Wayne Smith: 1932-2012

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith deadlifting the front end of a Volkswagon. This was one of Wayne's favorite photos.

Got word that one of our USAWA brothers and long time Jackson Weightlifting Club member Wayne Smith passed away.  Wayne was a guy that goes way back.  He did the “Odd Lifting” back in the 50’s and 60’s when Ed Zercher kept the records.  Smith even predates Bill Clark in his lifting career.  There are a couple of good stories on Wayne Smith archived in the website if you’d like to brush up on this great lifter.

http://www.usawa.com/wayne-smith-part-ii/

http://www.usawa.com/wayne-smith-all-round-legend-part-i/

The last meet Wayne attended was last year’s USAWA Nationals held in Kirksville, Missouri.  Wayne had to enjoy the meet as a spectator but he told me at one point how he itched to get on the platform.  He even said he hoped to get back into shape to do so!

I have many stories on Wayne, he was a unique individual that loved his weightlifting.  He encouraged me a lot and since he never had kids of his own, I think in some way he adopted me.  He would take photos around bragging on me and it made me want to live up to his stories!   Which made me train harder as sometimes Wayne could make a guy look too good!  But he always spoke highly of his friends, that was just him.  The last time I visited him he insisted that I go around the nursing home to introduce me to everyone.  He was a friend to all.

Wayne will be missed.  His funeral will be next Monday in Kirksville.  I you have a kind word about him you would like to pass on, send it to me at tvanvleck@yahoo.com.  I will make sure his family and friends get it.  His legend will live on, not because he was the greatest lifter but because he was the greatest friend.

Wayne Smith Update

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith, long time USAWA lifter and even longer time member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club was recently featured by me in two part website article.  Wayne also attended the USAWA Nationals hosted by the JWC in Kirksville this year.  Wayne has many friends in the lifting world and I thought maybe some of you would like to hear the latest.

A couple of weeks ago Wayne was rushed the hospital.  He was having some problems and they were very concerning.  I went several times to check up on him and left with more questions than answers.  The doctors just didn’t know what was going on with him.

Well, I have good news.  I visited with Wayne yesterday and he is doing much better and appears to be on his way to recovery and has moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation unit.  He was his old self again and was enjoying visits from three JWC members in one day.  Wayne Jackson had made a visit, and then Wayne Gardner, then myself.

It is nice to know that we take care of our own and the friendships made on the lifting platform are often life time ones.  We hope that Wayne will be back home soon and if you have a message for him, just let me know at tvanvleck@yahoo.com and I will make sure he gets it!  He tells me he is not going to let this keep him from making his comeback in lifting!   You have to admire the dedication.

WAYNE SMITH ENCOUNTER

BY DAVE GLASGOW

WAYNE SMITH IS THE AGELESS WONDER! THE PICTURE ON THE LEFT IS WAYNE IN 1956, AND THE THE PICTURE ON THE RIGHT IS WAYNE IN FRONT OF THE SAME OAK TREE IN 1998!

WE ALL HAVE HAD OUR “DUMBASS” MOMENTS.  I, FOR ONE, SEEM TO HAVE A PENCHANT FOR THEM!  MY LATEST ‘FAUX PAS’ WAS IN KIRKSVILLE AT THE USAWA NATIONALS.  HOWEVER, A LITTLE BACKGROUND IS IN ORDER BEFORE I GO MUCH FURTHER.

I HAVE A BACK ROUND IN LAW ENFORCEMENT.  I HAD A TOTAL OF 18 ½ YEARS SERVICE TO A SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT AND THEN AT THE LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT, AS A RESERVE.  WITH THAT SERVICE CAME LOTS OF TRAINING.  A POINT THAT WAS EMPHASIZED TO US WAS TO BE ‘AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS’ AND ‘LOOK FOR THE UNUSUAL OR SOMEONE OR SOMETHING THAT IS OUT OF PLACE’.  I ALWAYS FELT THAT, FOR AN ‘ALMOST COP’, I WAS PRETTY GOOD AT IT.  THIS ONE TRAIT, THAT I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PROUD OF, IS WHAT BRINGS US BACK TO THE STORY AT HAND.

