or two or more to get the whole picture.  We’ll start this story with a chronological line from the beginning as he tells it.

The whole entity that was to become known as the USAWA basically started in 1959 with the local boxing team that Bill coached.  The boxers wanted to lift weights, so an Olympic weightlifting team was created.  In November their first state meet was held at the Armory in Columbia. A common theme for most of the meets is that odd lifts were almost always performed whenever meets were held.

The next year 1960, Bill was appointed as Chairman of the Missouri Valley AAU.  They had eleven lifters including Wilbur Miller, Art Tarwater, and Bill Fellows.  At the same time, the prison system became a hotbed of odd lifting.  Bill worked the ‘home’ games of baseball in the prisons from 1956 through 1967, and so was very familiar to the recreation directors in the system.  He was contacted by the Feds to start a federal program of lifting which he agreed to do.  Two stories from this era:  First, at one of the prisons, they cut metal decking for the weight plates.  These weighed between 10 and 25 pounds and the lifters used a short steel bar that limited how much weight could be loaded, so for the lifters like Joe Bradford, they would load the bar with about 400 lbs, then attach another 100 or so with wire, which wouldn’t come off the ground until the bar was just under the knees. This same concept was used in later years when performing lifts like the Hip lift. The second story concerns the Federal pen at Leavenworth.  Bill had been told they made almost all of their equipment, but when he went there, they had 22 platforms with commercial looking bars.  It turns out that they bought one bar, then had the shop fabricate 21 more for the lifters.

Coming into 1961, Powerlifting and Odd lift competitions were being held in Missouri Valley. These competitions were sanctioned under the Weightlifting umbrella as there was no official Powerlifting or Odd lifting at that time.  If anyone has access to old Ironman magazines, they would be able to find results listed there from some of the meets.  Rules for the odd lifts were first created about that time and records were kept as Missouri Valley Odd Lifts.

One of the key years was 1962. This was the year that the foundation was laid to make Powerlifting a separate event from Weightlifting. Lifters like Jim Witt, Homer Brannum, and Bill were some of the main forces to achieve this goal and they journeyed to the AAU Convention in Detroit, where they asked to make PL a subcommittee under Weightlifting.  At that time there still were no sanctions for either Powerlifting nor Odd lifting.  1962 was also the year of the first National Prison Postal Meet.  This first meet was an Olympic meet with subsequent years also having Powerlifting meets.  By 1968, they dropped the Olympic meets.  Typically the regular competition would be held, and afterwards the lifters would perform the Odd lifts. 

The first National Powerlifting Championships was held in 1963 by Bill at Jeff Junior High in Columbia even though it was an unofficial one as there was no sport of Powerlifting at the time.  One of the officials sitting in a chair was Bob Hoffman of York Barbell fame.  Another event that helped further our sport was Bill got the AAU to form a new committee – Correctional Sports and by 1966, convicts were granted full AAU memberships.  The following February one of the convicts won the National Flyweight Boxing Championship.  In 1968, Jenkins Hudson of the Maryland State prison defeated Bill March in Olympic lifting, Bill being a 5 time Senior National Champion.  That same year Otis Harrison won the North American title in body building.  By the time the correctional sports program ended, there were about 1000 participant lifters nationwide.

In 1964, at the National AAU convention at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston, Texas, a vote was held to allow Powerlifting to be a separate part of the Olympic Sport.  This motion was carried in a very close vote.  Later at the same meeting, Bill put in a bid to hold the National Championships which he won, beating Bob Hoffman by one vote.  Hoffman was able to get the AAU chairman to hold another vote on the bid, this time beating out Bill’s bid by one vote.  Due to this, Hoffman went into the history books as holding the first National Championships.

During the next decade, numerous Powerlifting and Odd lifting competitions were held in the Missouri Valley area and elsewhere.  Bill started having the Double Decathlon, a forerunner to the Zercher meet.  Twenty lifts were contested, with the Zercher lift and the Steinborn always being anchor lifts.  The Steinborn was originally known as the “Rocking Squat” but Bill renamed it to the Steinborn, in honor of ‘Milo’ and let him know that they had done so.  Years later, just before his passing, Henry sent $50 for a trophy.

