National Championships

by Al Myers


The 2010 USAWA National Championships was also promoted by Denny and Judy Habecker. This shows Denny "busy at work" calculating the day's results while Frank Ciavattone is "looking over his shoulder" to make sure he doesn't make any mistakes!

Denny Habecker, the USAWA National Championships meet promoter, has just released the entry form for this years Championships.  It will be held the last weekend of June, which has become the traditional time of the year for the National Championships.  Denny is a very seasoned Championship promotor and has promoted several Championship events.  Every one that he has promoted that I have attended has always been done with upmost professionalism.  Denny always makes his events truly for the lifters.  Make sure to get this date on your meet calendar right now!

Schedule of  Events

Venue: Lebanon Senior Center , 710 Maple St.  Lebanon, Pa.  

Weigh-ins:7:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. –Saturday and Sunday

Lifting starts:  9:30 A.M.

Lifts: Saturday – June 29, 2013

Deadlift – One Arm
Clean & Press – 12” Base
Pullover – Staight Arm
Continental To Belt

Lifts: Sunday – June 30, 2013

Snatch – One Arm
Pullover and Push
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip

Entry Fee – $55.00
T-Shirt Included

Awards: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in each weight class and Age  divisions for Masters, Juniors, and Women, Based on total poundage lifted. Best Lifter Awards for each age group in Masters, Juniors, Senior [20-39], and Women by Formula.

INFO PAGE – 2013 USAWA Nationals – info page

ENTRY FORM – 2013 USAWA Nationals – Entry

USAWA History – 1988 Nationals

by Al Myers

By now most USAWA lifters know that this year is a BIG YEAR for the USAWA.  At this year’s big event in Las Vegas this summer we will be celebrating the 25 year history of the USAWA and of  the USAWA National Championships.  I have made up several “special awards”  to recognize lifters who have had significant involvement in the USAWA National Championships through the years.  The awards are already done, and just waiting to be presented!  I also am going to have some posters made up to highlight the 25 year history of the USAWA. On this poster it will contain ALL of the past USAWA logos.  Each lifter that competes in Nationals will get one of these posters as part of their entry fee, and I will have more available for sale as well.

Nationals is now less than 2 months away.  I plan to take these next couple of months and “highlight” each of the past National Championships in our history.  These meets are a big part of our history, and I think it is only right to recognize some of the lifters who helped get us to where we are today. 

The following came from the Strength Journal written by Bill Clark following the first USAWA Nationals (September 10th, 1988):

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.

The meet was staged in the George Washington Motor Lodge (home of the other two nationals masters competitions), a fine venue which offers both lodging and lifting in the same building.  Since John now owns all kinds of harness, we can assume that sometime in the future, we’ll see the IAWA Worlds here.  The field was only 18 – but the lifters came from Missouri, Texas, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  A field of 18 may not sound great, but remember that the first National Masters Meet held in Columbia, MO in 1975 drew only 16.  Now we’re looking for 200-plus at the World Meet in Florida this December and 27 nations are now involved. A dozen years from now, the all-rounds could be huge.

Steve Schmidt proved to be the best lifter in the meet, winning for the second time in the hip lift at Phil Anderson’s expense.  Phil won the first meeting between the two strongmen in the nine-eventer against England last November.  But Steve evened matters in January at the Zercher Meet in Columbia, MO making a 3100 harness lift to catch his Texas rival.

Best master was Art Montini.  The 60 year-old Montini won the open 165-lb class with a 3165 total and came up with an adjusted total of 4662.42 points.  He edged Vernacchio, who had 4636.47 points, and struggled with a 1050 hip lift when at least 1400 was his goal.


1988 USAWA National Championships
July 9-10, 1988
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania

Meet Director: John Vernacchio

Lifts: Leg Press, Clean & Press – heels together, Front Squat, Hand & Thigh, Bench Press – feet in air, Deadlift – one hand, Zercher, Hip Lift

Men: Top Ten Placings
1. Steve Schmidt, Missouri
2. Phil Anderson, Texas
3. Joe Garcia, Missouri
4. John Vernacchio, Pennsylvania
5. John McKean, Pennsylvania
6. Dan Ciccarelli, Pennsylvania
7. Italo Bonacci, Pennsylvania
8. Gonzalo Gonzalez, New York
9. Art Montini, Pennsylvania
10. Bill Clark, Missouri

Best Lifter Awards:
Men Open – Steve Schmidt
Men Master – Art Montini
Men Junior – Casey Clark
Men 40-44 Age Group – John McKean
Men 45-49 Age Group – Bill DiCiccio, Sr.
Men 50-54 Age Group – John Vernacchio
Men 55-59 Age Group – Gonzalo Gonzalez
Men 60-64 Age Group – Art Montini
Men 65-69 Age Group – Harrison Skeete
Team Champion – Valley Forge Club

I also want to mention of a few other USAWA members who competed in this FIRST-EVER USAWA National Championships.  Our USAWA Postal Meet Director John Wilmot was a participant as well as the famous all-round strength historian Tom Ryan. Both of these guys are still very involved with the USAWA today, and their involvement with the first ever Nationals shows that their involvement has been there from the very beginning.  I sure would like to see these two guys (as well as others that attended this first Nationals) make it this year to Vegas to help celebrate with us!!

Nationals Update

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom (left) has agreed to be the "PARTY PLANNER" for our National Championships in Las Vegas. I have traveled with Chad several times, and know from experience, that he knows how to have a fun time!

Plans for the 2012 USAWA National Championships in beautiful Las Vegas are underway. The date has been set (June 30th), the venue secured (Average Broz Gym), and entry forms have been available (on this website) for a couple of months now. Everything is going according to the plan I’ve laid out.  Now it’s time for YOU to send in your entry to me!! So far I have only two entries in hand – myself and Thom Van Vleck.  All details of entering are explained clearly on the entry form.  Just one thing I want to remind you of – make your checks or money orders out to the USAWA and not me.  This is a USAWA sponsored event and all income/expense is going through the USAWA bank account.