AT THE NATIONALS, THE WARM UP AREA WAS RIGHT NEXT TO A LARGE, OPEN DOOR THAT LEAD INTO THE GYM ITSELF.  I WAS IN THE WARM UP AREA WHEN AN INDIVIDUAL CAUGHT MY EYE.  HE WAS ELDERLY, VERY SLIGHT AND APPEARED TO BE, SOMEWHAT, FRAGILE.  HIS OVERALLS COULDN’T HIDE THE FACT THAT HE SEEMED TO BE UNSTEADY ON HIS FEET.  WHEN HE SAW ME LOOK AT HIM WITH A QUESTIONING GLANCE, HE QUICKLY LOOKED AWAY, ATTEMPTING TO BREAK EYE CONTACT.  MY ‘SPIDEY SENSE’ IMMEDIATELY KICKED IN. WHAT COULD THIS OLD TIMER BE DOING HERE?  WAS HE LOST?  WAS HE LOOKING TO GRAB SOMETHING FROM THE VARIOUS BAGS LYING AROUND?  HAD HE WANDERED OFF FROM A NURSING HOME??  I DECIDED TO TRACK THOM DOWN AND TELL HIM OF THIS “INTRUDER”!

AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, I WAS DISTRACTED FROM MY HUNT BY SOMETHING OR OTHER AND WHEN I FINALLY FOUND THOM, TO MY UTTER SHOCK, HE WAS WALKING TOWARD ME AND HAD HIS ARM AROUND OUR MYSTERY MAN!  APPROACHING, THOM GUIDED HIS GUEST OVER TO ME AND SAID, “DAVE, I REALLY WANT YOU TO MEET WAYNE SMITH.”  WHAT THE HELL??  THE ELDER STATESMAN OF THE JACKSON WEIGHTLIFTING CLUB STUCK OUT A GRIZZLED AND LEATHERY HAND THAT  I GLADLY TOOK AND FOUND A HAND SHAKE THAT, CERTAINLY, DID NOT BELONG TO A ‘FRAGILE’ INDIVIDUAL.  THIS GUY WAS THE REAL DEAL AND I HAD MISTAKEN HIM FOR SOME TRANSIENT PASSERBY!!  TO SAY I FELT STUPID AND FOOLISH WOULD BE THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR! 

I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT I SAID TO THIS GENTLEMAN, SOMETHING ABOUT I HAD HEARD OF HIM AND HIS LIFTING AND IT WAS MY PLEASURE TO MEET HIM.  IT MOST CERTAINLY WAS MY PLEASURE… AND EMBARRASSMENT!

THIS SO REMINDS ME OF A STORY I READ YEARS AGO IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. A VENERABLE, OLDER ARM WRESTLER WALKED INTO A GYM WHERE A COMPETITION WAS BEING HELD.  HE WENT RIGHT BY A LARGE, HEAVILY MUSCLED YOUNG MAN THAT WAS TAKING TICKETS AT THE DOOR.  WHEN THE YOUNGER MAN GRABBED THE MAN’S ARM, HE GROWLED, “IT’S TWO BUCKS TO SEE THE SHOW, POPS!!”  TO WHICH THE OLDER GENTLEMEN SIMPLY SAID, “I AM THE SHOW, SONNY!”

MR. WAYNE SMITH COULD HAVE SAID THE SAME THING TO ME………

Wayne Smith: All Round Legend Part II

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith pulling a partial deadlift with everything but the kitchen sink on the bar!

In Part II of my story on Wayne Smith, we will look at some of his best lifts, his personality, and his hard work ethic.

