Stanley Anthony Stanczyk
By Osmo "John" Kiiha

Reprinted with the Permission of The Iron Master

          Happy-go-lucky Stan Stanczyk will always be remembered as the first lifter to win three successive world titles in three different classes. In 1946, he was the light-weight champion; in 1947, middleweight; and in 1948, he took the Olympic light-heavyweight title. Stanley went on to win three more World Championships in 1949 and 1950; and in 1951, as a light-heavyweight.
          Stanczyk was no ordinary strongman. He was in the possession of extraordinary athletic ability and split second timing. But above all, he was a wonderful competitor and a good sport.
          Stan burst onto the national scene in 1942 by winning third place at that year's Senior Nationals as a lightweight (145 BWT) - only his third contest to date.
          He racked up a total of 695 with lifts of a 195 press, a 225 snatch, and a 275 clean and jerk. On an extra attempt, Stan easily cleaned 300 pounds only to miss the jerk portion of the lift. Stanczyk was just two weeks past his 17th birthday...
          It was prophesized in a 1942 issue of Strength and Health magazine that, "Stanley Stanczyk has a great future before him in the lifting world. He will be great competition for the world's middleweight lifters in the future." I am willing to bet that no one, including "the father of American Olympic lifting", Bob Hoffman, knew how accurate that statement was.
          Turning back the wheels of time, Stanley Anthony Stanczyk was born on May 10, 1925, in the provincial town of Armstrong, Wisconsin. When Stanley was only a year old, his parents moved with their elder sons Johnny, Walter, and Tony, to the "Motor City", Detroit, Michigan.
          From the time that Stan was able to walk, he was comparatively stronger than his playmates. Stanley joined the Boy's Club of Detroit when he was nine years of age. Members of this athletic institution were taught various acrobatics, tumbling, wrestling, boxing, swimming and also barbell training. Stan said that he used the Charles Atlas course before he touched any weights. Kids his age were not allowed to lift weights back then, so he would have to sneak onto the lifting platform, squeeze in a couple of lifts and then quickly leave. Eventually, the older lifters noticed how good Stan was getting, and with the blessing of Stan's older brother John, he was allowed to start Olympic lifting.
          Stan took to this sport like a duck to water and went into earnest training in 1941. He was fortunate to have the expert guidance of Johnny Krill, former Junior National 126 pound champion and place winner in many national events. Krill was instrumental in perfecting Stan's technique in the three lifts and helping him to plan a systematic training routine that was the basis for much of his success in later years.
          Right from the beginning, Stan trained with a determination to be the top in his chosen sport. He seldom missed workouts, but if he did, he redoubled his efforts the following training day to make up for the one he missed. He truly enjoyed each and every one of his workouts.
          His training routine was nothing unusual, but he was systematic and persistent - the mark of a true champion.
          Stan trained three times a week incorporating all three Olympic lifts into each workout. He used the 5-4-3-2 rep scheme, adding ten pounds each set. After he had completed the three lifts, Stan did some other exercises to aid his development, such as, presses behind the neck, rowing motions, push-ups between chairs, reverse curls, shoulder shrugs, and abdominal raises. Also, on the average of once per week, he did squats and wall pulley exercises (Ed. note: Johnny Krill and others at the time believed that squats would make a person slow, so they had Stan use the squat only once a week. Speaking to Stan in doing this article, he said, "I used to sneak in the squat almost after every workout. Even in the early days, I could see the results the squats gave me in overall body strength."). He only used moderately heavy weights in the above movements so that he could execute the exercises correctly.
          During his training, he always attempted to perform his Olympic lifts flawlessly, with perfect timing and speed. Prior to any lifting contest, Stan abandoned all other exercises and lifted strictly on the three lifts working strenuously at or near his limit. Stan tried to average nine hours of sleep a day and he usually took 3 or 4 days off just before the contest so that he would be completely rested and in top form. Weather permitting, Stan also sun bathed when possible.
          Like so many other young men of his era, in May of 1943, Stan answered the call of his Uncle Sam when drafted to serve in the Army. The war had already reached a fevered pitch in the Pacific and in Europe, but Stan still found time prior to shipping overseas, to win the 1943 Junior Nationals with a 695 total in the lightweight class.