I have picked a place for our “host hotel”. It is the Silverton Hotel and Casino.  It is best just to go to their website to get the information for making a reservation.  Here is the link:

The Silverton is not part of “the strip”. It is located close to John’s Gym, which is the site of the meet.   I would guess it is only half a mile or so away.  So if you want to “loosen up” before the meet with a little light walking, the Silverton is close enough to the meet site that you can make the hike.  Chad and I are going to be renting a car while we are there, so if anyone needs a ride we can run a shuttle service back and forth.  Also, taxis are plentiful in Vegas which is another option to get to the meet and back.  We do not have a “package deal” with the Silverton so don’t ask for it. This is a large place and I didn’t even bother to check into any special arrangement for our small group.  I didn’t want them to laugh at me. Their rates are very reasonable (sixty nine during the week, and eight nine on the weekends).  This fee is for double occupancy and even includes breakfast!  (look on their website under “resort specials”).  They provide free shuttle transportation from McCarran International Airport as well.  The Silverton adjoins a huge Bass Pro Shop and has many restaurants within it.  I will pick a restaurant for our Friday evening meal and meeting, which I will announce at a later date.  I would recommend that you make your reservation as soon as possible to ensure this rate.  Of course if you want to stay somewhere else, that is your choice but if we all stay at the same place it will make it easier for us to “get together” throughout our stay.

Our USAWA Vice President Chad Ullom has “stepped up” to be our activity coordinator and PARTY PLANNER.  That’s what Vice Presidents are for – planning the fun!  Chad is working on several  ”entertainment activities” that we can do as a group.  I know he is looking into a bus tour of Hoover Dam the day following the meet for anyone interested, and a special evening out Saturday night following the meet. This will be in place of the banquet.  He promised me that he will let me know when he gets these activities finalized and that he will write an announcement for the website with all the details.

I am working on the T-Shirt design at this time.  This is causing me lots of indecision. Since this is such a BIG EVENT for the USAWA, it being our 25th Anniversary and all,  I want it to be the PERFECT meet shirt and can’t make up my mind on the design. I have a few good ideas and think I will “lock on” to a design soon.  I have three criteria for the shirt – recognize 25 years of the USAWA, highlight Las Vegas, and make it a “lifter’s shirt” with a lifting logo.  I want this to be a favorite T-shirt of the lifters – the one you grab out of the drawer full of other T-shirts to wear.  The problem is that I’m not artistic in anyway, and have problems making things aesthetic in appearance. I’m not a “fluff guy”, so I may need to ask Thom his opinion on this.

I am getting excited about this year’s Nationals. It will be one that you DON’T WANT TO MISS!  I will give out more details as the plans come along.   But NOW’S the time to send me your entry form and book your Hotel reservations.

National Venue Update

by Al Myers

Average Broz Gym - the venue site for the 2012 USAWA National Championships.

Last week I was fortunate to be in Las Vegas on business, so I took a little extra time to go visit with John Broz, owner of Average Broz Gym and venue site of the 2012 USAWA National Championships next summer.  For those of you that have been to Las Vegas, you are fully aware of the “hustle and bustle” of activity that goes on “around the clock” in Vegas.  But when I got to John’s Gym several blocks south of the strip, it was in a very peaceful neighborhood.  His Gym is located very close to the airport and is very easy to get to.   I am still in the process of finding a host hotel close by, of which details will be released later when this decision has been made.

John Broz (left) and Al Myers (right)

I was completely overwhelmed by Average Broz Gym.  It caters pretty exclusively to Olympic Weightlifters, and has numerous platforms with full weight sets for each.  John has a major investment in bars and weights, and he has only the BEST STUFF – Eleiko bars and Eleiko bumpers.  It will be BY FAR some of the best equipment we have ever lifted on in any of our National Meets.  John is a very seasoned Olympic Lifter and Coach.  I greatly enjoyed our conversation together – I could have visited with him all day long but he had coaching responsibilities to attend to so I didn’t want to take too much of his time.  It didn’t take me long to realize that this venue will be the PERFECT SPOT to celebrate our 25th USAWA National Championships!

During our conversation we found that we knew several people in common.  The “brotherhood of weightlifters” is truly a small fraternity and there are alot of links between individuals.  John is originally from Cleveland.  He grew up lifting weights coached by the well-known allrounder and weightlifter John Schubert.  John had several stories of his experiences with John Schubert and it was obvious to me that John had been influenced quite a bit by him.  John was just recently in Cleveland following John Schubert’s death, and was involved in liquidating Schubert’s lifting equipment.  He plans to set up a display in his gym featuring some of John Schubert’s gym equipment.  So you can tell John is familiar with All Round Weightlifting and has even done several of the All Round Lifts in the past himself!  When I told him the lifts we would be doing, he knew exactly what I was talking about. 

I am very excited and looking forward to this meet.  It will be the first time the USAWA has ever promoted a meet in Las Vegas.  Start making plans now to attend because this is an All-Round meet you will not want to miss out on!

National Championships

by Thom Van Vleck AND Al Myers

USAWA Nationals: 2011 Official Meet Report

Group picture from the 2011 USAWA National Championships.

The 2011 USAWA Nationals held in Kirksville, Missouri and hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club on June 25th is now in the record books. The event was held in the old Willard School Gym. This building is around 75 years old and for many of the older lifters, it was the type of gym they grew up in! It had old, hardwood floors and a stage on one side with baskets at each end. There was a partitioned warm up area at one end with the main platform at center court. The platforms were well constructed with the main one being 12′x12′. We had a nice light system for the judges and a top notch PA system for the announcer (Al Myers). Wayne Smith, honored guest and original JWC member, made the comment that Al was the best announcer he had ever heard and since Wayne has attended many Olympic lifting Nationals, a World Championships (in Columbus, Ohio when Alexeev broke the 500lb C&J barrier) and even a Pan Am Games I thought that said a lot!!!!

The morning session included the Women and the older master lifters. Amber Glasgow won the women’s overall with Susan Sees getting second in her first ever trip to the USAWA Nationals! Helen Kahn was a close second to Susan.