Wayne Smith was most impressive when he was deadlifting.  He had a best of 460lb at 148lbs (triple bodyweight).  He also had a 240 bench, snatch 145, C&J 200, squat 290, and a Clean & Press of 160.  Wayne Jackson told me that one of the most impressive things he saw Wayne Smith do was a bent arm pullover from the floor to the chest while lying on a bench with 250lbs.  Some of Waynes old records on the Pre-USAWA “All-Round Records” list include a 230lb Middle Fingers deadlift, a Pinch Grip of 115lbs, and a Miller Clean & Jerk of 90lbs all done in his late 40’s.

Phil Jackson remembers meeting for the first time in 1957.  He said he was around 13 and Wayne was the “expert” who actually was friends with Tommy Kono!  Phil said they all enjoyed Wayne’s wry sense of humor and it made training sessions funny and the long, late night trips back from meets tolerable.  Wayne was always saying something off the cuff.  Some of his best that I remember include:

“Bodybuilding is like a dog show”

“I complained to my wife about how sore I was and when she found out it was from doing a heavy deadlift she told me to see a vet because only a jackass would try something like that”

One time, Ed Zercher, Sr was the head judge at a lifting meet and smith was up on the deadlift.  Zercher was really serious on judging.  Smith walked up and took a “clean grip” as Ed looked on through his trademark tiny spectacles.  Smith stood up, snapped his fingers and said, “That’s right, this is the deadlift…..I was getting ready to clean this”.  Phil said Zercher didn’t bat an eye and said, “One minute” indicating Smith better lift or get off the platform.

Smith up in a tree cutting limbs.

Smith was a tree trimmer his whole life and he was famous for scaling unbelievably tall trees with little or not climbing gear and like a surgeon dropped limbs with great precision.  One day a guy said, “You must like heights” and Smith told him he HATED heights.  The guy asked him why he climbed such tall trees then and Smith said, “Because that’s where my grocery money is at!!!!”

Smith was a great tree trimmer and my Uncle Phil and I both share the experience of helping Smith in his tree trimming business.  Smith was not a wealthy man, as a matter of fact, he usually just got by.  I recall one time Smith was trying to get one of three chain saws going to finish a job when he turned to me and said, “There’s nothing shameful about being poor….it’s just d@med inconvenient”!!!  It’s hard work trimming trees and Smith made extra money cutting that wood up for fired wood that he would sell.  He was one of the hardest working men I knew and the fact that he trained with weights at all was a feat unto itself.  There is no doubt he would have had a much greater career if he hadn’t been breaking his back all day working!

That might explain Wayne’s training regime.  He worked so hard trimming and cutting down trees and often when the work was there he’d put in dawn to dusk days that he hardly had time or energy to train.  Getting that “grocery money” out of the trees was more important than a trophy!  He would often show up at the gym and lift for about 20 minutes at a time hitting all the major lifts he was going to do in the next contest.  For example, if he were going to do a powerlifting meet he’d hit his warm ups, hit his opener and move on to the next lift.  No frills, just right to the point.  Smith got plenty of “assistance” work in his job….the kind of stuff people now do and call “old school” training, Smith did and made a living at it!  Wayne also would focus on some new stunt that he’d practice when he could on the job.  When I was working for him it was around the time Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.  So Wayne was working on doing chins while pinch gripping the rafters.  He also would “monkey bar” across the room pinching the rafters.  He quite seriously would tell me if a volcano erupted and the room filled with lava he’d be safe!  I never knew how serious he was because I thought to myself….”If the room is full of lava then I would think that would be the least of your worries”!  His wry sense of humor kind of always left you wondering!

Smith with his custum made truck hauling a "typical" haul for him. He was talented at getting huge trees out by himself. The truck had a strong wench with an I-beam on the top that would pull a large log right in!

Later Wayne Smith became interested in bowling.  He became very good at it and  and was so successful he was inducted in the Missouri Bowling Hall of Fame.  He is a local legend in the bowling alley and he is proud of the fact that he’s the only person in both the Bowling and Lifting Halls of Fame.

