2012 USAWA Year In Review

by Al Myers

The 2012 Year In Review is dedicated to the late, great John Vernacchio.

For the fourth year now, I have done a 2012 USAWA Year In Review.  This book contains all of the information that has been placed on the USAWA website throughout the prior year.  If a blog was written – it is included in this review book.  All together, this review book is 476 pages and contains 164,701 words!!!  Definitely not something you would get read in one evening!  I have had a few copies printed and bound, so if anyone wants one send me an email with your request.  The books cost $50, payable to the USAWA.  This was the cost of the printing so no money is being made here.  Of course, if you just want the file I’ll email it to you free of charge and you can print it out yourself.  The book is printed in black and white.  Color printing would have been 3 times as much! 

This book is not edited.  I just copied and pasted from the website.  I do this monthly as a way of backing up the website, so making this book is not really that much work for me.  And after the problems with the website this past week, where we lost over a days worth of material, it goes to show that the internet may not be a permanent source of this important information.  Having a hard copy book that you can place on your bookshelf will still be there in 50 years!!

John’s History in the USAWA

by Al Myers

John Vernacchio completing a Clean and Jerk.

It’s been a sad past couple of weeks with the passing of John Vernacchio.  He had many friends in the all-round weightlifting community.  However, it is a glorious occasion as well, because I know he is in heaven right now meeting family members and friends that have gone before him.  My bet is that he and Howie are having a hard training session together right now – with John pumping out those famous presses of his, while Howard is hooking up the belts to do a Harness Lift.

I would like to take today and share some of the accomplishments that John has achieved throughout his lifting career.  Most of this will be with his time lifting in the USAWA as I don’t have much information on his lifting before that.  However,  Joe Roark (Ironhistory.com) recently provided some important information on John that I wasn’t aware of prior to his USAWA involvement. Initially John did some competitive bodybuilding in his early weightlifting days.  These were his physique competition accomplishments:

Mar 12, 1960 was 11th at Mr. Jr. Middle Atlantic
Dec 09, 1961 was 7th in an Open Physique contest in Norristown, PA
Oct 13, 1962 was 18th in an Open Physique contest in Philadelphia
Apr 04, 1964 was 21st in a physique event at Holy Saviour

After that John become involved with Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting, lifting for the Holy Savior Weightlifting Team.  Joe Roark also provided some contest history of PL and Olympic meets that John competed in in the early 60’s:

Oct 19, 1963 at Atlantic Coast PL: curl 140, Sq 360, BP 200, Total 700 for 6th place in the 181 class
Mar 21, 1964 was last in an Open PL contest in Pittsburgh where his only successful lift was a 380 squat
Feb 13, 1960 in the 148 class at the Greater Philidelphia Open 200-170-235 = 605

In John’s Hall of Fame Bio, it stated that he won his first National Championship in 1961, at the National Collegiate WL Championships.  John also stated in his bio that his two favorites lifts were the Military Press and the Squat – which shows why John eventually found his calling in All-Round Weightlifting by enjoying two such different lifts the best. Most of his Powerlifting was done in his club – the Valley Forge WL Club.  This continued into the early days of the USAWA, as John usually brought a team from his club to represent in all-round meets.  The Valley Forge WL Club was a member club of the USAWA from 1989 to 1995. 

John Vernacchio (left) presenting Jerry Turner (right), a member of the Ambridge Club his award after a meet John was promoting.

John was one of the pioneer leaders of the USAWA.  He promoted the VERY FIRST USAWA National Championships in 1988.  That is still a meet the “old-timers” tell stories about.  He went on to promote three USAWA National Championships (1988, 1989, & 2004).  At this years Nationals, a special award was given to John for this contribution, as he was one of 4 that have promoted the most, at 3, USAWA National Championships.  I am really glad now that he received this final award from the USAWA before his death.  He deserved it! 

John was the second President of the USAWA, elected in January 1989 and serving till the end of 1992.  He also served as one term as the IAWA Vice President (elected in 2000).  In addition, he has served several terms on the IAWA Technical Committee.  He did several IAWA promotions as well.  He promoted three IAWA World Championships (1989, 1991, & 1997), as well as three Gold Cups (1992, 1996, & 2003).  John was “no stranger” to competing overseas.  Numerous times he attended the IAWA Worlds when it was held out of the states. I did some research and have discovered John competed in 12 World Championships!  He had a continuous 10 year run from the the first one in 1988 in Leicester, England to 1997 Worlds in Collegeville, PA.  This included World Meets in Glasgow, Scotland twice and England three times.  His last two World entries came in 2002 & 2005 in Lebanon, PA. John also promoted many Powerlifting meets and Olympic lifting competitions. He promoted the 1987 National Masters WL Championships as well as the 1991 Pan American Masters  WL Championships.  He promoted multiple Eastern Masters PL and WL Championships.