Three guys that must be mentioned in this early morning group includes Mike Murdock, Dean Ross, and Rudy Bletscher.  These guys have had some epic battles going head to head in the past but what sets them apart is the great respect they have for one another and the wonderful encouragement they give each other. Denny Habecker and Dennis Mitchell both traveled a long way to compete and did some fantastic lifting. I know my mother guessed Denny was 20 years younger than his actual age (see….weight training keeps you young!) and Wayne Smith was so inspired by Dennis Mitchell (they are the same age) that he told me he felt like training and competing again.

Now, let’s take a look a the overall top ten men’s lifters as adjusted by age and weight coefficients.

10. Joe Garcia. Joe was handicapped in this meet by the fact that we did not have a “heavy lift”. Joe is one of the greatest “heavy” lifters of all time but that did not stop him from cracking the top ten.

9. Denny Habecker. Denny came a long way to compete and did not disappoint. He also pulled double duty judging and his wife Judy was the scorekeeper all day long.

8. Dave Glasgow. Dave is looking at elbow surgery soon but that did not stop him from having a great day. All while coaching Team Ledaig to the team championships.

7. John O’Brien. John came in at a heavy 290lbs and he had power to spare. He seemed to be strongest on his third attempts. John was the JWC’s top finisher. John made an easy 240lb Cheat Curl that showed his explosiveness.

6. Randy Smith. Randy has been a top finisher for years in the USAWA and did not disappoint. His Continental of 225lbs on the thick bar really impressed several of us.

5. Sammy Ibrahim was the top junior lifter and showed his potential with this top 5 finish in the men’s overall. Sammy broke several records in the process and his explosiveness in the Dumbbell Snatch was a sight to see.

4. Sam Cox, the winner of the first ever USAWA Old time Strongman contest was barely edged out by Chad Ullom who was 3rd. Sam is only 22 years old and will undoubtedly improve and be a force in the future.

3. Chad Ullom. To give you an idea of the caliber of the lifting in this contest, Chad is the CURRENT IAWA World Champion. No, he did not have an off day, it was just that great of a contest. Chad really impressed me with his  Zercher lift of 445 pounds.

2. Eric Todd. Eric usually competes in strongman competitions as a professional. He has been an All American Wrestler in College and is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met. He dumped a Continental to the Chest attempt right across his leg and simply shrugged it off and on the the next lift.

Larry Traub of the Ledaig Heavy Athletics Club won the Overall Best Mens Lifter in his very first USAWA Nationals appearance.

1. Larry Traub. Larry is a 9 time Master’s National Champ in powerlifting as well has numerous other titles. He lived up to his pedigree by edging out the slimmest victory we’ve seen in some time. Eric missed his last Zercher attempt and had he made it he would have beaten Larry for the overall. Just 5lbs either way! Larry pulled a nice 560lbs Deadlift that in the end won the contest for him.

No meet report would be complete without those who work behind the scenes. I would especially like to thank my wife, Kelly, who helped me with lots of details on this meet. She was solely responsible for the Friday night meal, the lunch on meet day, the beautiful cake at the awards banquet, and making sure the banquet ran smoothly until I got there.

The loaders were JWC members Mitch Ridout and Tedd Van Vleck. I know they really wanted to compete, but took the bullet for the team and helped all day. Scorekeeping was done by Judy Habecker and the announcer was Al Myers. JWC Member Brett Kerby set up or spectacular sound system and made sure we were able to open our ceremony with the National Anthem.

Be sure and check back in the following days. We will have special reports on the USAWA Awards that took place at the awards banquet, the special display honoring past champions at the meet, and some of the “stories within the story” that really made this event special.



2011  USAWA National Championships
Kirksville, Missouri
June 25th, 2011

Meet Directer: Thom Van Vleck

Lifts:  Snatch – Dumbbell, One Arm, Curl – Cheat, Pullover and Push, Continental to Chest – Fulton Bar, Deadlift – 12″ Base, Zercher Lift

Officials (3 -0fficial system used on all lifts):  Session 1 – Steve Schmidt, Joe Garcia (head judge), Randy Smith; Session 2 – Steve Schmidt, Denny Habecker (head judge), Dennis Mitchell

Announcer:  Al Myers

Scorekeeper:  Judy Habecker

Loaders:  Mitch Ridout, Tedd Van Vleck

Photographer:  Flossy Mitchell

Sound System: Brett Kerby


Lifter Age BWT Snat Crl P&P Con DL Zer Total Points
Amber Glasgow 32 142 45-R 75 110 85 240 155 710.0 784.8
Susan Sees 48 197 40-R 90 90 80 210 100 610.0 599.4
Helen Kahn 59 163 25-R 60 55 60 170 95 465.0 562.2

Extra attempts for records:

Amber Glasgow: Deadlift 12″ Base – 255#
Helen Kahn: Continental to chest – 75#
Helen Kahn: Deadlift 12″ Base – 185#
Susan Sees: Continental to Chest – 90#


Lifter Age BWT Snat Crl P&P Con DL Zer Total Points
Larry Traub 57 203 90-R 190 235 195 560 325 1595 1668.7
Eric Todd 36 248 130-R 215 425 340 560 420 2090 1665.1
Chad Ullom 39 250 140-R 215 355 320 550 445 2025 1606.8
Sam Cox 22 215 130-R 185 325 315 505 405 1865 1601.7
Sammy Ibrahim 17 172 105-L 175 300 220 425 345 1570 1563.1
Randy Smith 56 196 90-R 170 225 225 405 300 1415 1495.5
John O’Brien 42 290 140-R 240 250 340 475 365 1810 1375.5
Dave Glasgow 57 248 90-R 175 245 195 440 300 1445 1356.7
Denny Habecker 68 194 70-R 120 235 150 325 231 1131 1327.2
Joe Garcia 57 209 90-R 150 225 200 315 225 1205 1239.9
Dean Ross 68 276 70-R 125 175 125 350 225 1070 1043.2
Mike Murdock 71 230 50-R 120 95 125 275 200 865 945.9
Rudy Bletscher 75 215 45-R 90 100 110 275 150 770 899.3
Dennis Mitchell 79 156 27.5-R 76 80 60 210 185 638.5 881.6
Bob Geib 68 268 50-R 115 115 85 300 225 890 880.2

Extra attempts for record:

Dennis Mitchell: Dumbbell Snatch -27.5# Left
Dennis Mitchell: Cheat Curl – 85#
Denny Habecker: Dumbbell Snatch – 75# Right
Denny Habecker: Pullover & Push – 245#
Bob Geib: Dumbbell Snatch – 60# Left
Bob Geib: Deadlift 12″ Base – 320#
Dean Ross: Zercher – 240#
Sammy Ibrahim: Dumbbell Snatch – 110# Left
Sammy Ibrahim: Deadlift 12″ Base – 440#
Chad Ullom: Dumbbell Snatch – 110# Left
John O’Brien: Dumbbell Snatch – 110# Left

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


BEST MEN 65-69 MASTERS LIFTER – Denny Habecker
BEST MEN 70-74 MASTERS LIFTER – Mike Murdock
BEST MEN 75-79 MASTERS LIFTER – Rudy Bletscher

TEAM AWARD – Ledaig Heavy Athletics Club


 by Thom Van Vleck

Private room at the Dukum Inn. This is where the banquet will happen after Nationals

Just an update on the USAWA Nationals.  I have ordered shirts.  They are POLO type shirts –  so better than your standard meet t-shirt!  They will have a stitched USAWA Nationals 2011 patch on them.  I have also ordered the awards.  These are like none you have ever received and I will be putting up a photo at a later time showing them.  Al Myer’s will be bringing his top notch equipment for the meet supplemented by my own.  If you ever wanted to lift on a set of York Hub plates or Jackson International Barbell plates, we will be using them in the meet!

I have recently confirmed reservations at the Armory and the Dukum Inn.  I recently attended a private party there and I was more than pleased.  The bar in the private room was built in 1938 and was the original bar that used to be downstairs.  There is a stage area opposite the bar that will offer a really nice podium for our awards ceremony.  You can see a big screen behind the bar and during the banquet we will scroll pictures of past and present USAWA meets and legends.  I highly recommend the onion rings at the Dukum….they are the best!

National Championships

by Thom Van Vleck



Al Myers doing a 440 pound Zercher lift in the 2003 USAWA Nationals. The Zercher Lift will be part of the 2011 Nationals to honor the Oldtime Missouri Strongman Ed Zercher.

The 2011 USAWA National Championships will be hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri!  I have a series of articles planned to keep everyone up to date on this meet so check back often.   Here is what we have decided to this point.

Date: June 25th, 2011

Location: Kirksville, Missouri (exact venue to be decided)

Cost: Entry $50  (plus up to date USAWA membership)

Banquet: $25 per couple or $15 per person (Catered by Western’s Meat Market….a local legend for great food)

Awards: Plaques for age group and open winners, medals for all participants, and a special award for the best lifter

Shirts: Shirts will be provided to all entrants (details on design to come….but it will be special).

Travel & Lodging: (866 CAPE AIR) has daily flights from St. Louis to Kirksville for $49, so you can get from anywhere in the world right to town!  There are several motels such as the Budget Host, Holiday Inn Express, Knights Inn, Comfort Inn, Super 8, and Days Inn in Kirksville and just south of town is the Depot Inn in Laplata, Missouri which is next to the Amtrak Station that connects from Chicago and Kansas City. There is another Amtrak station just an hour north that connects to Denver and Chicago and points beyond.  

Format: Morning Session and Afternoon Session.  Morning Session will begin at 10:00am.  Afternoon session will follow with a one hour break after the Morning Session is completed.  Morning and Afternoon Sessions will be determined by opening attempts.

Lifts: (performed in this order)

Snatch – Dumbbell, One Arm

Curl – Cheat

Pullover and Push

Continental to Chest – Fulton Bar

Deadlift – 12″ Base

Zercher Lift

I spent a lot of time thinking about these lifts.  I wanted to have at least one Fulton Bar lift and at least one Dumbbell lift.  I wanted to have a pure power lift (12″ Deadlift) and a pressing movement (Pullover and Push).  I wanted to have the Zercher because Ed Zercher is perhaps the best known Old time strongman from Missouri and me being a good ol’ Missouri boy and the fact that my Grandfather-in-law knew and lifted with Ed….well, that was a must!   Oh, and what about the Cheat Curl….well….I just like it!!!!

Start making plans and training now!!!


National Championships

The Habecker’s host a fantastic

National Championships

by Al Myers

Group picture of lifters in the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

Denny and Judy Habecker were the hosts for this year’s USAWA National Championships, and they went way beyond what is expected from meet directors.  Due to the small turnout of lifters entered for this year’s Nationals, they decided to have the meet in their backyard instead of renting a venue site.  Denny had a large tent set up in his yard and built a  platform on the grass.  This provided shade for both the competitors and the spectators. While Denny was attending to the lifting needs of the lifters, Judy made sure that no one was going hungry!  The night before the meet Judy provided the lifters with an unbelievable Italian meal of lasagna and pasta, followed with several desserts.  She made breakfast for all of us both days, along with having plenty of food after the meet on both days.  I just barely made my weight class on Saturday due to all the great food she made!  Denny and Judy’s hospitality at this meet went far beyond anything I have ever seen at a competition.  I felt like I was at a family reunion. Denny and Judy are without a doubt the “parents” of the USAWA, and this meet is one I will never forget.  Everyone had a great time and despite the low turnout of participants, this meet was an invigorating experience and proved that the USAWA is very much alive and flourishing!  Someday when our membership is much larger, those of us present this past weekend will look back upon this as the “good ole days” when the USAWA was a family. The meet atmosphere was filled with camaraderie with everyone cheering each other on and helping each other make “a big lift”.

USAWA Awards Director Al Myers presenting the 2009 Courage Award to Dale Friesz.