Wayne has been a big part of the JWC for OVER 50 years.  Who knows, maybe if he had not been there to guide my Uncle’s when they first started training maybe there would never been a JWC.  I feel we owe him a lot and his contributions to Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, and the USAWA should not be overlooked!

Wayne Smith: All Round Legend Part I

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith deadlifting the front end of a Volkswagon.

Wayne Smith was one of the original Jackson Weightlifting Club members.  He usually lifted in the 148lb class and competed in Olympic lifting meets, Powerlifting, and early “odd lift” meets and later USAWA meets.  Smith was born in 1932 and is currently 78 years old.

Wayne told me he first became interested in weightlifting as a kid with his twin brother, Ward.   But it was not until he joined the Navy that he actually started training regularly.  While in the Navy he was stationed in Hawaii and it was at this time he made a life long friendship with Tommy Kono (If you don’t know, Kono was one of the greatest Olympic lifters of all time and was actually voted “Weightlifter of the Century”).  Wayne has letters he has received over the years and a personally autographed copy of Kono’s book on lifting (Weightlifting: Olympic Style).  There is also a letter from Gary Cleveland.  Cleveland was a great York lifter who later put out a newsletter called the Avian Movement Advocate that Smith would often contribute to.  The letter talks about a letter Kono sent to Cleveland about Smith and it was very positive.  Smith told me that it meant a lot to him that Kono would write that letter about him.

Wayne Smith "wowing the crowd" with his Chinup prowess.

It was around 1957 that Wayne returned from the Navy and was approached by a group of brothers trying to find out more about weightlifting.  Smith felt he was no expert but these young men, the Jackson Brothers,  knew almost nothing and were lifting makeshift barbells made of concrete poured in buckets, old flywheels for extra plates, anvils, and pretty much anything that wasn’t tied down.  My favorite story was about the first thing Smith told them was to reverse their grip on their cleans, presses, and jerks.  They were using a “curl” or “reverse” grip!  Soon they were working out on a regular basis and the foundation for the Jackson Weightlifting Club as we know it today was laid.

Wayne’s first meet was in Omaha, Nebraska in 1958.  His Olympic lifting and Powerlifting career lasted until 1971.  During that time he entered many meets as a member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  He was part of a JWC team that won two state team titles.  He was also proud of the fact he never failed to total and he never failed to make weight for his weight class.  He said Kono had taught him to take a safe lift then go all out on 2nd and 3rd attempts and this served Wayne well.  In 1964 won the Missouri State Championships as a middleweight.  Just prior to winning that title he was told he had a lung condition and at the rate he was deteriorating he had maybe two years to live!  He received treatment from Dr. Valuck who he credits with diagnosing him and treating him back to health!

Smith at the top of one of his "perfect" one-arm chins at a powerlifting meet in Minnesota in 1966. You will find a poster of this picture on the wall in Clark's Gym.

In the late 70’s, Wayne began entering “odd lift” meets put on by Bill Clark.  He also lifted in the early USAWA years.  It was in 1977 that Bill nominated Wayne for the AAU Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Wayne was later inducted.  During his lifting years Wayne won 4 major titles.  Other than his state title in 1964, in 1966 he won the City Championships in Kirksville, in 1966 he won the Open Powerlifting title in St. Paul, Minnesota (where the chin up photo was take, more on that later!), and in 1971 he won his last title, a powerlifting meet in Jefferson City were he won the Open title.