John was an active participant in the USAWA National Championships as well.  All together – he competed in 15 Championships (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2007).  He won numerous Best Lifter Age Group Awards through the years: 1988 Best Lifter 50-54, 1990 Best Lifter 50-54, 1992 Best Lifter 55-59, 1993 Best Lifter 55-59, 1997 Best Lifter 60-64, 2004 Best Lifter 65-69.  He probably won more Best Lifter Awards than this number, as this information came from the old meet results and often not all Best Lifter Awards were recorded.  His highest overall placing at the USAWA Nationals was 4th overall at the 1988 Championships.  He had 4 total “top ten” finishes at Nationals: 4th in 1988, 10th in 1989, 6th in 1990, and 8th in 1997.  John “V” also really supported the IAWA Gold Cup.  He competed in 13 Gold Cups, including Gold Cups  in England and Scotland.  He entered the “very first” Cup in 1991 directed by Howard Prechtel in Lakewood, Ohio and performed a 190 Kg 12″ Base Squat.

John Vernacchio

by Al Myers

John Vernacchio Sr. - December 27, 1937 to September 2, 2012.

The following newspaper article was given to Denny by Dick Durante at John’s funeral.  The article tells about the Holy Savior weightlifting team going to California in 1980 to compete in the World and National Weightlifting and Powerlifting Championships.  John took second in his class in both events.

Holy Savior Weightlifting Team


by John McKean

John "V" Vernacchio performing a hip lift

I’d just met the extremely muscular 40-something-year-old weightlifter, and it appeared he was trying to kill me! I often have that effect on people, but they usually have to talk to me at least for a few minutes prior to reaching for my throat; not so for no-nonsense John Vernacchio; he was all set to drop a 300+ pound barbell on my head practically at first sight! You see, I was the head judge at one of the very first National Masters Olympic lift meets, held at our own Ambridge VFW. John was noticeably more husky than most of the masters competing, and had opted to take one of the heaviest final clean and jerk attempts. It was a mighty struggle but John thrust it overhead to a good lock. Only problem was that his feet weren’t too content with their position. John shifted a little to get balance, then a few more steps toward the front of the platform, followed by some faster shuffling forward, then a bit of a run to catch up. With merely one foot of platform left, I reflected on one sage old judge mentioning that the head ref should always hold his position, no matter the jeopardy. Forget that, my integrity wasn’t so solid, and I dove for the audience!!  But I kept an eye on ole John, who now just took baby steps, finally staying steady – he actually returned the bar to the edge of the platform after the relieved down signal, and earned three white lights! I shook my finger in amusement at John, who, I’m convinced, started my rapid subsequent hair loss in those scary few seconds!!

Oh, I got even with him some years later, via my then 6-year-old wild child youngest son, Sean. John was holding one of his elaborate All-round meets in his big carpet store and warehouse near Philadelphia. As was the case with most of V’s promotions, this was very well attended, and the warehouse portion certainly was a huge, wonderful facility to stage such events. The store section was closed to the public that day, but well furnished and a nice place to sit or lay down to relax before or after attempts for us lifters. But some of the guys complained to John about the “damn bird” in that room which was somewhat annoying when trying to rest! John said there were never any birds in his store, but came out for a listen. He THOUGHT he heard a slight “peep” after a while, and old time lifter, Paul Eberhardinger, identified it as a parakeet. Completely puzzled, John & Paul searched every corner of the room, hearing several more “peeps” all the while, but seeing no bird. In desperation, John started lifting sections of his sample carpetting. Finally on one pull of a plush piece, John came eyeball to eyeball with a smirking Sean who just looked him square in the eye and said “PEEP!” John coulda strangled the impish little lad! Later that day, Sean managed to throw a rock at a beehive and kick up an angry swarm of bees, and still later, John found he’d uncovered a deep open retaining pit outside the store and was attempting to do parallel dips over the treacherous hole!! Not that John ever told me, but I suspect Sean still has a lifetime ban from any Philly meet!!!

Yes, it was always an adventure and a first class thrill to compete in any Vernacchio contest! He went all out to make sure every detail was in place so competitors were free to do their very best. His combination olympic & powerlift weekends via his Easter National Masters contests were legendary! His enthusiasm was so contagious during these events, that he even managed to talk ME into olympic lifting on the Sunday Olympic lift portion, and I actually ENJOYED it, even as an awkward 42-year-old novice to those tricky lifts! I’ll never forget the time Art & I were at the Easterns and the overall best lifter trophy (both days-olympic & powerlift total), a huge sucker, was awarded to Art Montini by a proud and smiling John Vernacchio  – Art smiled back, but then whispered to me, “Get the car started quick, and let’s get outa town in hurry; they must have made a mistake!!”