In 1973 Bill brought forth another proposal to the AAU membership, that of having a Masters Program.  This was quite a contentious motion but did pass on a close vote.  The following year, Bill tried to host the first Masters Powerlifting and Olympic Championships. With only 4 entrants, Bill Fellows, Bill Clark, Jack Lano and Wilbur Miller, the meet was called off.  However, in 1975 the meet was held at Columbia College with a total of 15 lifters.  They also had a track meet afterwards where they ran the 880 and threw.  Today, the National championships have over 200 contestants and the Masters program exists in over 70 countries.

Around 1981, Tony Cook from England contacted Bill about holding a Postal Odd meet between English lifters and American lifters.  This meet was held in the US at Sailors Gym over in Kansas.  Twenty five lifts where performed in one day on three platforms and a single lifter might actually have been ‘up’ on multiple platforms at the same time.  Numerous meets have been held at Sailors Gym, and in the early years of the USAWA, the Missouri Valley records were held as the standard for the USAWA, with most of them having been set at Sailors.  Sailors was owned by Bobby Fulgroat who himself was a master powerlifter and bicyclist.  He would ride everywhere including to Columbia for meets.

Bill and Tony started making plans for an international organization in 1985, and Bill flew over to England in October, 1986 to meet with Tony and Frank Allen, where the IAWA was organized.  In 1987, the USAWA was formed and the first IAWA meet was held, albeit it was a postal meet.  In 1988 the first USAWA Nationals was held with John Vernacchio as the host and also the first IAWA Worlds were held at Leicester, England with Frank Allen hosting.  As a side story, at the same time Bill was over in England in 1986, Bill Buckner committed his infamous fielding error during Game 6 of the World Series, allowing the Mets to tie the series and go on to win over the Red Sox.

From the beginning of the USAWA until 2009, Bill served as Secretary/Treasurer and starting with his first Journal on Sept 10, 1989 until his last one on October 19, 2009 wrote just under 150 Strength Journals, keeping the membership informed about meets, events and any other odds and ends that he saw as interesting.  He was also President of the IAWA for the first couple of years.  While his travels today are limited, he still hosts a few USAWA meets at the gym, notably the Zercher, Deanna Springs Memorial and the Goerner Deadlift Dozen Plus One.

Part II will continue with background information about events Bill has held plus accomplishments and achievements over the years.

Hand & Thigh Club

by Al Myers

Only three USAWA members have lifted over 1500 pounds in the Hand and Thigh in official competition. (left to right): Joe Garcia, Frank Ciavattone, and Al Myers

After posting that picture last week of Joe Garcia and his 1400# Hand and Thigh Lift at the 2011 Heavy Lift Nationals, I got to thinking.  Just how many USAWA lifters have  lifted over 1400 pounds in the Hand and Thigh in official competition?  I have seen Joe lift over 1400 several times myself, so to me that is not an unusual or rare thing to see that much weight lifted in the Hand and Thigh.  But then again, Joe is the MASTER of the Hand and Thigh (WR and All-Time Record holder with a lift of 1910 pounds) and without a doubt more times over 1400 than any other lifter ever.  This “mark” of 1400 pounds seems like the “goal of excellence” in the H&T, and I “guessed” beforehand that probably not over a dozen USAWA lifters had ever achieved it. However, after I did my research I found the list much shorter than this, with only three lifters over 1500 pounds, and another 5 lifters over 1400 pounds.  Only one IAWA(UK) lifter has exceeded the 1400# mark, and that was Steve Angell with his H&T lift of 1500 pounds at the 1995 World Championships. 

USAWA Lifters in the 1400 H&T Club

Rank Lifter Age BWT Pounds Event
1 Joe Garcia 43 240 1910 1997 Zercher
2 Frank Ciavattone  40  260 1610 1995 NE Strongest Man
3 Al Myers 43 251 1505 2010 Deanna
4 Eric Todd 27 261 1475 2002 Deanna
5 Jim Malloy 53 244 1400 1995  Worlds
6 John Carter 38 225 1400 1996 Zercher
7 Steve Schmidt 49 220 1400 2004 Backbreaker
8 Sam Huff 23 266 1400 2005 Deanna

Century Club

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia is moving up the Record List Count faster than anyone else! This past year he has went from 9th to 5th. This picture is from the 2011 Heavy Lift Nationals in York, PA where Joe added another USAWA record in the Hand and Thigh with this 1400 pound lift. Joe has more H & T records (17 total) than anyone else, everywhere from the 90 KG class to the 110 KG class.

