The Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen (AOBS) Annual Reunion
The Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen, “AOBS” will host its annual reunion on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at the Marriot hotel in the Newark, NJ Airport.
If you’ve never heard of the AOBS, it is part of Weightlifting.org, Inc. (WLO). A 501(c)3 NY not-for-profit organization run by Artie Drechsler. The AOBS focuses on education of Iron Game history and drug free sport. Since 1982 the AOBS has held an annual gathering to honor greats from many disciplines. Artie, who supported the organization and helped recommend Weightlifters as honorees, took on the role as President in 2002 when AOBS founder Vic Boff asked him to “Carry On.” A simple phrase that describes what Mr. Boff created and what it’s all about. A full history of the AOBS can be found here.
Although not solely focused on Weightlifting, an unbelievable list of Weightlifting greats have been honored here over the years. Tickets and information about the day can be found by here.
If you cannot make it to the gathering please consider supporting this wonderful organization as a donor. I’m a volunteer and a supporter of the AOBS and, as noted on our “support us” page, 100% of all donations go toward furthering the organization’s goals of developing athletes, education, and preserving the history of the Iron Game.
I figured it would be fun to share the roster of past AOBS Weightlifting honorees. Note, the below summaries are directly from the AOBS honoree webpage. The content is authored by Artie Drechsler and outlines a tremendous history of weightlifting. Some of these greats are still with us and active in the sport. Many have passed on but their stories and contributions to Weightlifting should be honored by all who love this sport.
Weightlifters honored by the AOBS in alphabetical order:
Paul Anderson, 1992 – A World and Olympic Champion in Weightlifting, Paul burst upon the strength scene in late 1952, and in a little more than a year was rewriting the record books in weightlifting, while almost single-handedly establishing the squat as the primary assistance exercise for weightlifters from that point forward (as well as helping to firmly establish the squat style of lifting as the dominant style thereafter). Known for squatting weights that were previously unheard of, he was probably the first man to squat 300 kg., 400 kg. and 500 kg. If there was a single athlete in the 20th century who earned the right to call himself the undisputed world’s strongest man, it was Paul Anderson. The Russians called him a wonder of nature and indeed he was.
Isaac Berger, 1992 had one of the fastest rises in weightlifting history. After entering his first weightlifting competition in 1952, Berger improved so fast that by 1955 he became a National Champion. Defending his title in 1956, despite an injury, Berger lifted enough at the 1956 Olympic Trials to earn a berth on the team going to Melbourne. He moved his training into high gear and shocked the weightlifting world by winning the Olympic Games as a teenager and breaking the world record in the total at the same time. He later went on to win both the 1958 and the1962 World Championships, along with silver medals in both the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games. Isaac also set many world records across his illustrious career. The last world record he earned, at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, in 1964, was a 152.5 kg. C&J. That record lasted for more than 5 years, becoming one of the longest held world records in weightlifting history.
Jim Bradford, 1999 – Jim has always considered himself a strongman, more than a weightlifter. He prided himself in being able to compete with the best weightlifters in the world with limited technique and one of the strictest pressing forms of any athlete in the world at the time. Across his career, Jim won 2 US National Championships and earned silver medals at 4 World Championships, and in both the 1952 and 1960 Olympic Games. In the latter case, he gave the USSR’s legendary Yuri Vlasov a run for his money. In addition to being remembered for the lifting he did do, Jim is famous for the lifting he declined to do. Competing at the World Championships in Milan, in 1951, Jim battled it out with the legendary John Davis, who was defending his undefeated record at World and Olympic Games that began in 1938. When Davis was injured during the competition, Bradford refused to take his last C&J attempt, not wanting to defeat an injured man, or force Davis to take another lift, which might have injured John further. Bradford’s act has gone down as one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship in the history of sport.
Frank Capsouras, 2011 – Frank made a sudden impression on the national weightlifting scene when, at the age of 17, he made a 354 lb. C&J to place second at the 1964 Olympic Trials in the 82.5 kg. bodyweight category, and to establish a Teenage American record in that lift. He then went on the win three Teenage National Championships in a row. Frank continued to improve over the next several years and moved his bodyweight up to 90 kg. He made a World Record in the C&J in April of 1969, when he lifted 199 kg. He then went on to win his first Senior Nationals later that year, and to place sixth in the World Championships. Moving his bodyweight up once more over the next several years, he won his second Senior National Championships in 1972 and earned a spot on the US Olympic Team that he had tried so hard to make in 1964 and 1968. Frank placed 10th at the Olympic Games. He earned a bronze medal, overall, at the 1975 Pan American Games and retired in 1977.