John was always a joy to compete with at all the many all-round contests we shared. Always grinning, he was as good a competitor as he was a coach & friend. Yet for as strong and dedicated a lifter that he truly was, he never took himself all that seriously – He laughed as hard as the rest of us when this very powerful man was beaten by my older son Rob, then 10 years old, in the hack lift one year (try as he may John just couldn’t get much more than a bare bar up past his massive thigh biceps!!!). Or the time during one of his IAWA world championships that he planned just ONE Steinborn lift (because it caused him TREMENDOUS shoulder agony to get the bar onto his back), but was three red lighted because he didn’t squat deep enough! (Yeah, he easily corrected that on a second attempt, laughing all the while!).

Yep, we’ll be telling John Vernacchio stories forever in the USAWA – there were so many crazy antics with him around, and he was so well loved by everyone! When you think about it, John will certainly ALWAYS be with us!

John’s Funeral

by Al Myers

John Vernacchio's funeral handout.

This was sent to me by Denny Habecker, which was the funeral handout from John Vernacchio’s service.  I know John had many friends from all over the World that were unable to attend his funeral, so that is the reason I’m sharing this on the website. 


More Tributes for John

by Steve Gardner

John Vernacchio front squatting at the 1997 Gold Cup in England.

Still cant get over the fact that my old friend is not with us anymore. This photo was from the Gold Cup in 1997 which I ran at Bass Museum in Burton. It doesnt seem 5 minutes ago but John would be about 60 here I guess. He is performing the front squat, the Squat and the Military Press were Johns favourite lifts and he excelled in both in his glory days. I met John at the first IAWA Worlds in Liecester in 1988, we became friends there and in 89 I went over to his place in Philadelphia for the 2nd World Championships. John came over to England to all of the competitions I ran including the 93 Gold Cup and the 94 Worlds. I went over to Johns every single year for Gold Cups, Worlds or even just for a holiday. John was the same age as my Dad but was more like a Brother. He was a part of my family, and me and my family became a part of his. I am so sad he is gone but I have a lifetime of great great memories. John used to laugh when we would talk him up and call him the ‘Legend’ but I know this for sure, John did have something special and I will never forget him.

by Frank Ciavattone

My heart goes out to the Vernacchio family. Like the many stories that all my friends are writing to you about John, they are not only true but without John most of us would not of even had been in this Great wonderful sport. I spent a countless number of hours from 1988 to two days before the 1989 I.AW.A. & U.S.A.W.A. Championships held in Pennsylvania, U.S. As being a prior Olympic lifter I needed some coaching on the All-Rounds. He never once did not take my call and was able to coach me to win my first championships in both the Worlds and the U.S. title. Most of all through him I met a true family which is second to none over my acclompishments and thats Judy & Denny Haybeker, Karen & Steve Gardner, Steve Angell, Barry Bryan, Bill Clark, Dennis & Flossy Mitchell, Howard Prechtell, John Mckean, Art Montini and there families! I went through many diffacult times in my life and without my All-Round family and my own family it would have been tough. My condolenses to the Vernacchio family and to thank John for making me part of this family.

by Steve Andrews

John was a top guy and a great lifter. I remember him hosting Worlds in Pennsylvania in 1989 where i lifted with Adrian Blindt and Frank Allen. I enjoyed competing with him over the years. Condolences to John’s family at this sad time. RIP John.

by Tom Ryan

I am very sad to read this. Yes, John was 75 and would have been 76 near the end of the year. Technically, he didn’t live in Philly but lived outside Philly. John was indeed a USAWA pioneer and was very active in staging competitions, including competitions in the building that housed his carpet business! I knew him well, especially from the 1989-90 academic year that I spent in the Philly area and trained a few times in John’s gym. John told me after one of those training sessions that his father suffered a lot during the final years of his life. Since John had a stroke a few years ago, as Denny informed us some time ago, his final years obviously weren’t great, either, so at least he is now free of earthly pain and troubles. RIP, John, you were a very giving person in many ways, including once treating my mother and I to dinner at that famous all-you-can-eat place that I believe was/is in Collegeville. You contributed a lot to the USAWA and you will be greatly missed.