Now back to the meet itself.  The first person I want to talk about is Dale Friesz.  I have never met anyone like Dale and his commitment to weightlifting.  It would take a book to detail all the things Dale has had to overcome in his life in his quest to continue lifting weights.  Recently Dale has been battling infection and circulatory problems with one of his legs, but he STILL lifted in this meet.  He is scheduled to have surgery this week in which the leg will be amputated below the knee.  I know he had to be in excruciating pain during the meet, and even though he was giving himself IV”s during the day, the heat had to be hard on him (it was in the 90’s and fairly humid).   I was so glad to see Dale receive the COURAGE AWARD  for this past year, as it should be named after Dale “the Miracle Man” Friesz.  Before the meet Dale set a couple of records in the fingers deadlift (both Index and Little), which have always been a favorite of his. I know Dale will be back competing again soon after his surgery, as this is the type of person Dale is.  “Mr. Courage” Dale Friesz is an inspiration to everyone who has had to comeback from an injury by showing that NOTHING can stop you from enjoying the IRON.  We need to keep Dale in our prayers this week.

The next person I want to mention is Barry Bryan.   Barry made his return to the USAWA platform after many years of being away from it.  This was the first time I got to really visit with Barry.  For those of you who are “new” to the USAWA, Barry was the Overall Best Lifter of the 1990 National Championships.  He has records in the record list that are almost unbeatable and have stood for over 20 years.  He is an ICON in the USAWA and it was great to see him back in competitive action. Welcome back Barry!

It was great to see Frank Ciavattone again.  Frank brought along his son Frankie, who isn’t a newcomer to National Competition.  I first met Frankie at the 2005 National Championships, in which he was competing at the age of 11.  Now Frankie is 16, and it won’t be long before he starts putting up the big numbers.  He seemed to really enjoy himself as he had a smile on his face the entire weekend.  He was a big help to me, as he took  pictures for me during the second session in which I was competing in.  Frank is still coming back from his hip replacement, but still showed he can put up big weights. Frank pulled an easy 353 pounds in the One Arm Deadlift (and appeared he could have lifted much more – and it was obvious he still has the grip to hold onto over 500 pounds).   I talked Frank into lifting in the second session in the One Arm Deadlift (which made him wait a long time) so Chad and I could have the honor of lifting with him.  I know this wait probably didn’t help his lifting, but Frank’s presence sure helped Chad and me.  I ended up with a 375# One Arm Deadlift (my competition best) and Chad had the top One Arm Deadlift of the meet at 408#’s.  So even in this small meet, there were three lifters over 350 pounds in the One Arm Deadlift, which hasn’t happened in very many meets in the past.  Frank lifting with us shows you the type of person Frank is – always helping others even if it is at his own expense.  Despite this, Frank is the most accomplished heavyweight lifter of All-Time in the USAWA, and has won over 20 Championships to back it up.

2010 National Championship meet directors Denny and Judy Habecker.

Randy Smith made the trip from his home in Michigan to take fourth overall at this year’s Championships, which moved him up a spot from his overall placing of fifth at last year’s Championships.  Randy is a joy to be around, and when he is not entertaining us with a joke, he is inspiring us with an all-out effort on the platform.  He even entertained us by performing a “Zercher Walk”!  This happened when he missed a Zercher Lift at the top by moving his foot, and in response, locked out the lift and walked to the front of the platform holding the bar in the crooks of his arms!!  The Head Judge, Art Montini, had to wonder if Randy was going to deposit the bar in his lap!!  Speaking of Art, Art continued to amaze us with his unbelievable lifting at the age of 82.  Art did a 242 pound Trap Bar Deadlift – how many 80 plus year old men can do THAT???  I can tell you – NOT MANY!   Scott Schmidt came into the meet in great form – and put up the top Clean and Press of the meet at 100 kilograms.  Saturday night at the National Meeting, Scott was inducted into the USAWA Hall of Fame. Scott is more than deserving of this prestigious award, and has been for several years.  Chad Ullom ended the meet with the TOP Zercher Lift of the meet at 200 kilograms.  With this effort, it gave him the BEST LIFTER in the OPEN DIVISION, which he very much deserved.  Most of you know that Chad is my training partner, and I can tell you that he has the most positive attitude towards lifting, more so than anyone else I know.  He has “pushed” me in training, and made me a better lifter. I also get to travel with him to meets which makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. We have accumulated 1000’s of stories together from our travels (some of which I’ll keep a secret!).   The “Young Samson” Kohl Hess continues to improve under the expert coaching of Denny Habecker and SURPRISED everyone with his 518 pound Trap Bar Deadlift and his 353 pound Zercher Lift. Kohl is ONLY 15, and weighing in at 290 pounds, is built like an Offensive Lineman. He is amazingly flexible for his size, which is very important in All-Round Weightlifting.  I have seen his rapid improvement since  Worlds last October, and with a little more time he will be one of the top lifters in the USAWA.  The last person I want to mention is Dennis Mitchell.  This weekend marked the 22nd CONSECUTIVE National Championships that Dennis has competed in. That is a record that probably won’t be broke by anyone EVER.  At the age of 78, Dennis doesn’t appear to be slowing down.  He always performs his lifts with perfection, making his last attempts look like opening attempts.

This year’s Championships was a HUGE success.  I want to mention the three men who lifted the most weight over the weekend – the loaders.  A big THANK YOU goes to these guys – Terry Barlet, Don Brandt, and John Horn. Again, THANKS to Denny and Judy for welcoming the USAWA into their home and treating all of us to a time we will never forget.


2010 USAWA National Championships

Lebanon, Pennsylvania

June 26 & 27, 2010

Meet Director: Denny Habecker

Lifts on day 1: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, one hand, Pullover and Push, Clean and Jerk -One Arm, Trap Bar Deadlift

Lifts on day 2: Snatch – From Hang, Deadlift – One Arm, Clean and Press, Zercher Lift

Officials (3 official system used): Chad Ullom, Scott Schmidt, Barry Bryan, Randy Smith, Dennis Mitchell, Art Montini, Frank Ciavattone

Scorekeeper: Judy Habecker

Loaders: Terry Barlet, Don Brandt, John Horn

Announcers: Denny Habecker, Judy Habecker, and Aidan Habecker

Day 1 Results:

Lifter Age BWT VB-IArm P&P C&J-1arm Trap DL
Al Myers 43 114.7 70-L 170 67.5-R 295
Chad Ullom 38 108.4 80-R 145 55-R 235
Denny Habecker 67 83.5 60-R 110 35-R 155
Randy Smith 55 89.1 80-R 92.5 40-R 165
Scott Schmidt 57 119.7 90-R 102.5 45-R 202.5
Art Montini 82 80.7 41.25-R 65 20-L 110
Kohl Hess 15 131.5 80-R 107.5 47.5-R 235
Dennis Mitchell 78 70.7 41.25-L 37.5 17.5-R 100
Dale Friesz 69 76.6 40-R 45 10-R 100
Barry Bryan 52 88.0 57.5-R 90 35-R 105
Frank Ciavattone Jr. 55 129.2 90-R —— —— 202
Frank Ciavattone III 16 107.4 57.5-R 50 20-R 105

Day 2 Results:

Lifter BWT Cls. Snatch DL-1arm C&P Zercher Total Points
Al Myers 120 87.5 170-R 90 195 1145 939.53
Chad Ullom 110 87.5 185-R 90 200 1077.5 874.93
Denny Habecker 85 50 115-R 70 110 705 858.84
Randy Smith 90 60 110-R 62.5 150 760 795.81
Scott Schmidt 120 70 115-R 100 107.5 832.5 758.66
Art Montini 85 30 90-L 32.5 70 458.75 701.80
Kohl Hess 125+ 60 100-R 65 160 855 663.01
Dennis Mitchell 70 20 80-L 20 80 396.25 625.36
Dale Friesz 80 12.5 92.5-R 12.5 70 382.5 505.88
Barry Bryan 90 35 60-R 50 50 482.5 495.66
Frank Ciavattone Jr. 125+ —– 160-R —– 115 567 489.63
Frank Ciavattone III 110 20 65-R 37.5 50 405 343.65

BWT is bodyweight in kilograms on day 1 weigh-ins.  BWT Cls. is the bodyweight class on day 2 weigh-ins for records only.  All lifts are recorded in kilograms.  R and L designate right and  left hands.  Total is the total weight lifted over two days.  Points is the adjusted points amended for bodyweight and age correction.


Dale Friesz  – Deadlift, Little Fingers 100.6 pounds

Dale Friesz – Deadlift, Index Fingers 151.8 pounds


Best Lifter Overall – Al Myers

Best Lifter Master – Al Myers

Best Lifter Open – Chad Ullom

Best Lifter Teen – Kohl Hess

Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group – Al Myers

Best Lifter 50-54 Age Group – Barry Bryan

Best Lifter 55-59 Age Group – Randy Smith

Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group – Denny Habecker

Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group – Dennis Mitchell

Best Lifter 80-84 Age Group – Art Montini

Date For Nationals

by Al Myers

2010 National Meet Director Denny Habecker

Our USAWA President and this year’s National Meet Director Denny Habecker has announced plans for this year’s Championships.  Denny has planned a two day National Championship, like it used to be several years ago, on June 26th and June 27th, 2010.  It will be held in Lebanon, PA  at the same venue site as this past year’s World Championship. This is an outstanding venue site that has plenty of room for lifting and warming up.   Denny continues to be the driving force in the USAWA, as this is his THIRD National Championships he has promoted since 2000.  He has picked a GREAT selection of lifts for this meet, with a little something for everyone.

National Championships

by Ben Edwards

Pictured front row left to right: Rudy Bletscher, Denny Habecker, Art Montini, Dale Friesz, Dennis Mitchell Pictured back row left to right: Charlie Scott, Randy Smith, Tim Piper, Ben Edwards, Joe Garcia, Al Myers,Chad Ullom

Special thanks goes out to my wonderful wife Carrie. She willingly acted as my chauffeur, masseuse, coach, cheerleader, scorekeeper, photographer, and trusted adviser for the entire day. That gave me an unfair advantage over anyone else who didn’t have that kind of support system. I’m a very lucky man to have her in my corner.

At 6 o’clock in the morning, on June 20th, we set out with all the food and other supplemental supplies I would need for a day spent competing at the 2009 USAWA Nationals.

The destination was Al Myers’ Dino Gym in Holland, Kansas. I’ve been there three times previously, but each time I go there is always something I see that I missed on my previous visits to the gym.

The Dino Gym is the best-equipped gym I’ve ever encountered. That’s not an exaggeration either.

Al is a former Highland Games champion, so there is a good deal of Highland Games training equipment at his gym and a training field dedicated to the Highland Games.

Al hosts both strongman and all-round weightlifting contests in his gym too, so both of those disciplines are well represented.

The Dino Gym has everything. From a full set of round strongman training stones to a set of power stairs implements and more farmer’s walk devices than I could keep track of.

I was more worried about the drug testing than the contest itself. Not because I had anything to hide, but because I have a notoriously shy bladder, haha. The drug testers were both very nice and patient guys. The direct-observation tester managed to put me at ease and I luckily gave a sample without holding all the other competitors up for half the day.

After the urine test was completed and that was out of the way, I began mingling with the other competitors and greeting the guys I had already met and some of the guys I hadn’t met yet.

The last time I competed in an all-round contest at the Dino Gym (not counting the Record Day since it’s essentially a contest between me and the record book) was 2006. So it had been 3 years since I had seen most of the guys I had previously met at Al’s gym.

Coming to the Dino Gym and being greeted by Al Myers is always such a pleasure. He makes everyone feel like they’re the only person in the room when he’s talking to you. He is the kind of lifter who can do any physical task very well. He’s athletic, moves fluidly and with great power, and can accelerate heavy weights in the blink of an eye. When he’s focused on a big lift and psyches himself up for it – it’s time to get out of the way and let him lift!

I will never forget getting “drafted” by Al to provide a safety-spot for the most impressive lift I’ve ever seen in person – his 1,000lb Roman Chair Situp that he achieved at his Record Day back in February.

Jason Payne was spotting one side of the ridiculously-loaded bar and I was on the other side. I was sweating bullets because I was not nearly as strong as Jason and I felt the need to bow out and try to decline the spot request.

Well, there was no denying Al when he said he knew I could do it! I bucked up and realized there was no way I was going to deny Al a shot at a possibly once-in-a-lifetime world record attempt like that. He nailed the lift and it’s in the record books now. Quite frankly, I doubt anyone will want to even attempt to come close to that number in the near future.

