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Bruce Wilhelm Chronicles Stories of Lifting Giants:

Ken Patera and Pat Casey

Amazing how things happen! Just as I was wrapping up my commentary on Richard Bak’s wonderful biography of Norbert Schemansky, I received a call from Bruce Wilhelm. (Bruce won the first two World’s Strongest Man competitions (1977 & 1978) and snatched an American record 401 ¼.) He was calling to tell me about booklets he has written on Pat Casey and Ken Patera.

Some of you probably know that Pat Casey was the first man in the world to officially bench press 600 pound (615 on March 25, 1967--without bench shirt, elbow wraps or steroids; he was also the first to officially squat 775 and total 2000). But I’ll bet you didn’t know that Patera was the first American to clean & jerk 500 pounds, making 501 1/2 at the 1972 Senior Nationals, and 505 1/2 in a tune-up meet before the Munich Olympics on July 23, 1972.

And there’s more, a little known back story. Russian behemoth Vasili Alexeyev made the first official 500-pound C & J at the 1970 world championship in Columbus, Ohio. Carol and I were in the audience and saw that magnificent lift. What we didn’t know was that Ken Patera had push-jerked 518 in the training hall before the competition, and was primed to beat Alexeyev to the magic 500. Unfortunately, a severe ankle sprain in the clean for the press forced him to watch on the sidelines as Alexeyev entered the record books with his never-to-be forgotten lift.

“I remember thinking it was a terrible tragedy, just as [Patera] was getting going,” Wilhelm writes. “Surely he would have cleaned and jerked over 500 this day. He looked so on and his training had been going so well.”   

And something else I’ll bet you didn’t know (I didn’t): Patera snatched 374 ¾ and later 386 1/2, becoming the second American (almost first) to exceed Norbert Schemansky’s world-record snatch of 362, considered by many “the greatest lift of all time.” Schemansky’s 362 snatch was made on April 28, 1962. Joe Dube made a new American record of 369 at the 1971 Senior Nationals in York, PA; Dube was on the way to a second place finish behind Patera, who won his third consecutive national title. Patera’s made his 374 ¾ snatch at the 1971 Pan American Games and his 386 1/2 in San Francisco on July 23, 1972. He also pressed 505 1/2 and clean and jerked 505 1/2, at the San Francisco contest, for a national-record total of 1,397 1/2.

(Note that both Dube and Patera outweighed Schemansky by 50 pounds or more.)

PAT CASEY: King of the Powerlifters

Wilhelm’s booklet on Casey includes a wonderful Foreword by Bill Pearl. Casey trained in Pearl’s gym for a number of years; lifting such huge poundages that Pearl had to reinforce the benches he used. “I was afraid the benches would not hold the weight,” Pearl writes. “He would do chest exercises with 220lb dumbbells in each hand. There was a corner of the gym where Pat stored his weights for special lifts. Nobody touched Pat’s weights and nobody other than Pat wanted to touch his weights.”

Significantly, Pearl writes in another part of the Foreword: “He has long legs, long arms, and a short torso. This is the opposite of people like Paul Anderson and Doug Hepburn who were built for strength. Pat over came this handicap through his methods of training and positive attitude.” That’s what Bruce Wilhelm’s booklet is about; he calls it “a training manual/booklet on Pat Casey.” It includes interesting information on Casey’s background, along with a question and answer session with Pat, and his actual workout and contest poundages—and classic photos of Pat. It’s not Shakespeare by any means, but it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in strength and Powerlifting. (See book details and ordering information below)

THE KEN PATERA STORY…and what a story it is!

Wilhelm begins with a Foreword by Jim Schmitz, U.S. Olympic Team Weightlifting Coach (1980, 1988 and 1992), telling about his experiences working with Patera. “I helped him peak and polish his technique for the Nationals and he had his greatest lifting day of his life and finally clean and jerked 501 pounds, which had been eluding him for three years,” Schmitz writes. He adds that “Bruce Wilhelm is certainly the one to write the Ken Patera story; as you will find out, no one is closer to Ken and knows about his lifting and athletic career better.”

Bruce was in almost constant contact with Patera during his Olympic lifting and professional wrestling careers. He quotes from frequent correspondence with Patera and relates many on-the-scene experiences at critical times in the story. Many photos of historic lifts, Ken wrestling, and even shots of Ken in terrific bodybuilding shape are included. If you’re interested in a blow-by-blow account of Patera’s training and competitive lifting career, and a fascinating inside look at his sixteen years as a successful professional wrester (including 18-months behind bars), you’ll find this good reading. It’s pretty rough and unedited in places, but I enjoyed it. I bet you will too.  

Ordering Information

We no longer carry these books, but they may be available on the Internet.

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