IronMan, Vol 21, No 6, Page 12, August 1962

Abbenda Wins "Mr. America"

As Twenty-five Men Compete For Title

By The Editor

IRON MAN cover man for last issue, Joe Abbenda, won the Mr. America title this year. (See his story in March, Vol. 21, No.4 issue of Iron Man.) Joe has been trying for several years and finally reached second place last year and won the coveted title by a narrow margin this year, being only two points ahead of Harold Poole, the young teen-ager who, incidentally, came through for a first place in the Most Muscular event this year. Hugo Labra, last year's Most Muscular Man winner, was pushed to second place in this event this year, and Abbenda came in third, tho he was second last year.

In the Mr. America event, Labra came in third this year. Vern Weaver was fourth.

I have been a judge at more Mr. America contests than any other man in America and probably have officiated as a judge at more physique contests, yet I never fail to be surprised at the placings of some men in these events. Each group of judges sees things a little different than others do. What constitutes a top physique is a matter of opinion; it is relative. No two men agree in every respect, and usually their opinions vary widely. I recall one minor contest in which one judge insisted on placing one man quite high because he had good legs, tho the kid had almost nothing above the waist. Some judges, on the other hand, almost fail to notice if a man has legs at all. Judges have a wide variation of ideas of what the word "muscularity" means. To some it seems to mean "most muscle" while to others it just means "most definition."

Quite frequently competitors or their friends will come to me and ask what they need to make them winners, or why they didn't win. I have no satisfactory answer for them as a general rule, unless it would be to pick the right judges and of course they have nothing to do with this. If a man is near the top, all I can do is tell him to keep trying and some time he may hit the right combination of judges who will give him the title.

Many men, of course, have some faults that are quite obvious, and these men can be given helpful advice. The top men who come in the first 6 places or so, generally are good enough to win if they have a little luck.

We have talked much about the need for uniformity in officiating lifting, but we are equally in need of uniformity of physique officiating. Very little is likely to be done in the USA in this respect as long as physique contests are supervised and controlled by the weightlifting association, for the lifters and lifting officials in general do not like physique contests and do not consider it worthwhile to make much of an attempt to improve them. Most certainly some clinics on judging a physique would make for much more satisfactory results. Much could be done to improve this phase of the game.


This part of the contest was held on the evening of June 2nd after the lifting. Not all the physique entries entered this, but most of them did and they really looked great. Each year the men seem to look better than the year before, but this is probablY just the result of the enthusiasm at seeing so many top men lined up again. Most certainly the men entered this year were just as good as in previous years. Many of them showed great improvement over past years. Young Harold Poole was considerably improved but he did not have an easy victory in the Most Muscular contest, as last year's winner, Hugo Labra, showed a great deal more definition and, I would say, he was a lot better than last year and had been training very hard for this event. Abbenda was improved over last year and quite a number of the others were much improved. Weaver, with his added bulk, showed good definition and excellent symmetry. Siepke, after being out of competition for at least six years, made a great comeback and looked better than ever. Ferraro was bigger and more muscular than ever, as was William Stathes.

Poole had just a little too much muscular size over all and excellent definition for the other boys, and so came in first for the Most Muscular title. Labra was so close it must have been difficult for the judges to place him second. Abbenda was very happy with third, I am sure, for he was the ultimate winner of the Mr. America title.


This event is the one that usually draws the crowds and thus helps finance the lifting events. There is something magnetic about the perfectly developed physique with a beautiful golden tan that everyone admires, and to see these men lined up for the Mr. America contest is an unbelievable sight to someone who has never had the privilege of seeing it before. You just can't believe that such perfection, size and magnificence can be attained, and it is so different from seeing them in photos.

Most of these men had trained extremely hard for this event, some of them spending hours a day at it for several weeks. Years of very hard work are behind most of these fellows, tho, and their most difficult period is just a few weeks before the contest.