Bill Clark, 1997 – In 1959, when some boxers he was training wanted to enter the Missouri State Weightlifting championships, Bill found there was no such event, so he decided to run it. The following year he became the chairman of his local AAU weightlifting committee, a position he retained for approximately 30 years. In 1962, Bill organized postal competitions in the US prison system, a program that lasted more than 20 years and produced some of the top lifters in the country. By 1964, Bill cooperated with Jim Witt and Homer Brannum to persuade the AAU to permit the organization of the first National powerlifting championship. In 1973, Clark was innovating again, asking the AAU to permit him to run the first National Masters weightlifting competition, which was held by Bill in 1975. Today more than 60 nations compete in Masters Weightlifting competitions worldwide. In 1986, Bill worked with Tony Cook of England to form the International All-Around Weightlifting Federation, which continues its activities today. Without innovators like Bill Clark, the Iron Game would not be nearly as rich and diverse as it is today.
Gary Cleveland, 2004 – Newer members of the Iron Game may remember Gary Cleveland for the newsletter, the “Avian Movement Advocate”, a mixture of Iron Game history, serious weightlifting analysis and pure whimsy. But Gary was, for a number of years, one of the top weightlifters in the World. Gary made his international debut at the 1962 World Championships, where he took 5th place – outstanding for such a young athlete in his first World Championship. He placed 5th at the Worlds in 1963 and repeated that placing at the Tokyo Olympic Games. In March of 1965, he made more weightlifting history by breaking the long-standing light heavyweight American total record held by Tommy Kono, by lifting a total of 1015 lb.
John Davis, 2007 – John Davis burst upon the International weightlifting scene in 1938, at the age of 17. Appearing at the World Championships in Vienna that year, in the light heavyweight division, Davis became the youngest athlete ever to win a world weightlifting championship. And he broke the world record in the total on the same occasion (amply demonstrating that his victory was no fluke). Thus began in international weightlifting career during which Davis was undefeated internationally for 15 years! Over the course of those years, John won the US Nationals 12 times, set numerous world records, won 6 World Championships and 2 Olympic Games. Considered the World’s Strongest Man in his era, he could have easily defended the title, as he was almost as outstanding in feats of deadlifting, squatting and many other strength tests as he was in performing the classic Olympic-style lifts.
Gary Deal, 2015 – After being stricken with polio at the age of 10, Gary worked very hard to return to some sense of normal functioning. It wasn’t until we discovered weightlifting, at the age of 16, at a bodyweight of 150 lbs. that he began to build his body to herculean strength and size. By the time he was 18 he won the Teenage Nationals. But he did win another National Title until 1969, when he became the Junior National champions and placed second in the National, with an incredible 30 lb. personal record in his last lift, which won him a spot on the World Championship team. The following year he placed 2nd in the Nationals again and earned another spot on the World Team, very nearly winning a medal for the US. In 1971, he finally won the Senior Nationals and went on to win the Pan American Games.
Joe Dube, 2000 – Joe first burst upon the weightlifting scene as a teenager, becoming the first teenager in history to press 400 pounds. In his twenties, he continued to gain bodyweight and strength, rising to become a top contender for the superheavyweight championship of the US, and one of the best lifters in the world. During his illustrious career, Joe set numerous American and World records. He won the Pan American Games in 1967 and went on the following year to win a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, the only American to medal that year. Inspired by his Olympic experience and convinced he could defeat the reigning superheavyweight Olympic and World Champion, Leonid Zhabotinsky (who said the Americans could never beat him), Joe trained with a vengeance for the 1969 World Championships. His dedication was rewarded when he handed Zhabotinsky his first defeat since he the Russian won the Olympic Games in 1964. With his victory, Joe became the last American male to date to win a world weightlifting championship.