John Vernacchio performing a Fulton Bar Deadlift of 375 pounds at the age of 68 at the 2005 USAWA National Championships in Youngstown, Ohio.

by Steve Angell

Been thinking about John a lot today (Feels the same as when my father passed away) I am full of sadness AND guilt as i lost contact with John in resent years. Just wanted to re-share the post i put up a couple of months ago regarding John. Looking back John was there to shout for me during all of my best ever lifts and i will always be grateful for the help & support he gave me. I have looked at the results of resent IAWA world championships with a little envy, as i would love for my body to have given me one chance to put it on the line against Al, Chad & Mark Haydock. That would have been a battle royal! But do you know what? Being around in the 90’s and sharing a platform with and being inspired by John, Howard & co were amongst the best days of my life. I would not change that for anything. Al asked for stories about John. I have an encyclopaedia full of them, but this will make you all smile. John was telling me about when he was a school teacher and one of his pupils who was a good football player was getting a hard time from the school bully. John kept him back after class. Had a John V type chat with him (I loved those no BS chats we had). Then looked him in the eye and said “Now go kick his fucking ass” which the kid duly obliged. The world should have more teachers like JV!!!!

Quote from home page.
Tireless John Vernacchio directed and lifted and led his Valley Forge team to first place in a one-man demonstration of dynamic energy July 9-10 in Plymouth Meeting, PA. as the new United States All-Round Weightlifting Association staged its first-ever National All-Round Championships. Vernacchio thus completed his second in a three-sport round of national lifting championships. In 1987, he was the meet director (and organizer and lifter) for the National Masters Weightlifting Championships. In 1989, he’ll do the same for the National Masters Powerlifting meet for the USPF.

I just wanted to elaborate a little on John as some of you guy’s may never have had the pleasure of meeting him. John Vernaccio is a LEGEND pure and simple. Not only was he a National Masters Champion in Olympic lifting, All-Round lifting and Powerlifting; He was also World Champion in all three sports Winning the Masters World Olympic lifting Championships on Oxford (England) in 1992?. I had the absolute pleasure of staying with, training with and competing with John on many occasions, and i will openly say, i love John Like another Father, and i owe him so much for all the help and support he gave me during the 90’s.

Just some of the competitions i lifted in with (Against) John that he promoted include:

England V America 3 match tour 1994
England v America v Scotland 2 match tour 1996
1996 Gold Cup
1997 World Championships

I also stayed with John and travelled across to Ohio for the 1994 Gold Cup and 1995 World Champs. I also Competed in the WNPF World Powerlifting Championship with John in 1995. He won the Masters title and i won the Deadlift title. Unfortunately, i have not been in contact with John for a while, and the last i heard he was having some health issues. I just wanted to take the opportunity on this forum to let the World know how John played an integral part of my success as a strength Athlete, and i put him along side Howard Pretchtel in my list of heroes and strength legends.

by Al Myers

I first met John at the 2003 National Championships in Youngstown, Ohio. I have to admit that at first I was taken back by John’s imposing physical presence – heavily muscled physique, commanding voice, strong facial features, and slicked back dark hair. I had previously “heard about him” and his involvement in the USAWA, and I would have to say, was a little intimidated by him at first impression! We didn’t talk much during the meet. However, the day following the meet as I was hitting the hotel’s continental breakfast, John was there already eating and invited me to join him at his table. I couldn’t believe how nice he was to me. He commended me on my lifting performance, and offered several words of encouragement to me in pursuing all round weightlifting. I was a little taken back – as I was just “newbe” to the USAWA, yet this legend of the sport was taking interest in me and thanking me for making it to the meet? It made an impression on me as I left that morning. That’s how John was to all new lifters. He is responsible for getting more lifters involved in the USAWA than probably anyone else throughout the years. He also was a man who put “the organization” above his own personal lifting goals, and because of this, has left a legacy in the minds of many.


John V laid to rest today

by Steve Gardner

John Vernacchio pressing big weight in his earlier lifting days. This picture is on the wall of Steve Gardner's Powerhouse Gym in Burton. (caption by webmaster)

Long time All Round Weightlifting enthusiast from Pennsylvania USA: John Vernacchio, is being laid to rest today. John was a superb lifter, Promoter of several World Championships and Gold Cup Events, Official, and USAWA Board of Officials Member. John had suffered ill health in recent years and finally suffered a very bad heart attack which led to his sad demise. On this day of his funeral I am sure all members of IAWA(UK) would join me in sending our deepest sympathy to his family and friends, and keeping John and them in our thoughts. John was a really good guy, friendly and helpful to everyone, not only in lifting but in life too. I and many others in the UK had the pleasure of knowing him well. He was a good friend and he will be missed by many! John will leave a big hole in the family of friends that is all round weightlifting, but John V you will never be forgotten xxx

Rest in Peace, John Vernacchio

by Al Myers

Two legends in All-Round Weightlifting, John Vernacchio (left) and Frank Ciavattone (right) at the 2009 IAWA World Championships in Lebanon, PA.