Most of the fellows who enter these physique contests are among the finest in any branch of athletics. They are men who, above all, are interested in self-improvement, not just their physiques, but their minds and morals as well. They are fine, clean living young fellows with high ideals and ambitions and most of them are college graduates. A large share of them are married and have families. America would be a much better place with more such outstanding young men. I do know that occasionally someone will come along with poor character, and because the press wants sensationalism, this man's mistakes will be given publicity out of proportion to its importance and because of these few bad characters, many millions of fine bodybuilders have to hang their heads in shame. This should not be so, for bodybuilding is one of the greatest activities for building a greater America, and more emphasis ought to be placed on it, not for the sake of a fine physique alone, but also for the good health it fosters and the general overall character building qualities it stimulates.

I would like to take you with me on a little visit with each of the entrants and find out about these men; what they do for a living, how they live, how they train and what they can do. We will start with them as they were numbered for the contest.

BILLY LEMACKS of Florida was No. 1. This young man has been lifting and bodybuilding for several years and won Teen Age Nationals Lifting and Jr. National Lifting titles. He is a lightweight of 145 lbs., but has very good shape and exceptional definition as you will see by his photo. He will improve a great deal, and with more bulk ought to have an excellent chance at the top title. If be could weigh 170 witch his present shape and definition he would be terrific.

CHESTER YORTON had entered many contests and won many titles. He is a very handsome young man with a very outstanding physique. He has lots of bulk and fair definition and good proportions. As we have mentioned before, this man suffered a very severe auto accident about 3 or 4 years ago and shattered the bones in both thighs. One thigh now has a steel plate in it and the other a steel rod, but this man has developed amazing legs and can now squat with 500 lbs. Several judges jestingly remarked that they guessed they would get some steel rods put in their legs if they could learn to squat with 500 lbs. Yorton is a fine baseball and basketball player and expert on ice skates.

KEN HALL has been entering and winning physique contests for several years. he is 5'10½" tall and weighs 187. He is 32 years of age and has been training for 9 years. He migrated from the British West Indies 11 years ago and works as a foreman in a wholesale company. He is married and has one child. He has done some weightlifting and has made a 775 total. He has terrific definition and a very unusnal shape, with exceptional abdominals.

ROBERT GIRARD is a construction worker, has a nice physique and is married and the father of one child. He is 20 years of age, He trained 2½ hours per night 3 nights per week and has made 200, 185 and 250 on the Olympic lifts, He will do well with more training and experience.

MIKE FERRARO is well known to readers, having been our cover man on the March Vol. 21 No. 4 issue of Iron Man. We will have a full story on him with a lot of fine photos soon. He has won many titles, including the Teen age Mr. America and Mr. North America; altogether 13 physique titles. He is 23 years of age, married and has a little boy. Mike has been training 7 years and has made an Olympic total of 775 and a squat of 485, weighs 180 at a height of 5'8". Mike is managing a restaurant for his father and plans to finish his college training this winter, majoring in Physical Education. He has most exceptional thighs and shows unusual definition all over his body. He takes very heavy workouts.

JOHN SCHUBERT entered the contest for fun and had not trained really seriously for it, but has a very nice physique anyhow, which could have shown more definition with heavier training. He is an outstanding weightlifter, and operates the Olympic Health Club in Cleveland.

VERN WEAVER entered a number of contests several years ago and we took some color photos of him at the Mr. America contest in Los Angeles in 1958. We used one of these shots on the cover in December 1960. We were amazed to see the tremendous improvement in this man, and we were told that he had made most of it (gained 20 lbs. of shapely, solid muscle) in just two months while training in his basement at home. He would not divulge the training methods he had used, but expressed the thought that most bodybuilders and lifters train too hard for best results. All this improvement came after a layoff of 3 years. Altogether he has had 9 years of trainlug and presently is employed selling memberships for the Bacon Health Studio in York. He is 5'9½" tall and looks taller, so well is he proportioned, and weighs 200 presently, with 52 inch shoulders, 48 chest, 31 waist, 24 thighs, 16½ calf and 17½ arm, according to his own statements, and I would say that all tnese measurements are from one to several inches smaller than they actually are. Most weight men exaggerate their measurements, but from the looks of this fellow he is understating his measurements. We feel he should enter the Mr. Universe this year. He is 25 years old and an outstanding athlete. His shape and proportions are outstanding; he has good definition and fine skin tone. We feel he has one of the finest physiques in the world. He has made a total of 845 on the Olympics and plans to go to 220 bodyweight.