A couple of years ago  I tagged the term “Century Club” as a way of identifying lifters who currently hold over 100 USAWA Records.  It has been a while since I have given an update on these record-setting lifters, so I think it is time I revisit this topic again.  I believe it has been a year (after last year’s National Championship) that I gave my last update on the current members in this Century Club.  I know I have highlighted the “records race” between Denny and Art a few times since, but now since Denny has stretched his lead over Art 401 USAWA records to  Art’s 378 USAWA Records, the drama with this has been  subdued and the  records race has taken a seat on the sidelines until Art starts to make ”a run” on Denny.  

The Century Club is an ever-changing list, and it changes constantly.  It is based on CURRENT records, so it is possible to be on the list and then if some of your records are broken, you may fall out of the club.  I sadly report this has been the case this past year.  John Vernacchio’s record count has fallen to 97 records,  and now he is out of the Century Club.  No one new has joined since Scott Schmidt in the fall of 2009!  Scott was sitting at the number 20 spot when he made the Century Club in December 2009, climbed to spot 17 after last year’s Nationals, and now resides at the 15 spot.  By John falling off the list, the Century Club now stands at 19 members.  Who will be the next to join??  Two Dino Gym members are “knocking at the door” of accomplishing this.  Rudy Bletscher just BARELY missed the list this time as he currently stands at 99 USAWA Records.  Chad Ullom made a big push on his USAWA records this past year and now has 97 records.  With Chad hitting the Masters Class next year that will open up the record book for him to set more records as he will then be eligible for age group records.  I got my money on both of these guys to make the Century Club this summer! 

There were some changes in the orders and number counts, but the same names hold the Century Club down.  The top four spots on the list remained the same.  The biggest dropper was Bill Clark, as he dropped from the number 5 spot to 10th with only a decrease of records from 214 to 199.  I know the reason for Bill’s decrease in records as I’ve been lifting with this guy in meets all winter and have watched him break several of Bill’s records.  I’m talking about Mike Murdock.  The biggest increaser on the list is our USAWA Records Chairman Joe Garcia.  Joe added several new records this past year and moved from the number 9 spot to 5th overall with 226 records.  Dennis Mitchell notched up one spot to number 6. Take notice of  all the USAWA Hall of Famers who are members of the CENTURY CLUB (marked with a *).

Century Club

1.  401 Denny Habecker *
2.  378 Art Montini *
3.  274 Al Myers
4.  247 John McKean *
5.  226 Joe Garcia *
6.  223 Dennis Mitchell *
7.  214 Noi Phumchaona *
8.  206  Frank Ciavattone *
9.  201 Bob Hirsh *
10. 199 Bill Clark *
11. 171 Howard Prechtel *
12. 138  Dale Friesz *
13. 134 Ed Schock
14. 132  Jim Malloy *
15. 131  Scott Schmidt *
16. 123  John Monk
17. 117  Mary McConnaughey
18. 114   Chris Waterman *
19. 106  Joshua Monk

Judging at York

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia had the last lift of the meet at the Heavy Lift Nationals with his successful 1900# Hip Lift. By this time at meets, most officials are "nodding off", hoping to be finished with their obligation. But look at these guys, they are judging like it is the first lift of the day. (officials left to right): LaVerne Myers, Denny Habecker, and Thom Van Vleck

I know I have already mentioned this in a previous story, but I want to reiterate how pleased I was with the officiating at the Heavy Lift Nationals in York.  Thom wrote a story about professionalism amongst officials in a Daily News Story a while back, and how in the “old days” officials took their job as officials serious and looked the part of officials at meets by dressing up in suits and ties.  Thom had a picture of his Uncle Phil officiating a meet in his suit, of which he changed into after competing in his singlet.   You don’t see that at any meets anymore nowadays. In the business workforce, people used to dress up for work as businesses felt it set a positive image for the company.  Then along came casual Friday, followed by EVERYDAY becoming casual Friday and dress codes became relaxed or nonexistent.  This same thing has happened to the way officials dress at meets.  I have been at meets where the officials were dressed in shorts and a ratty t-shirt, which definitely doesn’t send a good message to those watching the meet.  