The mindset it would take to even believe a lift like that is possible is something that I hope to one day achieve. Al is definitely one of the most influential lifters that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. He proves the adage about the mind being able to take the body places where it arguably might not necessarily want to go.

Al is always a gentleman – even when he’s psyched and ready to tear up the weights. The determination on his face shines through and everyone watching holds their breath in anticipation of witnessing something special happen on the platform. They were not disappointed, because Al won the Overall, Open, and Masters categories at the contest! Congrats Al, and thanks again for a great day of camaraderie and fun!

Al’s 73-year old father-in-law, Rudy, is a tremendously nice guy. My wife and I had a blast talking with him throughout the contest. He matched me pound-for-pound on the backlift! And to be honest, he had more in the tank on that lift – although he modestly tried to convince me that the lift was hard for him – even though he made it look easy. He also managed to make the Pullover and Press look pretty smooth. Something that I was not able to do. Rudy was awarded the title of Best Lifter in the 70 to 74-year old category. I’m not sure how much he beat the previous Backlift record in his age and weight class, but it had to be by a huge margin.

My wife and I also spent some time talking with Charlie Scott and his charming wife. Charlie was unfamiliar with some of the lifts but he did a great job – and broke some records throughout the contest. I was really surprised when Charlie’s wife happened to mention that he was 74. I estimated his age at most to be around 65, so he was in the company of the other Masters lifters at the contest that filled their sports bottles from the Fountain of Youth and Strength.

Meeting competitors that I had only previously read about is something that I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my lifting career.

The youngest competitor was 32-year old Mike McBride. His consistently strong performances netted him 2nd place overall. This was the first time Mike and I met – although I believe we have traded a few USAWA records back and forth over the past few years. Mike is ferociously strong on all the basic lifts and I don’t think he even specializes on the grip events – so that’s humbling to think he matches or outperforms me on some of the lifts that I have dedicated 9 years of my training to.

I want to mention how nice it was to see Ian Reel again. I last saw him at the 2006 Dino Challenge, where he was already a very strong young man. I think he was 16 years old then and was easily out-lifting me in every event. He was leaner and more muscular this time. Now he’s a college thrower and seems to be as strong as he ever was, but at a lighter bodyweight. Ian is as nice and humble as he is strong – two qualities that are not wasted on me and my wife.

Ian wanted to see me take a shot at chest-crushing Al’s #4 gripper with 2 hands, so I obliged him by shutting it that way. After I did that, he absentmindedly picked up a #2 gripper, and then slammed the handles together with ease! I was very impressed and asked him if he trained with the grippers. Modestly shaking his head, Ian told me that he didn’t train with the grippers – but it’s obvious that the training he does for his throwing focus is astonishingly effective at building a high level of hand strength.

I look forward to seeing Ian compete in an all-round competition again – and maybe one day I can convince him to enter a grip contest. I know he’d do well even though he’s not a grip specialist.

It’s always good to see Joe Garcia. He gave me some really good tips on moving my feet faster on the split part of the jerk, and kept coaching me to bend my knees more than an inch on the One-Hand Snatch. Joe is a wealth of training information and we were very close in strength on all the events until the backlift – where he left me far behind in the dust.

Chad Ullom was quite a bit leaner and lighter in bodyweight than the last time I saw him at the 2006 Dino Challenge. His prodigious strength was still there in full force and he won the One-Hand Snatch with 155lbs and tied Al for 1st on the Axle Clean and Jerk with 255lbs. Chad’s the type of guy that is as quick to congratulate a guy that lifted 100s of pounds less in a contest as he is to congratulate the guy who won the event. That means a lot to a mid-pack lifter and it motivates me to continue plugging away and getting stronger – all while retaining my humility.

I hadn’t met Tim Piper yet but I had seen his name in the record book and for a very good reason. He’s very athletic and has the fastest foot speed I’ve ever seen on the split jerk part of the Axle Clean and Jerk. My wife was very impressed by his athleticism, and so was I. He was also humble and modest about his lifting abilities. Tim was about 30 pounds lighter than me but stronger on a few of the lifts.

Randy Smith and I had never met until this contest. I had seen his name many times in the record books, because a few of his records were in events that I specialized on for a while. He is a super nice guy and a pleasure to talk to about lifting in general and other miscellaneous topics.

His wife was very nice too, although I don’t remember her name offhand. Randy is very impressive for a few reasons. His lean frame is capable of some big lifts. He’s also kind of quiet and unassuming, so he might surprise a few people that expect the best lifters to be slightly more vocal than the mid-pack guys or the beginners. Randy was far superior to me in every lift but the Pullover and Press. And I think that was only because his arms seemed to be a half-foot longer than mine.

I not only aspire to be as strong as Randy when I’m 54 years old – I aspire to be as strong as him at any age! He was awarded the Best Lifter title in the 55 to 59-year old category.

Scott Tully is a big, nice guy. He was the scorekeeper for the entire contest and was also very patient with me because each time I walked away from the platform – whether it was a successful attempt or a failure – I forgot each time to let him know what my subsequent attempt was going to be. Each time I belatedly remembered to go up to the score table, he smiled and told me it was no big deal when I apologized about forgetting to give my next attempt. I think it was a little case of the nerves for me. Even though I’ve competed in about a dozen strength contests, this was my first USAWA Nationals.

Darren Barnhart was one of the loaders who selflessly loaded and unloaded tons of weight all through the long day of competition. Thanks Darren! He’s also the Dino Gym record holder in the 2” Vertical Bar lift – with 229lbs. Heck of a lift under the USAWA rules! I tried to take that gym record back in February – but came up short a few times. Was able to pull the weight up, but couldn’t stop the rotation of the bar.

Ryan Batchman was the second loader, and he spent the entire day alongside Darren loading and unloading. I sincerely think that these guys had the hardest day of anyone there. I’d take competing any day over moving the tremendous amount of weight that these guys did. Bending and stooping over about 8 hours must’ve made them wake up feeling like they’d been hit by a bus the next day. Ryan was a solid guy and looked like he could’ve done 50% over any lift I did that day.

Thanks for loading all day Ryan and Darren! I – and all the lifters – also appreciated the care Darren and Ryan took to make sure that the bars were properly aligned on the 2-Barbell Deadlift. It is a seemingly small gesture, but it makes a big difference when you’re tired and want to conserve every bit of strength for a PR attempt.