          During the war years, Stan spent most of his time in the Pacific. Fighting on the front lines, he was awarded the Purple Heart during one of those conflicts. As they say, "once a weightlifter, always a weightlifter". Stan proved this by training with makeshift weights between engagements; thus, keeping himself in fairly good condition. While serving his last year in the service (1945), he and his buddies had two barbells made out of boiler plates: one weighing 110 pounds, and the other 222 pounds. Three months prior to his release from duty, Stan and his weights ended up in Japan (Ed. Note: Amazingly, Stan managed to lug these balky weights with him all across the Pacific.). He said that he and several friends were walking along the road with the 'bells, when a truck stopped to help them out. A couple of close by Japanese men had spotted them and rushed to their assistance in getting the barbells onto the back of the truck. The smaller men managed to get the 110 pounder into the truck, but when faced with the task of lifting the 222 pound barbell, the Japanese men could not even manage to deadlift the weight. Seeing this, Stan bent over and power cleaned the weight and pushed it inside. Stan said that the Japanese men were dumb struck with this display of strength. It was if Superman had just arrived. As the truck drove away, they were still pointing at him, wondering where all of his power had came from...
          After his discharge in late 1945, Stan came roaring back to civilian life by placing third in the 1946 Senior Nationals - this time competing as a middleweight. In the process, he broke the American record in the 165 class clean and jerk with 333 1/2 pounds and gave one hell of a ride to 343 1/2 which equaled the world record then.
          This was the first time Stanczyk had been against the "big boys" of the middleweight division (Frank Spellman and John Terpak), and he did pretty well, but it was nothing compared to what was to come later.
          Stan avenged his defeat by Terpak and Spellman by defeating these two great champions at the 1946 North American Championships and winning his first major contest. By this time, the charismatic leader of the York Barbell Company, Bob Hoffman, had taken notice of Stan and he was invited to join the York Barbell Club and compete under his guidance.
          As a new member of the York Barbell Club, Stan prepared for the 1946 World Championships in Paris, France. Stan reduced his bodyweight by 16 pounds and lifted in the 148 class, making the following lifts: press 231 1/2, snatch 253 1/2, and a clean and jerk of 325 1/4 for a world record total of 810 1/4 pounds. He had defeated Swietilko of Russia, who came in second, by a whopping margin of forty four and one quarter pounds. In only his tenth contest, Stan was crowned the World's Lightweight Champion.
          When training for the 1946 World's in Paris, Stan always started his training with a proper warming up. He spent as much as twenty minutes per session stretching, twisting, loosening his muscles and exercising with light weights before moving onto the heavier parts of his session. He only used the three Olympic lifts during this concentrated training period. Prior to coming to York, Stan always used the 5-4-3-2 and sometimes 1 rep scheme. At York, Stan changed his repetitions to three only - making three as long as he could , then two and finally one or two single attempts (Ed. Note: Contrary to what was written in S&H, Bob Hoffman did not coach his lifters. Each man trained himself or picked out ideas from the other lifters. Stan said that Steve Stanko helped him a lot and was a great friend over the years.).
          A good example of how Stan used this training method was his last snatch workout prior to his leaving for Paris. Employing a German Berb bar (brought back from Germany in 1936), Stanczyk made repetitions of three each with 165, 176, 187, 198, 209, 220, 231, and two with 242. Stan's best single was around 250 at that time and he had 260 overhead, just failing to fix it.
          After the 1946 World Championships, Stan forever left the lightweight class and moved into the middleweight class. In his first contest as a middleweight, Jan. 17, 1947, Stan broke the World Record in the snatch with 273 1/2 pounds (held by Touni - 266 1/2) and pushed the American record in the clean and jerk to 344 pounds.
          In a short succession, Stan moved the snatch and clean & jerk records to unheard of levels: March 29, 1947 - 351 1/2 C & J; April 19, 1947 - Snatch 277 and C & J 352 1/2 with an 875 total. This total was the greatest ever made by a middleweight lifter in history, to that date.
          The 277 snatch and 352 1/2 C & J were never accepted by the I.W.F. as official world records.
          In June 1947, at the Senior Nationals practically lifting alone, Stan easily won the middleweight title - his first. Stanczyk's good sportsmanship shined throughout at this contest. Stan actually snatched 280 and was given three white lights for a good lift, but he refused the lift. Stan said that his knee had touched lightly and he did not want the world record -- WOW !!!
          This set the stage for the greatest contest to be held in the United States -- "The 1947 World Championships" (Sept. 27, 1947 - Philadelphia, PA). Stan was in rare form. He broke four American records and three World records with a 281 snatch, a 352 1/2 C & J, and an 892 3/4 total. His 259 press equaled the world record held by Touni of Egypt (set August 05, 1936). On the strength of this superb performance, Stan Stanczyk was declared the greatest Olympic lifter in the world - pound for pound.