It was a great pleasure to be at a meet where the offiicals came to do their job because that is what they wanted to do, and not rely on the lifters judging themselves.  I never mind judging at meets I’m competing in as I know it is an important part of contributing to the days event. But it was nice FOR ONCE to have dedicated and committed officials who only job was to make sure that everyone was officiated justly and fairly.  We are a small organization and we all are know each other and are good friends, so it is hard not to have personal bias even when we try our best not to.  But I have always felt it was a conflict of interest when an lifter is judging another competitor.  Even when you make your best call, and in turn have to turn down a bad lift, it may appear that it was turned down for other reasons.   At the breakfast table the day of the meet, Thom remarked to my father in jest that it would be best  for them to sit at another table away from us lifters.  I found this pretty funny, because in the “old days” that is how it was.  The officials were “stand offish” to the lifters as not to have any personal relationships with them that might lead to future biased judging. (However, I tried to bribe Thom the night before with free scotch but I don’t think it worked!!). 

I hope with our new USAWA Officials Program that the pride of being an official will be restored like it used to be.  We have made great progress in our Officials Program and will continue to make improvements to it until it gets where it needs to be.  It is not there yet.  I hope to someday have ALL of our meets like this one – where the officials show up to just officiate because they WANT to, and in turn get the respect and recognition they deserve.

Deanna Springs Meet

by Al Myers

Garcia Wins 2011 Deanna Meet

Group picture from the 2011 Deanna Springs Meet. (left to right): Al Springs, Joe Garcia, Mike Murdock, Al Myers, Rudy Bletscher, Thom Van Vleck, and Dean Ross.

Last weekend at Clark’s Gym at the Deanna Meet a couple of things happened that NEVER HAPPENS. First, Bill was not there to “run the show” as he always is, and second, the meet had a big turnout.  I know -  7 lifters in alot of cases doesn’t constitute a big turnout, but for the type of meets that are hosted at Clark’s Gym – it is.   It was the second highest turnout for the Deanna Meet in its 16 year history (2004 had the most entrants with 10). It didn’t seem quite right having a meet in Clark’s Gym without Bill there.  I have been to MANY meets in Clark’s Gym and this is the first time the “man in charge” was not there.  But Bill had a good excuse – he was in Atlanta getting his shoulder replaced.  Maybe with this new bionic shoulder Ole Clark will get back in competitive shape and surprise us with his new-found pressing strength?  With him – anything is possible.  I hope the surgery was a great success and he will be able to get back into the gym and back to his love of weightlifting.   He was missed, but Joe Garcia took command and did an applaudable job as the interim meet director.  On top of these duties, he defended his Deanna Meet Crown, and won Best Lifter again for the 10th time. YES – that is 10 Deanna Meet victories for Joe, the most of anyone ever.    I tried to give him a little challenge but now that’s he’s lost weight (and he has KEPT his same strength) it was an imposing task which I failed at again this year.  Joe is a great Heavy Lifter (and I consider the Deanna Meet a Heavy Lift Meet) and a well-deserving Champion of this meet.  On top of this Joe turned in his BEST EVER adjusted point total (4018 pts), which is second of all time to Abe Smiths total in 2005 of 4111 adjusted points.  I had my best point total in this meet to date (3630 points) which would have gave me the victory in 9 of the previous Deanna’s, but Joe at age 57 just keeps getting better with each year.    I also got to mention that Joe kept the competition ”moving along”.    We started a little before 12:00 and was completely finished by 3.  Joe brought something into Clark’s Gym that I NEVER thought I would see there – a laptop computer!!  He kept the results and used this modern technology to efficiently tally the scores after the meet in quick fashion. 

Is THAT a computer in Clark's Gym????

This meet quickly divided into two competitive groups. In one group – Joe, myself and Thom battled it out, while in the other group Rudy, Mike, Dean and Al Springs lifted together.  This was the main reason we finished so quickly – we divided into two groups and as a result finished in half the time.   These four veterans, all of which are over the age of 65, had quite a competition!  It is a rarity to see 4 lifters of these guys ages together in a meet with the kind of lifting abilities they have.  Beforehand, I had no idea who would win between them. Dean Ross is a MOOSE and has more brute strength than anyone I know his age.  Rudy is the most gifted athletic lifter over the age of 75 that I know.   Mike knows no limits and will push himself harder than anyone I know his age.  He doesn’t give up.  (He ALSO competed in Thom’s Highland Games the day before AND did the USAWA Postal Meet).  Al is a wily veteran of all-round lifting and has the most experience in these lifts.  But in the end Rudy came out on top with his 750 pound Hip Lift.  Mike, being the gamer that he is, took a shot at 850 for the win, but it was not to be on this day.   I sure hope to see plenty more of these matchups between these guys, because I know how competitive and close it will always be between them. 