Clyde Emrich, 2003 – Clyde is remembered by many as an Olympian, a 4-time National Weightlifting Champion, a medallist in 2 World Weightlifting Championships and a World Record Holder in weightlifting. But after his weightlifting career was over, Clyde, went on to make another great contribution to the Iron Game and to the spread of the use of weight training in sport. After providing free weightlifting instruction to some of the most well-known players on the legendary Chicago Bears football team, Clyde was hired by the Bears to become one of the pioneers of the Strength Coaching field. He started officially working the team in the in the 1960’s. Although he has gone on to accept broader duties within the organization, Clyde continues to help out in the weight room. In the fickle and stressful world of professional sports, a stay of that length with one team speaks for itself, as does Clyde’s Super Bowl ring and the training facility the Bears have recently dedicated in Clyde’s name.
Dr. James George, 2004 – During his phenomenal weightlifting career, Jim won four National Championships and a Pan American Games. He was a medal winner at four World Championships, won a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne and earned a silver medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. In addition to winning an Olympic medal in 1956, during the competition, Jim set a world record in the snatch with 303 lb. Only 3 days after he lifted at the Games, he made a world record in the C&J with a lift of 388 lb.
Dr. Peter George, 1989 – Pete George’s career accomplishments included winning 6 National Championships,an Olympic Games in 1952 (and silver medals in 1948 and 1956), along with 5 World Championships. Pete also established many World Records in his signature squat style and in so doing became a role model for many other athletes interested in lifting in that style. Pete cooperated with his coach Larry Barnholth to publish ‘Secrets of the Squat Snatch” – the first book to explain the advantages and training methods needed to learn to perform the squat snatch. That book and Pete’s lifting inspired many athletes to try and master the squat style of lifting.
John Grimek, 1987 – Perhaps no bodybuilder was admired by his peers more than the great John Grimek. His incomparable strength, incomparable physique, posing ability, flexibility and charisma combined to make him arguably the greatest all around Iron Game competitor in history. John first earned fame as a weightlifter, winning the US Nationals in 1936 and earning a spot on the 1936 Olympic Team. But by the late 1930s, he began to focus more on physique development. When he appeared in the 1940 Mr. America competition, his physique was considered the most outstanding by far. When he repeated his Mr. America victory again in 1941, by a wide margin, officials decided that no one would ever beat him, so they declared that no one would be allowed to win the Mr. America title more than once. In 1948 John won the NAABA Mr. Universe competition. He retired undefeated after winning the inaugural Mr. USA competition in 1949, becoming a prolific writer on the Iron Game, and an inspiration to generations of strength athletes, in the US and throughout the world.
Bob Hoffman, 2005 – probably did more to popularize the use of weights than any other person in the history of the Iron Game. His York Barbell Co,.Strength & Health magazine and other publications introduced millions to the benefits of weight training, exercise and sound diet. Through his recruiting and coaching he took the US Weightlifting Team from relative minor leaguers in the early 1930’s to legitimate contenders for the World title by the end of the decade and to winning 3 Olympic Team titles after WWII. His tireless advocacy for weight training helped to destroy the myths about the sport and make weight training an accepted conditioning method for athletes in every sport. His marketing of protein supplements was responsible for creating a huge industry. He proclaimed himself the “father of American weightlifting” but it would be hard to imagine anyone who more richly deserved that title.
Lee James, 2012 – When Lee James placed 4th in the light heavyweight (82.5 kg) class at his first Sr. National Championships in 1974, few would have predicted the meteoric rise that was to bring him to international stardom in a period of two years. At the 1975 Nationals Lee placed 2nd, earning spots on that year’s US World Championships and Pan American Games teams. Following those championships, Lee made the bold decision to move up to the middle heavyweight (90 kg.) bodyweight category less than a year before 1976 Olympic Games and his performances surged. In 1976 Lee won his first National Championship. But the best was yet to come. Lee made his best performance to date at the Olympic Games in Montreal, where he won the Silver Medal. After missing most of the 1977 season due to an injury. Lee made an amazing comeback in 1978 to win still another National Championship, set an American Record in the snatch and come close to two more records. But he was injured once again preparing for the 1978 World Championships and he retired shortly thereafter.