          Arthur Gay wrote an article for Your Physique magazine (Dec. 1947) entitled "TERRIFIC is the word for Stanczyk". An enterprising editor had run a lightening flash through the word terrific. Yes, Stanley was terrific indeed, but he was just getting warmed up...
          Stan had only one more hurdle to conquer, the 1948 Olympic Games. This he did in magnificent style, easily winning the gold medal and becoming the Olympic champion. (Ed. Note: At the '48 Olympics, Stanczyk once again demonstrated sportsmanship of the highest order. He had easily snatched 292 for a new world record. This lift was recognized by two of the judges as "good", but Stan would not accept credit for the lift claiming that his knee had touched. Later, he was granted the Sullivan medal - a very special and coveted award - in recognition of his actions. Another interesting point, Stanczyk was the fastest athlete at the 1948 Olympics, measured with an electric timer. They didn't call him "Flash" for nothing...). After his stellar performance at the Olympics, Stan was considering retiring from competition since he had won every important contest in the world, but the old fires still burned and he decided to continue lifting.
          One thing that is interesting, is that Stan only trained at Olympic lifting for about three months out of the year. The rest of the time he trained as a bodybuilder. Stanczyk was an athlete with a very aesthetic appearance. He had a beautiful muscular development which would have made him a top competitor for Mr. America honors. That said, in the 1950's, Stan won the Mr. Miami, Mr. All South, and Mr. Florida contests and placed sixth at the 1949 Mr. America contest.
          After easily winning his class at the 1949 World Championships in Holland, Stan decided that he had enough of the cold winters in York, PA and moved to Miami, Florida. Stan had lived in York for over three years - 1946 through 1949. During this time he had worked for Bob Hoffman, first dipping weights in the paint department; and later, in the office.
          Iron-Game columnist , Chester O. Teegarden, recorded for posterity one of Stanczyk's workouts around this time in the "California Weight Lifter's Association Bulletin" (Nov. 1949, pg. 2 -- courtesy of Warren J. Stewart):
          "27 Nov. 49, 4:50 p.m. at Yarick's Gym. Stanczyk starts workout. Leisurely warm up. Wears a web strap on head to keep hair in place. Walks around leisurely and does some stretching and bending calisthenics. Stan does snatch with no weight 2 reps. Chalks hands thoroughly. 205 on bar. Snatch no weight and stretch and bend to warm up. Put on belt...Stan presses 205 x 3 then walks around and talks. Two other boys also press three reps each. Stan presses 220 x 3 thumbs length from edge of knurling. Stan, 'I like to take my time working out, lift 3 reps then talk, when it is time to lift again -- talk some more!' Stan presses 240 x 3. Says he has pressed 303 with back bend. 'When I blow up on bodybuilding, I can't lift...concentrate on lifting for the contest then after the contest lay off and do bodybuilding...I pressed 325 with little knee movement once.'
          At 5:10 p.m., Stan pressed 260 x 1 and said, ' Pretty good for a bodybuilder, can't look good and be strong at the same time.' Stan pressed 205 x 5 and said, 'That's not in the groove, feels heavy, have to lose 1" of my arm and some off my chest, then I'd be strong.' To George Brignolo, 'Just got to practice a long time, can't move the weight around, learn to get it where you want it.'           5:25 p.m. Stan snatches 135 x 5. First rep high and each following is lower and lower.
          5:35 Snatch 205 x 3, but no pause, drop to hang. 220 x 3, no pause and then drop to hang. Snatch 250 x 2 and 3rd got up, but didn't hold. Snatch 264 x 1.
          At 5:50, snatches 275, but then drops it.
          6:00 Stan, 'Dead hang deadlift. That is a new one on me. If 205 feels light and 225 light, maybe will try a heavy one today. You can't say, '...well, I'll try a heavy one next Tuesday...' you do it when you feel like it. For a bodybuilder, 265 is a good snatch, but for a weightlifter, I stink. I've done snatches of 270 x 2 and 260 x 3. On my 286 snatch in the Olympics I was one frame (movie) faster than Shams in the 1936 Olympics. Quickest athlete in the Olympics.'
          6:07 C & J 275 x 1. 'Don't fool around on the clean. Stay in position awhile and then come up.' Stan C & J 290 x 1. ' the clean pull it high, then split a little...' Stan C & J 305 x 1.