When we were finishing up the meet, several new lifters in Clark’s Gym showed up to workout.  There had to be close to 20 people in the gym at one time!  This has to be another record of sorts.  It was standing room only.  Clark’s Gym was the happening place on this Sunday afternoon.  I wish Bill could have been there to see it - it would have made him feel good to see the promising future of his gym and the USAWA.  Also, I got to thank Dave and James for loading throughout the day.  Their help really kept things on schedule. Afterwards, we took part in the Deanna Meet tradition of enjoying all we could eat at the Golden Corral while sharing stories and lies. 

Meet Results:

Deanna Springs Memorial Meet
March 27th, 2011
Clark’s Gym
Columbia, Missouri


Meet Director:  Joe Garcia

Officials (3 official system used):  Joe Garcia, Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck, Mike Murdock

Loaders:   Dave Beversdorf and James Foster

Lifts:  Crucifix, Curl – Cheat, Deanna Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, Hip Lift

Lifter Age BWT Cruc Curl Dean H&T Hip Total Points
Joe Garcia 57 209 60 145 600 1400 1700 3905 4018.08
Al Myers 44 253 90 195 800 1300 2000 4385 3630.91
Thom VanVleck 46 299 70 165 525 675 1400 2835 2205.62
Rudy Bletscher 75 220 60 95 405 515 750 1825 2102.50
Mike Murdock 71 236 70 105 405 515 650 1745 1882.10
Dean Ross 68 275 60 95 405 565 750 1875 1830.99
Al Springs 69 200 40 65 335 375 650 1465 1702.05

NOTES:  BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  Total is total pounds lifted.  All lifts recorded in pounds.  Points are adjusted points for bodyweight correction and age adjustment.


Dean Ross – 455# Deanna Lift

Dean Ross – 875# Hip Lift

Hand & Thigh, Neck Training Tips

by Joe Garcia

Joe Garcia, the World Record Holder in the Hand and Thigh, shares his secrets of training this lift.

With the Heavy Lift Championships coming up out at York, and seeing Al’s story on the Hanging Dumbbells, I thought I would share information on how I train and perform two of the lifts, the Neck lift and the Hand and Thigh lift. The reason I have put these two lifts together is that the basic movement mechanics are very similar. For two old time lifts there is alot of useful technique available for increasing your poundages.

When training either of these lifts, you will probably find that once a week is frequent enough. I usually do 2 – 3 sets, anywhere from 5 – 10 reps in the HT and 5 – 15 reps in the Neck, but your mileage may vary. When I trained for the record in the Hand and Thigh, I worked up to 1 or 2 warmup sets of about 5 reps at half the weight for my final set, then usually 10 reps for the second set. For the hand and thigh lift, no matter what you do, if you are using heavy weights, your fingers will suffer damage and need time to recover, so in order to protect my fingers so that I can keep training, I usually place a pad between them and my thighs. I also believe it is very important to hold each rep and not just lift and drop. This both lets you feel the weight better and is required for the actual lift. This concept applies to both lifts.

The biggest mistake I see during either lift is the direction of the push. Most people go much too vertical when they should be thinking about driving backwards. Visualize that you are 2 – 3 feet from a wall and the object is to touch the wall with the top/back of your head, and looking at the ceiling at the same time. You body position should resemble a bow. The only muscles that move are your legs, so you should get them really bent at the start of the lift. For the Hand and Thigh, place your hands just at the top of Quad muscles, using it as a shelf.  Biomechanically, it usually helps to get your feet as high up and close to the big bar as possible, so 4×4’s to stand on are very useful. You also want to make sure your fingers contact the skin of the thighs with nothing in between. In the Neck lift, I try to bend backwards even more at the start of the lift. Angling the strap that goes over my head to as far forward as it will go, seems to keep the drive straighter with less resultant ’snap’ to the front.