Mike Karchut, 2007 – One of the most outstanding lifters in the US during the late 1960s and through the 1970’s, Mike Karchut was renowned for his outstanding technique and dedication to the sport of weightlifting. Across a career that spanned more than 25 years, Mike amassed 8 National Championship titles, broke 10 American Records and was a member of 3 US Olympic teams. His international accomplishments included a Gold Medal at the Pan American Games and a total of 4 bronze medals at 3 World Championships. He also has the distinction of competing in more consecutive National Championships in US weightlifting history – 25. Mike was always one of the most popular lifters in the US, not only because of the wonderful style with which he lifted, but for the deep and sincere encouragement he provided to so many lifters of his day and in the years that followed, by his example and by his willingness to help anyone who has a sincere desire to improve his or her weightlifting performance.
Russ Knipp, 2006 – Knipp was started in the sport of weightlifting at the tender age of 6, by a father who was a powerful lifter. Knipp made his first major mark on the international weightlifting scene on July 23, 1966, when he pressed a World Record of 152.5 kg (336 lb) at a bodyweight of 165 lb. He went on to make three more World Records in that lift. But Russ was an exceptional all-around lifter as well, having been the first middleweight (165 lb.) US lifter to total 1000 lbs. on the three lifts. Across his outstanding career, Russ won 3 National Championships, a Pan American Games and Gold medals in the press at 2 World Championships.
Tommy Kono, 1990 – If being a sickly and underweight child did not make Tommy Kono’s early years difficult enough, being interred with his family at the Tule Lake detention camp during WWII (for no other reason than their Japanese ancestry) raised the bar. But during his interment, Tommy took up weight training and thereby started one of the greatest careers in world weightlifting history. A winner of 6 World Championships, 2 Olympic Games (winner of a silver medal in a 3 rd), holder of 26 World Records is 4 bodyweight categories, Tommy is on anyone’s short list of the greatest lifters of all time (he has been officially recognized by the International Weightlifting Federation as one of the greatest lifters of all time). As if his record as athlete were not sufficient to preserve his name in weightlifting history, Tommy is perhaps the only coach ever to have coached Olympic Teams from 3 different countries (Germany, Mexico and the US). More recently, he has authored the classic book – “Weightlifting – Olympic-style”.
Fred Lowe, 2010 – An eight-time National Weightlifting Champion and three-time Olympian (1968, 1972 and 1976), Fred was the first American to C&J more than 400lbs. as a middleweight (165 lb.). An eight-time World Masters Champion, Fred has had perhaps the longest career in open national competition is US weightlifting history, having competed in the American Open Championships in 2010 at the age of 63 while having made his debut on the national weightlifting scene in 1966, at the Teenage Nationals. He won his first Senior National Championship in 1969 and his last in, 1981, taking a bronze medal at the Senior Nationals in 1997.
Karyn Marshall, 2014 – 2015 USAW Hall of Fame inductee Karyn Marshall became interested in athletics at an early age, and in High School excelled in field hockey and basketball, competing in tennis and track as well. She began training for weightlifting in 1978 and participated in her first competition in 1979 (the Empire State Games). She won her bodyweight category at the first Women’s National Championships in 1981. In 1985, she became the first women in history to C&J more than 300 lb. in official competition. Continuing to dominate national competition, she earned a spot on the US team for the first Women’s World Championships, held in Daytona Beach, FL, in 1987. She not only won her bodyweight category (181 ¾ lb.) but she out lifted the heavier lifters in the competition. Since retiring from weightlifting competition, Karyn became a Doctor of Chiropractic and today runs a practice dedicated to helping athletes and others achieve optimal health.
Dave Mayor, 1997 – Mayor became widely known for developing arms that measured more than 19 inches in the 1930’s, at that time perhaps the largest muscular arms ever developed. He put those arms to good use by earning a spot on the 1936 US Olympic Team in weightlifting and went on to win the US National Championships in weightlifting the following year. Dave later became a professional wrestler and a Regional Director for York Barbell Co. He helped to develop the initial strength training program of the Dallas Cowboys (believed to be one of the earliest ever in professional football) and trained the Vesper Board club for the 1964 Olympic Games.