The three judges were Bill Clark, Thom Van Vleck, and Mark Mitchell. I’ve met all three guys before and enjoy their company immensely. Bill had his game face on since he was the head judge. But he still managed to give me some very good advice on a few of the lifts. I did manage to pull my head out of the sand and take his advice and put it to good use too. So all was not lost. Thanks guys – judging is one of the most important parts of the day since it’s a Nationals competition.

Thom looked a bit different since he didn’t have the same beard that he did back in 2006. I really want to make it out to one of his Highland Games one of these days. I wish I had more time to talk to him after the contest because I really did want to pick his brain on a few training issues relating to the my desire to try out the Highland Games events.

It was really nice to see Mark Mitchell again too. He looked quite a bit lighter than the last time I saw him too. I think his back issues are healed up and that’s fantastic news too. I remember that he is beastly strong.

Before this contest, Denny Habecker was another lifter that I had only read about. Denny is 66 years old and won the Best Lifter title in the 65-69 year-old category. What impressed me the most about him was the fact that he took the time to give me some pointers on the Pullover and Press – a lift that he just happens to be a phenomenal performer in.

I listened with rapt attention when he gave me some pointers. I would’ve given him my full attention even if I hadn’t just watched him Pullover and Press 195lbs! For those that haven’t experienced the difficulty of this lift, suffice it to say that 195lbs would be respectable in any gym even if you were 20 years old and weighed 250lbs. Since he was under 200lbs and three times older, it was exponentially more impressive to watch him put on a Pullover and Press clinic. Thanks again for the help Denny! His big Pullover and Press might be my vote for the impressive lift of the entire contest.

Dennis Mitchell was awarded the Best Lifter award in the 75 to 79-year old category. The lift I was most impressed by was his 750lb Backlift – at 161lbs bodyweight – and 77 years old. I didn’t get to talk to Dennis more than just a “hello” here and there.

Wish I would’ve taken the time to go up and introduce myself though, because his is another name that I’ve read about on multiple occasions but never had the chance to meet until this contest.

I have a remarkable ability to remember records (numbers), so I have to remember not to walk up to someone I’ve never met and risk looking like the “Rain Man” when I quote from memory one of their records down to the pound.

Dale Friesz was another lifter that I recognized the name, but had never met him before the contest. I also didn’t get to talk to Dale very much – but I watched his 2-Barbell Deadlift pretty closely because I liked his style of almost stiff-leg deadlifting the weight up to lockout. I think that style is better suited to counter the balance issues I had with that event. I’ve already started integrating some stiff-leg barbell deadlifts into my workouts at home since watching Dale’s performance. Thanks Dale!

Art Montini, 81 years old, was awarded the title of Best Lifter in the 80 to 84-year old category. Art is built like a fireplug – and has the power and strength to back up that impressive build.

It’s obvious when seeing him for the first time that he’s one of those guys that’s just built for lifting heavy stuff. I’ve read a lot about Art, possibly more than any other lifter in the USAWA, so I really enjoyed watching him in action.

I wanted to talk to Art more than the little bit I managed to, but he was very approachable and friendly, so I should’ve just gone up more and chatted him up. I didn’t want to throw him off of his game plan by talking endlessly about lifting though.

There were no female competitors at this competition, which surprised me since I’ve seen some superb female lifters over the years. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of female USAWA members right now, but I think everyone would like to see the ladies well-represented at next year’s USAWA Nationals! I’ll start working on trying to get my wife interested in training and competing next year. Come on ladies, break a bunch of records next year!

There is nothing that I would change if I was able to repeat the experience of the 2009 USAWA Nationals again. I enjoyed my entire day. From the 90-minute drive to Al’s Gym, to the day spent gawking at the incredible amount of Iron Game paraphernalia lining the walls.

I tried to be more bold with my 1st and 2nd attempts too and I think that paid off with some significantly higher results than I would’ve secured had I gone with my usual extremely conservative 1st attempts. I went 16 for 18 at the final count.

I look forward to competing again next year – and I will be training very hard to secure a final placing a little higher than this year’s performance.

Congratulations to all the lifters in the 2009 USAWA Nationals! Thanks again to the loaders and the judges! Thanks also to the family and friends who made the trip and cheered on their respective lifters!

Until next year.


2009 USAWA National Championships
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
June 20th, 2009

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Lifts:  Snatch – one arm, Cheat Curl, Clean & Jerk – Fulton Bar, Pullover and Press, Deadlift – 2 bars, Backlift

Officials (3 official system used):  Bill Clark, Thom Van Vleck, Mark Mitchell

Loaders: Darren Barnhart, Ryan Batchman

Scorekeeper:  Scott Tully

Al Myers
145 R
Mike McBride
135 L
Chad Ullom
155 R
Joe Garcia
95 R 155
Randy Smith
100 R
Rudy Bletscher
55 R
100 100
Denny Habecker
70 R
Ben Edwards
115 R
Art Montini
35 L
Tim Piper
105 L
Charlie Scott
50 R
Dennis Mitchell
30 R
Dale Friesz
27.5 R

Notes:  All lifts in pounds. BWT = bodyweight, WAP = Weight Adjusted Points, AAP = Age Adjusted Points

Extra Attempts for records:
Chad Ullom  Pullover and Press 311 lbs.
Joe Garcia  Deadlift – 2 bars 350 lbs.
Dennis Mitchell  Snatch – one arm 30 lbs. (Left), Cheat Curl 83.5 lbs., Deadlift – 2 bars 200 lbs.

Best Lifter Awards:
Best Lifter Overall                   Al Myers
Best Lifter Open                     Al Myers
Best Lifter Master                   Al Myers
Best Lifter 20-39 Age Group     Mike McBride
Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group     Al Myers
Best Lifter 50-54 Age Group     Randy Smith
Best Lifter 55-59 Age Group     Joe Garcia
Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group     Denny Habecker
Best Lifter 70-74 Age Group     Rudy Bletscher
Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group     Dennis Mitchell
Best Lifter 80-84 Age Group     Art Montini