Wayne was also a chin up specialist.  He would often challenge all comers to a chin up contest.  He told me he was only beaten one time.  It was by another JWC member named Dr. Rex Lee.  Rex had joined the club while going to the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and lifted as 114lber.  Rex weighed only 105lbs when he beat Smith by one rep.  My Uncle Phil told me that every meet they ever competed in at some point Smith would put on a chinning exhibition.  If there was no bar to chin on then Phil and another member of the club would hold a 45lb bar up for Smith to chin on!  In 1998 I “revived” the club and in 1999 held a strongman contest and Highland Games that eventually turned into the Kirksville Games and the JWC Strongman Championships/Highlander.  My brother and I held a bar up and at age 68 Wayne did a perfect one arm chin up!  When I say perfect he did a “dead weight” pull and no “kip” or “kick”.  That’s how he always did them and had a best of 6 one arm chins.

Coming Soon: Part II

Bent Press

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith, JWC member and All Round legend, performing a Bent Press while still in the Navy in Hawaii at Tommy Kono's Gym

The Bent Press is a very unusual lift.  It is difficult for just anyone to perform even with an empty bar, but with practice fantastic poundage’s can be lifted as evidenced by men such as Arthur Saxon (370lbs officially and 385 unofficially).  In the USAWA I believe that Bob Burtzloff was the finest bent presser our organization has seen.  Bob had the top Bent Press in the Missouri Valley All-Round Record List with an official competition lift of 209 pounds in 1985.  In 1984 I saw Bob do a 225lb Bent Press at Sailor’s Gym in Wichita after an old odd lift meet and was told at that time he had done 253lbs.  Al Myers has told me that Bob’s best training Bent Press was 275 pounds!   Just recently at the Heavy Lift Championships in York, PA I witnessed the heaviest Bent Press that has been done officially in the USAWA.  David Whitley joined the USAWA following the meet with the sole intent of doing a record Bent Press.  He performed a 137 pound Bent Press with the bar using both arms. To me, it looked like he could have done much more but just settled for setting the All Time record on this day. Dennis Mitchell has been the most proficient Bent Presser in the history of the USAWA. At the age of over 60, Dennis performed a Bent Press of 88 pounds weighing only around 175 pounds.  Dennis has the most USAWA Records in the Bent Press, totalling over 25 in number.  He has told me that his best Bent Press when he was younger was 175 pounds, which was bodyweight.  That is quite impressive and should be the goal of anyone wanting to achieve excellence in the Bent Press.    The Bent Press has been criticized as a dangerous lift by some,  and lauded as a great lift by others.  If done properly, I feel it is not dangerous at all.

Newcomer to the USAWA, David Whitley does 137 pounds in the Bent Press for the All Time best mark in the USAWA.

Here are the USAWA rules on the lift:

The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The bar may be taken from the platform to the shoulder in any manner. This may be done with a one arm clean, or with two hands, or stood on end and taken onto the shoulder using one or two hands. The bar will then be gripped in the center by one hand with the bar parallel to the platform. Once the lifter is in a standing position, with the bar held at the shoulder, the body is bent forward and sideways while the bar remains in a stationary position.  This bending away is continued until the lifting arm becomes straight.  The body will be in a bent over position at this point of the lift. The bar is allowed to rotate in any direction during the lift. The non-lifting arm may rest on the body or legs during the lift.  Width of feet placement is optional.  The lifting elbow may be brought into contact with the hip during the lift. Once the bar is locked out and the lifting arm straight, the lifter may stand when ready. The lifter may use the non-lifting arm as support on the knee or thigh. The lifting arm must remain straight once locked out. The lift will end on command from an official when the lifter is upright, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, the non-lifting hand free from the body, and the bar overhead and motionless.

Al reprinted a great story by Arthur Saxon in the USAWA news titled “What it feels like to lift 350 pounds with one hand” and I recommend going back and reading that one if you missed it or re-reading it if you have an interest in this lift.  Personally, I believe the Bent Press is an exercise that if done properly (and getting flexible enough to do it properly) is very beneficial.  But trying to just go to the gym and “do it” could lead you to real injury trouble.  So, read the rules, watch some videos, try to find someone like Dennis, Bob, or David who are proficient at it to coach you and then “GET AFTER IT”!