Ken Patera, 2013 – As a high school athlete Ken Patera played football, wrestled and was a high jumper and hurdler, but he truly excelled in the shot put and discus. He went on to win the Pan American Games in the shot put in 1967. In 1968 Ken decided to focus on the sport of weightlifting, which he had been practicing for years in training. He astounded the weightlifting world by winning the first national championships he entered in 1969 (he would go on to win four in a row). Ken then became the first American to C&J 500 lb. and the only American to press 500 lb. officially. After winning the 1971 Pan American Games, he placed second to the legendary Vasily Alekseyev at the 1971 World. An injury just before the 1972 Olympics dashed his Olympic hopes. He became one of the famous professional wrestlers in the world after retiring from weightlifting in 1972.
Joe Pitman, 1998 – Joe had one of the greatest strings of National Weightlifting Championship victories in the history of the United States. Across his tremendous career, Joe won a total of 11 National Championships (the only lifters in US weightlifting history who won more were Tony Terlazzo – 13 and John Davis – 12). Joe was very successful on the international scene as well, winning gold medals at the inaugural Pan American Games in 1951, and then again at the 1955 Pan American Games. At the World Championships, Joe earned silver medals in both 1949 and 1951. Perhaps Joe’s greatest year came in 1950 where, after defeating Tommy Kono and Dave Sheppard in a colossal battle at the US National Championships, he went on to win the Gold Medal at the World Championships in Paris. His total of 352.5 kg. that day equaled to winning totals made by Shams of Egypt the year before and Pete George of the US in 1947. After retiring from weightlifting, Joe made his career as a teacher, educating America’s youth.
Joe Puleo, 2001 – Puleo emerged on the weightlifting scene as a teenage phenomenon, breaking “teenage” American and World records. He also won the first of his 5 National Championships in 1962, while he was still a teenager. A year later, he established himself as one of the top lifters in the world, by winning the Pan American Games (which he did again in 1967), along with taking second in the “Little Olympics” (a hastily arranged substitute for the World Championships that had been canceled that year). Joe retired from competition in 1970 to pursue a very successful career as an attorney. However, in 1979, he decided to make a comeback in an effort to earn a spot on the 1980 US Olympic Team. Joe’s effort was successful. He earned that team spot at the 1980 Olympic Trials in Philadelphia. Although the US boycotted the Olympics that year, Joe was invited to compete in substitute championship held in China. By competing in China, Joe became the US athlete with the longest international career in US weightlifting history.
Rudy Sablo, 1990 – Sablo fell in love with the sport of weightlifting in his teens and soon developed into a national-level competitor. However, Rudy became best known as an official and administrator. In the early 1960’s, he became the Chairman of the AAU National Weightlifting Committee, rewriting the organization’s rulebook and procedures to assure the sport’s smooth administration. He ran the NYC AAU office for more than 20 years, after retiring from the NYC Fire Dept. He served on the USOC Executive Board for many years and was recognized by the USOC, IOC and the IWF for his lifetime contributions to international sport.
Hy Schaeffer, 1995 – Dr. Hy Schaeffer was one of the top weightlifters in the United States in the early 1940’s, winning the Jr. Nationals in 1942. Later in his career, he opened a gym in Brooklyn where he was instrumental in developing a number of top lifters, including Olympic Champion and World Record-holder, Isaac Berger. Dr. Schaeffer was also a doctor of chiropractic to whom many athletes turned when they had injuries that were hampering their athletic careers.
Norb Schemansky, 1996 – Schemansky is considered one of the all-time greats of weightlifting history. He won the 1946 Jr. Nationals and the following year placed second in the Nationals and then at the 1947 World Championships. He earned a sliver medal at the 1948 Olympic Games. In 1951, Norb won the Nationals for the first time, in the newly created 198 ¾ lb. bodyweight category and then went on to win the World Championships the same year. He earned an Olympic gold in 1952, making world records in the snatch, C&J and total. He won the World’s again in 1953, and moved up to heavyweight in 1954 for still another victory and a new slew of world records. Then Norb twice injured his back and required two major back surgeries that were expected to end his career. But he battled back and won a bronze medal at the 1960 Olympic Games, set world records in 1962 and placed 2nd at the Worlds Championships, after a controversial call by the referees at the Worlds that may have cost him the title. At the 1964 Olympics, at the age of 40, Norb garnered another Olympic medal, becoming the first weightlifter ever to win 4 Olympic medals.