          6:12 Cleaned 325 and did not hold jerk. Deadlift (reverse grip) 325 x 5.
          6:25 Deadlift 415 x 5. A few minutes later DL 475 x 1 and 1 and 1. Stan, 'Have cleaned 360 twice. Best C & J is 358. When I get C & J right it feels light. When U get it wrong it feels like a ton. Did deep knee bends 270 x 20 for bodybuilding. I do deep knee bend 10's and 5's for power. My best deep knee bend is 400 x 5. You can't lift heavy weights unless you train with heavy weights.'
          6:30 Deep knee bend 325 x 5 heels on 2 x 4 about 1' apart. A few minutes later did 355 x 3. 'Trained in Miami on Jackson set, that is all there was available.'
          6:37 355 in jerk position and did quarter squats x 8. [This was his] fourth training period on weightlifting after two months of bodybuilding."

          In Miami, Stan opened a bodybuilding and lifting gym with partner Harlin Fisher. Of course, with the way the A.A.U. was in those days, Stan could not be officially connected to the gym, or he would've been declared a professional athlete so he was a silent partner. Stanczyk continued to win and place on an international level with light-heavyweight world titles in 1950 and 1951; a gold medal at the Pan-American games in 1951; and also, a silver medal at the 1952 Olympic games in Helsinki, Finland.
          In 1953, Stan gave up his bachelor days and was married to his wife, Dorothy* . Stan then decided to compete at the World's one last time as a light-heavy and made the trip to Stockholm, Sweden where he placed a respectable third with a 914 1/2 total.
          Stan took one final fling at the World title and reduced to the middleweight class for the 1954 Championships in Vienna, Austria - again coming in third with a 859 1/2 total.
          Stan and his partner closed out the gym in 1955, to open of all things - a bowling alley. The idea came to Stan when unable to find a lane to rent at a local alley - the place was too packed to accommodate any more bowlers. This set Stan's gears into motion, so to speak, and he had soon managed to raise over half a million dollars with his partner to erect a 32 lane bowling alley; with a restaurant and bar. Stan later bought out his partner and operated this business solo for over 27 years.
          Stan became the consummate bowler, sometimes bowling seven days a week. His lifetime average for 27 years was 190 with spurts up to 199. During these years he won many city, county and state tournaments - even bowling one perfect game of 300.
          At the request of Bob Hoffman, in 1955, Stan made a state department tour of Russia, Egypt, Iran and Lebanon. Lifting as a lightheavy, he managed to turn in some respectable totals.
          Stanczyk's last contest was the 1957 Senior Nationals. Stan lifted in the new 225 lb. Class. Bob Hoffman wanted him to lift in the 198 class since it was known that Clyde Emrich was injured and Bob knew Stan had a better chance against Emerich. Stan, however, had his heart set on lifting against Schemansky - he was lifting for the fun of it, not serious competition. Stan placed third using the squat snatch (not his usual split).
          For over twenty years, Stan instructed lifters and promoted lifting contests in Florida with the help of Joe Pitman; using his garage at home to train lifters and as a "base of operations." Theodore Athas was one of the finest lifters trained by Stan. At the 1971 seniors, Athas totaled 981 in the 198 class.
          By the middle 1980's, Stan's health was starting to deteriorate. His blood pressure was dangerously high. His doctor instructed him to slow down and sell his business. "Easier said than done," thought Stan as he continued to work. In 1986, tragedy struck and Stan had a massive stroke that almost killed him. He spent four months afterwards in a hospital. Since then, Stan has rehabilitated himself for the past nine years and has yet to lose courage or hope. Today, he has a hard time getting around, but he manages - his sense of humor as keen as ever. Stan has now been married for 41 years and has two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren.
          During his career, Stanczyk won the World Title five times; won the 1948 Olympic Gold; the 1951 Pan-American Games Gold; the 1952 Olympic Games Silver; placed third at the 1953 and 1954 World Championships; and was Six times Senior National Champion.
          On and off the lifting platform, in and out of adversity, Stan has always risen to the occasion of a challenge - more often than not, mastering that challenge. He is a living personification of the American dream - always moving forward and managing to better his past achievements. With a past record like Stan's, one does not wonder what the future holds for him - only what he will manage to accomplish next. Yes, folks, Stan Stanczyk is indeed TERRIFIC!!

* It is interesting to note how Stan met his wife. While selling Hoffman's Suntan Lotion at McFadden's Danville (then one of Miami's best hotels), he saw a girl - apparently in distress - in the water. He saved her, and thus begun a romance...