Again, when you start either lift, don’t think up, think back. Neither lift is a deadlift. For comfort sakes, you may want to have a spotter standing by. Good luck!

Would you like your records?

by Al Myers

Joe Garcia, the OFFICIAL USAWA RECORD DIRECTOR,  has notified me that he will provide anyone’s individual records to them if they want them.  This will allow you to see what USAWA Records you actually have!  Joe has worked hard on the Record List lately and has it completely up to date.  Please contact Joe directly at to request your list.

Joe also sent me a listing of the prior  USAWA events which contain OVER 100 USAWA Records.  Of course, this is the records still on the books.  Very likely more records were set or established at the time, but have been broken since.  We have no way of identifying the number of records SET at the time of these old meets.  Just like the old saying goes “records are meant to be broken” – once gone they’re gone.  But it is still very interesting in seeing which events have the most.  To date, over 100 USAWA Records are in the Record List from 9 competitions – and very fitting the number one competition is the 1995 IAWA World Championships in Eastlake, Ohio directed by Howard Prechtel!

USAWA Events with Over 100 Records

1.  151 Records – 1995 IAWA World Championships in Eastlake, Ohio

2.  139 Records – 1991 IAWA World Championships in Collegeville, Pennsylvania

3.  125 Records – 2003 USAWA National Championships in Youngstown, Ohio

4.  119 Records – 2004 USAWA National Championships in Lansdale, Pennsylvania

5.  119 Records – 2005 USAWA National Championships in Youngstown, Ohio

6.  113 Records – 2002 IAWA World Championships in Lebanon, Pennsylvania

7.  111 Records – 1999 USAWA National Championships in Ambridge, Pennsyvania

8.  109 Records – 2010 JWC Record Breakers in Kirksville, Missouri

9.  106 Records – 1990 USAWA National Championships in Akron, Ohio

Deanna Springs Meet

Garcia Wins Deanna Springs Memorial  Meet

by Al Myers

Deanna Meet Participants (left to right) in front of the Heavy Bar Al Myers, Joe Garcia and Thom Van Vleck

A slimmed down Joe Garcia still shows he has the mastery of the Heavy Lifts, and won this year’s Deanna Springs Memorial Meet. Joe has won this meet hosted annually by Bill Clark numerous times in the past. He had two challengers – Thom Van Vleck of the JWC and myself of the Dino Gym. The meet was about canceled this year due to lack of entries, but when Bill found out there were interested participants he graciously opened his gym up to another year of the challenging lifts contested in the “Deanna Meet”. Missing this year was Al Springs, who often attends in memory of Deanna.

Joe has been busy with starting his new business, but it was obvious he hasn’t let his training slack and looked in great shape. This was Thom’s first exposure to the Chain Lifts and did quite well his first time out – and with time no doubt will become very proficient in them. The meet started out with the Crucifix and I had the top lift, matching my personal best of 90 pounds. The next event was the Cheat Curl and Thom ended up with the top Cheat Curl at 195 pounds. I usually consider these first two events as warmups because at this point the Heavy Lifts start – and it’s time to get serious. The next event is the Deanna Lift – which was invented and named after Deanna Springs. It is the meet’s signature event – and has never been contested outside of this meet. It combines two of Deanna’s favorite lifts – the Zercher Lift and the Hand and Thigh Lift. This lift is very painful as it involves the Hand and Thigh bar positioned on the arms like a Zercher Lift, but with MUCH more weight involved. I had the top lift at 775 pounds.

The fourth event was the Hand and Thigh Lift. It is always a great privilege to compete in this event against the ALL-TIME record holder Joe Garcia. Everything I know about the Hand and Thigh Lift I have learned from Joe. Well, the years of tutelage finally paid off for me as I put it all together in this lift and broke 1500 pounds for the first time. My final lift was 1505 pounds, which broke Joe’s overall record in the 115K class. Joe was a class act about me breaking one of his Hand and Thigh records (not that he doesn’t have many others!!!) and sincerely congratulated me on my efforts. This meant a lot to me, and even more when Joe said, “this is the first time in 20 years that I have been beaten in a meet in the Hand and Thigh and I am glad that it is by you”. He then reminded me that he was at his Hand and Thigh peak when he was 43 years old (the same age I am now)! I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by that – but regardless, thanks Joe for all the help you have been to me in this lift!!

