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Former Weightlifting: Update on Glory Days - The Documentary to Chronicle Team's National Triumphs

Source: Sports, Glory Days, La Louisiane , Fall 2018, pgs. 34-35

Here is an update on our WL documentary film from Nick Campbell:
(via Warren Perrin) I should have a rough cut complete by the end of March at which point I will get in touch with Sam again and connect him with our sound designer. There are several more steps in the post-production process and I hope to have a final cut complete this summer. 

If homecoming is around October we should definitely be done before then.

We can all schedule a little meeting next month and discuss where the project is and I’ll fill you in on possible premiere strategies too. That said, there shouldn’t be any issues with having the project wrapped up this summer.

* * * * *

sports

Glory Days

Documentary to chronicle weightlifting team’s national triumphs

Mary Perrin and Cheryl Thompson sat side-by-side on a sofa at
the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Alumni Center and

chatted. A few steps away, their husbands, Warren Perrin and

Mike Thompson, were time traveling, reliving their glory days

as members of one of the nation’s most-successful collegiate

weightlifting programs.

Mary and Cheryl know every inch of this particular stretch of Memory

Lane. “Oh,
yes, we’ve heard all the stories,” Cheryl said with a laugh.

There are many stories to tell. Between 1957 and 1972,

the University’s squad won eight national championships.A

forthcoming documentary, “The Ragin’ 13,” will chronicle the

University’s
improbable domination of the sport. The title is a

reference to the number of first- and second-place finishes the team

collected, explained filmmaker Nick Campbell.

“It’s an underdog story. They excel on every level, beating

universities that had a lot of support and a lot of money behind

them,” said Campbell, who holds bachelor’s degrees in history

and media art from UL Lafayette.

Competitive weightlifting requires speed, skill and strength. In the

1950s through the 1970s, judges scored lifters as they hoisted bars

loaded with weighted iron plates in three
competitions: the clean and

press, the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Elevating the weights was

only part of the struggle. As a three-judge panel watched, lifters were

required to “hold and control” the weight with their arms fully

extended overhead for two seconds, then return the weight to the

platform in a
similarly restrained manner.

Weightlifting at UL Lafayette, then known as Southwestern

Louisiana Institute, began in the mid-1950s at an off-campus

gym owned by student Mike Stansbury.

Among the students Stansbury introduced to the sport was

Walter Imahara, one of the most-decorated student-athletes in

UL Lafayette’s history. As a weightlifter at SLI, in the U.S. Army,

and after his discharge, Imahara amassed nearly 200 regional,

national and international titles between 1957 and 2005.

In 1955, Imahara enrolled at SLI and met Stansbury, whose

gym on Jefferson Boulevard in Lafayette welcomed students

who wanted to lift. By 1956, a group of them – with the

blessing of Dean of Men Glynn Abel – felt confident enough

in their skills to represent the school at the National Collegiate

Weightlifting Championship. The team placed second.

The following year, the team took the crown decisively,

more than doubling the score of its nearest opponent, the

University of Hawaii. It was the first national championship in

any sport in UL Lafayette’s history.

Seven more titles followed, in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967,

1968, 1970 and 1971. National competition was cancelled for

1969, because of a lack of a sponsor. It resumed the next year.

The team’s record, which included undefeated seasons, regional team

titles and individual records, drew attention from national weightlifting

publications and newspaper sportswriters. It was an

irresistible story: a small college with no coach and little money that

managed to defeat better-equipped and better-funded

programs such as Pennsylvania State University and the universities of

Michigan, Texas and Maryland.

The squad would return from championships with trophies in tow,

and a small group of students and the University’s band would be

waiting. The next day, team members would be back

in Earl K. Long Gymnasium, where they trained after Stansbury’s

downtown gym
closed in 1960, preparing for the next meet.

With cameras rolling, the veteran lifters returned to Earl K.

Long Gym in July carrying only memories.

Jim Reinhardt and Alvin Chustz peered into a storage space

where they first trained. It’s beneath the bleachers. They recounted

that the low clearance meant lifters had to take care when they

hoisted barbells above their heads or else they might hit and damage

the bleachers’ underside.

The squad later moved its equipment into a more-spacious

former handball court in the gymnasium’s recesses. They called

it “the dungeon,” and as the veteran lifters returned to the space

during their tour, they greeted the room like an old friend.

The film crew had placed a barbell in the room’s center.

Imahara approached the bar and began to explain for the cameras –

and to the hushed ex-lifters who stood around him in a semicircle

– the importance of foot positioning, gripping the bar properly and

breathing on successful lifts.

“OK, I think we got it now, Walter,” teased squad member Gene

Hebert. “Now lift it.”

Imahara, now 81, smiled, but declined. “I didn’t bring my belt

with me,” he said.

During the summertime, the unairconditioned “dungeon” grew

so hot that the walls dripped with humidity. Despite the conditions,

“we wanted to be there,” recalled Jay Trahan. “Our bond was

weightlifting.”

Team members shared and devoured training publications and

replicated stances demonstrated in photographs. They had no coach,

but they had each other, recalled Warren Perrin, who approached

Campbell with the idea for the documentary.

“We all came from unique backgrounds, but we helped each

other gain a positive attitude, that through hard work, you win –

and gain pride.”

“It was a shared passion for the sport – man against iron – that

forged the team and its successes,” Perrin said.

Weightlifting at the University of Southwestern Louisiana – the

school’s name changed from SLI in 1960 – ended after the 1972

season, when the squad’s last two members graduated.

Recreating the 17-year period the sport existed at the University

requires scores of primary sources. Training diaries and scrapbooks

of photographs and newspaper clippings kept by the competitors are

particularly valuable. Many were on display at the Alumni Center on

the first day of filming for the documentary.

The material will help corroborate decades-old details

recounted by ex-lifters during interviews, Campbell said.

“Walter (Imahara) has an old notebook. It’s yellowed and

brownish from age, but it’s got every single competition he ever took

part in – every single one.

“Warren (Perrin) did the same exact thing. Every competition

they were ever a part of, how much they lifted, what they felt they

could have done at that moment to do better. All the guys who were

really successful kept one.

“You can’t ask for any better primary sources than that.”

Please click here for the complete story in La Louisiane, Fall 2018, including two team photos.

Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.

Please click www.athleticnetwork.net 
Photo Gallery (left side of home page);
Weightlifting (in alphabetical menu);
The 16 years of photo galleries, including reunions in 2006 and 2016.

Click here for the Weightlifting Photo Gallery Page.

 



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