Yesterday brought some bad news to the All-Round Community with the news of the passing of John Vernacchio.  Anyone who has been involved with the USAWA for any length of time knows John.   John has been one of the primary leaders in our organization since the beginning, and without his efforts the USAWA might not even exist today.  I could go “ON AND ON” regarding John’s titles and lifting resume, but today I want to take the time to remember John for “the man he was”, and from the comments that I have received about him, it is obvious that he was loved and well-respected by all.  Please continue to send any comments and/or stories about John, and I’ll share them here on the USAWA website.

by Steve Gardner

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but for those who knew him, just wanted to let you know John Vernacchio has passed away. John was my very good friend and buddy from Philadelphia USA, a prolific all round weightlifter and powerlifter in his early days and a big mover and shaker in the US all round organisation too. John was 75 I think, and he suffered a fatal heart attack this morning. So very very sad. Rest in peace John.

by Andrew Tomlin

he was a gentleman and a legend R.I.P john

by Barry Bryan

Very sad news to hear. I lifted for his gym,trained with him, and he is the one who got me in the all round lifting. We had many great times.

by James Gardner


by Joe Garcia

Sad news indeed. Remember a lot of good times with John at his meets. I called Bill and let him know. If anyone has current address or funeral data shoot them to me.

by John Gardner

Very sad to loose the legend will miss you mr v

by Steve Angell

Am sitting here with tears in my eyes. This has just become one of the saddest days of my life. l owe that man so much and had a love for him like a father. RIP John. You really were a legend!

by Rick Meldon

Horrible news, a great bloke indeed

by David Horne

Very sad news. I always remember my time at his place in Philly with fondness. A great chap!

by Tom Ryan

Yes, very sad news. I echo the comments made above. I knew John well, especially from the 1989-90 academic year that I spent in the Philly area and trained a few times at his gym. John was very active in staging competitions during the early years of the USAWA, in which he was a charter member. And he was a force on the lifting platform! He was a good Olympic lifter who switched to powerlifting after the press was eliminated, as the press was his best lift. John retained his strength as he aged much better than most of us do, as he squatted with 601 at the age of 47, which tied his personal record. Yes, John was 75 and would have turned 76 near the end of the year.

by Graham Saxton

Very sorry to hear the news. I had the pleasure to spend sometime with him on a number of occasions. Treasured memories.


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!!!

Hall of Fame Biography – John Vernacchio class of 1996

John Vernacchio performing a Front Squat.

John Vernacchio was born in 1936 and grew up in Norristown, Pennsylvania where he still resides today. He attended Holy Savior Catholic Elementary School and graduated from Bishop High School in 1956. He attended Shippinsburg State University where he played football while attaining his degree. After graduation in 1961, he finished his education at Temple University where he earned his Masters degree in Exercise Physiology. John taught High School for several years and coached football. He has also coached football at the College and minor pro league level. At the present time, John is working as a rehabilitation therapist for a Chiropracter. John has two grown sons – John born in 1962 and Jeffrey born in 1965. John lives in Texas and has two daughters. Jeff lives in Pennsylvania with one son. Both received B.S. degrees from Westchester State University. John started training when he was 13 years old at the local YMCA and began competing in weightlifting in 1957 with friends Richard Durante and Domenic DeSanto. John Vernachio-DLFB.JPGwon his first National title in 1961 at the National Collegiate Weightlifting Championships. He continued to train under the direction of James Messer at the Holy Savior Weightlifting Club. John got his start in Olympic lifting, but eventually competed in powerlifting for many years for the Valley Forge Weightling/Powerlifting Club. John was one of the charter members of the USAWA, being involved since the beginning in 1987. He was introduced to the USAWA by Bill Clark. John has served two terms as President of the USAWA, and one term as Vice President of IAWA. He has promoted several National and International competitions throughout the years. He has promoted three National Meets – in 1988, 1989, and 2004. John has the destinction of being the Meet Director of the very first National Meet (1988). He has promoted three World meets – in 1989, 1991, and 1997. He also promoted the 2003 Gold Cup. His favorite lifts are the military press and the squat. Even though John has won numerous weightlifting, powerlifting, and all-round meets through the years, when asked what his greatest accomplishment was, he replied, “My biggest accomplishment was to see both my sons graduate from College.” John Vernacchio displays every quality a Hall of Famer should possess – excellence with the iron and excellence in life.

John Vernacchio deadlifting with a Fulton Bar.