Dave Sheppard, 1994 – Sheppard earned medals in 4 World Championships and the 1956 Olympic Games, established world records in all of the lifts and was one of the pioneers of the squat style of lifting. At the 1954 World Championships, he was credited by many as having made the most courageous attempt in weightlifting history. Asked to lift in the 90 kg. bodyweight category because the US already had another lifter in the 82.5 kg. category (Tommy Kono) Sheppard’s bodyweight was barely over 82.5 kg. during his competition. In an effort to win, he jumped to 187.5 kg. after his first attempt at 167.5 kg. in the C&J, a weight was 17.5 kg. over the World Record in Dave’s true (82.5 kg.) bodyweight division and heavier than any weight ever attempted by a heavyweight at any prior World Championship. Dave actually shouldered the weight but could not fully rise from the squat position.
Dick “Smitty” Smith, 2006 – Smitty made his first trip to York PA in the late 1930s, to purchase a set of weights. It was a journey that was to change his life. During the ensuing years, he began to travel to York with ever greater frequency, eventually relocating there and becoming employed by the York Barbell Co. An astute observer of the Iron Game, Smitty soon began to assist lifters like Bill March and Bob Bednarski in their training and competitions. He could be seen behind the scenes, and in the background on the stage, in nearly any photo of York’s top lifters during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. World Champion, Joe Dube, and Olympic silver medallist, Lee James, both give Smitty a great deal of the credit for their international successes. And there are countless others who will always thank Smitty for his coaching on and off the platform. He still trains many people today and conducts tours of the York Barbell Company’s Museum. The museum’s visitors couldn’t hope for a better guide.
Frank Spellman, 1997 – At the age of 85, Frank Spellman is the oldest living Olympic Weightlifting Champion in the USA. After becoming a successful weightlifter in the early 1940’s, Frank served for three years in the military in WWII. When he was discharged at the end of 1945, Frank moved to what was then the weightlifting “capital” of the US, York, PA. The following year he won his first National Championship and earned a bronze medal at the first postwar World Championship in Paris. He trained even harder the following year and was rewarded with the silver medal at the 1947 World Championships. He resolved to dedicate himself even further to improving his weightlifting performances and, in 1948, Frank’s persistence paid off. After winning the US National Championship, he won the coveted gold medal at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. He came back to win one more Nationals in 1961. Frank still trains today and is in terrific shape, a shining inspiration to the champions who have followed him.
Chuck Vinci, 1993 – Two-time Olympic champion Chuck Vinci was one of the most successful lifters in US weightlifting history and one of the most hard working. His training endurance was legendary, displayed through such feats as training 8 hours straight, or making a world record in the C&J on his 10th competitive attempt. Across his competitive career, Chuck won 7 National Championships and 2 Pan American Games. He also set multiple world records in the snatch, C&J and total. He had tremendous overall body strength, bench pressing more than 300 lb. at a bodyweight of 123 lb. Chuck was also a phenomenal arm wrestler, able to defeat all the members of the US weightlifting teams of the 1950s, except for some of the heavyweights.
Bruce Wilhelm, 2009 – Wilhelm has excelled in virtually every strength sport. In wrestling, he was the bronze medalist at the 1965 AAU Nationals in Freestyle Wrestling, and 4th in the Greco Roman Championships the following year. He was ranked in the top 10 in the US in the shot in 1967 and in 1969 through 1973. His personal best with the shot of 66’ ¼”, performed in 1972, still ranked him 251 all-time worldwide in 2009. He won the 1975 and 1976 US Nationals in Olympic-style weightlifting and placed 5th overall at the Olympics, winning a silver medal in the snatch competition of the World Championships held simultaneously with the Games. He went on to become the first American in history to snatch 400 lb. In1977, he won the inaugural World’s Strongest Man competition and he successfully defended his title the following year. Bruce was ABC’s color commentator for weightlifting for Wide World of Sports and became a prolific writer on the Iron Game, having published countless magazine articles and written books on Pat Casey and Ken Patera.
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