The meet ended with the Hip Lift. Thom got an easy 1205# lift (and had MUCH more in him) and Joe and I both ended at 1685 pounds. We were both capable of much more, but I made a huge jump on my last attempt as a strategic move to put the pressure on Joe for the overall. He made the jump with me but this big jump was just too much for both of us on this day. When it comes to a meet like this, that includes an assortment of Heavy Lifts, Joe is about impossible to beat. I was just glad to be able to push him a little on this day – something I haven’t done in previous Deanna Meets.

We concluded the day by filling up on the buffet at the Golden Corral – a Clark’s Gym post meet tradition. I also want to mention the All-Round celebrity guest we had in attendance – Wayne Jackson. Wayne is Thom’s Uncle, and one of the founders of the Jackson Weightlifting Club. Wayne told me that he first met Bill in 1962 while attending a meet hosted by Bill. They both enjoyed “reminiscing about the old days”. I want thank Bill for putting this meet on – EVERYONE had a great time!!

Below is the full meet results:

Deanna Springs Memorial Meet
Clark’s Gym, Columbia, Missouri
March 28th, 2010

Meet Director:  Bill Clark

Official (one used):  Bill Clark

Lifts:  Crucifix, Cheat Curl, Deanna Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, and Hip Lift


Lifter Age BWT Crucifix Curl Deanna H&T Hip Total Adj. Points
Joe Garcia
56 215 70 155 575 1285 1685 3770 3611.64
Al Myers
43 251 90 175 775 1505 1685 4230 3487.68
Thom Van Vleck
45 299 80 195 485 885 1205 2850 2196.57

BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  Total is total pounds lifted.  Adj. Points is adjusted Lynch Points for age and bodyweight.

History of USAWA Records

by Al Myers

I was thinking the other day about the history of the number of records set in the USAWA throughout the years.  Joe Garcia has been the Official Records Chairman since the beginning of the USAWA, and has entered THOUSANDS of records into our Record List. Joe’s efforts on this has been impressive and the USAWA owes him  a lot of thanks for all the work he has done in giving us a 20 plus year Record List.  The list is now approaching 10,000 line items in length.  But, what years have the most records been set in?  This can’t possible be answered because records are continually broken and the list updated, so an absolute count is about impossible for any year except the most current year. However, we can count the records that are STILL on the books from previous years.  Well, I did this and found the results interesting so I am going to share my research with you!

Year Records Year Records
1987 38 1999 453
1988 114 2000 586
1989 154 2001 422
1990 250 2002 682
1991 307 2003 538
1992 294 2004 474
1993 291 2005 702
1994 346 2006 566
1995 468 2007 367
1996 425 2008 360
1997 427 2009 475
1998 433 2010 103

As you can see, 2005 was the year that resulted in the MOST records.  The last three years there has been a drop-off. But it appears 2010 is off to a good start – maybe THIS YEAR will be the year the most records are set??

Congratulations to Dave Glasgow for passing the Official’s Test and becoming an USAWA Official!

Hall of Fame Biography – Joe Garcia class of 1997

Joe Garcia and his specialty lift - The Hand and Thigh Lift.

Joseph Anthony Garcia was born in Dewitt, Iowa, August 12, 1953. Joe and his wife Cindy started dating the last week of high school, got married August 11, 1973 and currently live in the country near Sturgeon, Missouri on 27 acres with their animals. Joe received a Business Degree with a major in accounting from the University of Iowa and got his first job as an accountant, but has spent the majority of his employed life in software, both as a developer and as a consultant. Joe’s immediate family consists of his wife and himself, a cat and 5 horses. He comes from a large family that had 9 kids. Joe actually started lifting back in the late 70’s when he was a policeman. As part of getting into shape, he got involved with the USAWA in 1987 when he was at a customer’s location and looked out the window and saw a small sign that read ‘Clark’s Championship Gym’. Joe said, “I went over and met Bill, joined the gym and have been a member of both the gym and the USAWA since that time.” Joe has been involved with some sport ever since he was a little kid, from baseball to track, basketball and football in high school, rugby in college, boxing as a cop, and finally Taekwondo in the early eighties, where he received a second degree black belt. Now days, he coaches boxing, lifts and competes in Cowboy Mounted Shooting. When asked who was responsible for getting him involved in all-round weightlifting, Joe replied, “Bill Clark introduced me to the USAWA and I would have to say he is responsible for my having accomplished what I have in the sport.”

