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California Powerlifting Hall of Fame

California is considered the birthplace of the sport of powerlifting.

The sport of powerlifting had its origins in the 1940s and ’50s, when any lift that was not an Olympic lift’press, snatch and clean and jerk’was called an ‘odd lift.’ Feats of strength were performed and competitions held with the bench press, curl, squat, deadlift, one-hand clean, bent press, one-hand snatch and the Continental clean and jerk. In November 1959 the Southern California Weightlifting Committee held the Los Angeles Odd Lift Championships under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and introduced the two-second-pause rule for the bench press. The barbell curl and the squat were the other two lifts in that event. At the AAU Weightlifting Convention in 1961 a proposal to make powerlifting a separate sport, with the three lifts being the bench press, squat and deadlift and a separate federation being established, received enthusiastic approval. The first National Powerlifting Championships were held in 1964.

California is considered the birthplace of the sport of powerlifting. Many of the greatest strength athletes of all time hail from the Golden State. The California Powerlifting Hall of Fame was created to honor them. The induction ceremony took place on March 27, 2004, with 300 spectators packed into the auditorium at the Joint Forces Training Base of the California National Guard in Los Alamitos to witness it. Steve Denison, California state chairman of the United States Powerlifting Federation, organized the show. Bill Ennis was event coordinator and designed the souvenir programs.

Many champions of the past were present to receive awards, including world-record holders Pat Casey, George Frenn, Larry Kidney, Bud Ravenscroft, Roger Estep, Bill Hartmann, Terry McCormick and Dave Shaw. Other champions honored were Bill Cavalier, Robert Cortes, Danni Hartmann Eldridge, Tom Eldridge, Cherie Ennis, Bill Ennis, Kevin Fisher, Jill Ganger, Lorna Griffin, Bill Hartmann, Vicki Gagne Hembree, Enrique Hernandez, Bob Humphreys, Mary Ryan Jeffrey, Jim Lem, Gene Moz’e, Tom Overholtzer, Bob Packer, Gordon Santee, Ron Woods and the late great Bill ‘Peanuts’ West.

Also honored for their more than 50 years as officials of weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions were Fran and Don Haley. Don is a past president of the USPF, and he chaired the AAU committee that established the original rules of powerlifting. Mike Lambert brought out the first issue of Powerlifting USA in June 1977, and the monthly publication now has 60,000 readers. A former powerlifting competitor, Lambert was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The presenter at the ceremony was Jeffrey L. Gidley, commanding general of the 40th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Dave and Laree Draper were on hand to congratulate the star of the show, Pat Casey, the king of the powerlifters. Casey was the first man to officially bench-press 600 pounds, squat 800 and total 2,000. In his illustrious career he was never beaten and set numerous world records. He never used a power suit, bench press shirt or any type of chemicals. He may have been the last ‘natural’ champion. At age 63 Casey weighs a muscular 220 pounds and resembles his look of many years ago, when he took fifth at the Teenage Mr. America at age 17. He gave a gracious acceptance speech and managed to thank more than a dozen people who helped or inspired him.

The 38th annual California State Powerlifting Championships were held immediately after the induction ceremony. IM

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