Joe lifts both at Clark’s gym and at home. Joe has been the USAWA Record Keeper since the start of the USAWA and still holds that position. Joe was also responsible for designing and starting the USAWA website in the mid 90’s. He has been an official at many meets over the years. Bill and Joe have promoted three USAWA National Championships in Columbia, Missouri (1995, 1997, 2001). He has also helped Bill put on numerous meets at the gym. Joe’s favorite lifts are the big bar lifts, and when asked if there was any record he was the most proud of, he replied, “I would have to say my record of 1910 pounds in the Hand and Thigh Lift is the one I am most proud of.” Joe’s record in the Hand and Thigh of 1910 pounds, which was set in 1997, remains the top Hand and Thigh Lift in history. Joe competed in the first World meet which was held in England, and has competed in several World Championships and National Championships since. Joe has placed in the Top Ten Overall in 10 National Championships, with three third place finishes overall in 2001, 1997, and 1988. He was the top overall Master at the National Championships in 2006 and 2001. He has also won numerous age group Best Lifter Awards at the Nationals. Joe is one of very few lifters who have been with the USAWA from the very beginning who is still competing at the top level – as showed by his most recent placing of 4th overall at the 2009 National Championships. Joe is always helping out new lifters at meets and has done numerous things through the years to promote the USAWA. Joe Garcia sets the standard that all future Hall of Famers should aspire for.

History of the USAWA – What happened 5 years ago?

by Al Myers

(It is amazing how fast time goes sometimes – and 5 years does not seem like a long time.  The following is a summary of the USAWA September news that happened in 2004, as taken from the Strength Journal published by  Bill Clark. )

USAWA News from September, 2004

Joe Garcia, representing Clark's Gym, pulls a fire truck at the Mid-Mo Strongman Competition.

Ciavattone Best at Heavy Lift Meet

Frank Ciavattone was the best lifter at the USAWA Heavy Lift Championships, which was held in Lebanon, PA and directed  by Denny and Judy Habecker. This was a big event for Frank, as it marked his 25th anniversary of beating colon cancer. This meet was attended by 13 lifters!!  Frank finished the meet with a 1902# Hip Lift. John Vernacchio was on hand to officiate.

Mid- Mo Strongman Competition

Clark’s gym hosted their first-ever strongman competition. Helping Bill Clark in the promotion was Demetrius Davis, Sam Huff and Joe Garcia.  These events were selected – clean and push press,  burlap bag hold,  medley consisting of carrying an anvil,  a farmer’s walk, and a tire flip, bus/fire truck pull, and a stone load.

Steve Schmidt at the Knox Fair

Steve Schmidt made his second appearance at the Knox Fair in Knox, Indiana  to put on a teeth pulling performance. Steve pulled a Mack truck, weighing 18,700 pounds, with his teeth down a 50 foot course on the main street of Knox.  He also put on a bending performance – bending bars over his head and nose.  Steve even bent a half-inch bar, 4 feet long, over his lower teeth!!

Joe Garcia and the Hand & Thigh

by Al Myers

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Joe Garcia.  Joe is famous for his Hand and Thigh Lifting – and holds the all-time record in this lift by lifting 1910 pounds! Not only has he lifted more than anyone in the history of the USAWA, but also of All Time, even exceeding the Hand and Thigh Lifts of the old time strongmen.

Joe Garcia with the Hand and Thigh Lift

Quiz Question: Name the lifter whose all-time record was broken by Joe Garcia, and the weight of the previous record.

Rules of contest: 1 answer per day, first correct answer to webmaster wins

Winner receives a USAWA Patch!!!!

Mike McBride, of Columbia Missouri, correctly answered the quiz. The

previous Hand and Thigh Lift record holder was the New Jersey Strongman,  Jack Walsh.  He did a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1900 pounds in 1950 at Trenton, New Jersey.  This beat the previous record held by Louis Cyr of Canada, who had a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1897 pounds, set in 1896.  Will it be another 50 years before Joe Garcia’s Hand and Thigh Lift record is broken?