HUGO LABRA, last year's Most Muscular Man, looks better than ever, if that is possible, and had been training hard for this contest. We know he was disappointed at not placing higher and he really looked good, for he is a real little giant of 5'6¾" and 180 pounds of solid muscle. He is 32, single, and has been training 16 years. Hugo works for Douglas Aircraft and has had 2 years of engineering training and is finishing his education in a West Coast University. He came from Lima, Peru 9 years ago and is now a U. S. citizen and was the Pan Am champ in 1951 and has done 240, 225, 297 in the Olympic lifts at 148 pounds bodyweight. He also squats with 475 and bench presses 400 for 2 reps and curls 190. Hugo has one of the best physiques in the country for a short fellow, and will surely continue to improve. He was our cover man in the September issue and we have had other outstanding photos of him and have many more to show.

JERRY DOETTREL decided to take up weight training because the bigger kids picked on him. They don't do that any more. He is single, 21, and at the bodyweight of 148 he made 215, 175, and 270 on the Olympic lifts and was a star on his high school track team. He works as a stock broker and plans to further his education.

JOSEPH LAPORTE is 22, single, and has made a 425 squat at 180 bodyweight. He owns his own house painting business. He was an outstanding football star in high school and has a nice physique which will improve a great deal with more training.

WM. STATHES is one of our frequent Mr. America competitors and always impresses everyone with his outstanding physique. Bill is married, is on the San Francisco Police force and is exceptionally strong, having made a 910 total on the Olympic lifts. This year he weighed 215 as compared to 200 last year and 185 the year before. I know Bill wonders why he doesn't place higher (and I often wonder myself), for he certainly has an outstanding physique.

BILL SENO is a young fellow with a herculean physique. He has exceptionally fine legs and is very muscular everywhere. He is a good lifter and I believe he has pressed 290. He has done 320 with a lot of backbend. He has made an 815 total at 188 bodyweight. He excelled at football and wrestling and played football while attending Western Illinois University for 3 years. He is 23, single, and has trained with weights for 2½ years. He has a lot of natural possibilities both as an athlete and as a physique man. He will be able to improve his physique a lot in coming years to give it that finished look that the top men have. Bill is a Laboratory Technician at General Analine Corp.

GARY STEUER is only 20 but has developed a really outstanding physique and I was impressed by his great bulk and huge arms and shoulders. He said his arms measured 18½ and I know this wasn't an exaggeration, as they looked to me to be larger. For a man of such bulk he had excellent proportions and fairly good definition. With continued training he will take his place with the top men, for he is only 20 and has a wonderful start. He trains at home and has gained 100 lbs. in bodyweight in the 4 years he has been training. He weighs about 200 and has some good lifts to his credit. I was much impressed with this young man.

TUNY MONDAY recently won the Jr. Mr. America title in Columbia, Mo., and has a very unusual physique in that he weighs but 150 at about 5'5" height and has a most amazing definition. He had a dark tan from a lot of sun while water skiing, at which he is quite expert. Tuny is 38 years of age, married and has a family. He has his own business in neon sign work in Tulsa, Oklahoma, though later he would like to go into the health studio business. He now trains very hard and was training 6 hours a day in preparation for this and other recent contests. With a little more bulk he would be hard to beat. We would say that he would be tremendously impressive at 165 lbs. and with the same definition. He has already gained 30 pounds in bodyweight but could go on up. He has exceptional endurance and tells us that no matter how long hours he works or how much training he does, he never feels tired, and is always full of pep and ready to go.

CARL STELZEN is a top weightlifter of many years and enjoys getting into physique contests. He has an outstanding physique but if he is to continue in such contests he ought to do specialized bodybuilding. Weightlifting can give you a nice physique but without specialized bodybuilding you will not reach top quality and balance of physique. Carl is a great speed skater. He has his own floor waxing business.

JOE LAZZARO has won many physique titles and is an Art teacher in Junior High school. He has his BS degree and is working on his Masters degree at present. He is 31, has been training for 14 years and has won the Jr. Mr. America title and has made an Olympic total of 745 at 165 lbs. bodyweight. Joe is a real credit to the game and keeps trying year after year. A little more bulk and better definition would help him. He did not look in quite as hard a condition as we have seen him in the past and doubtless has had to curtail his training somewhat with his teaching obligations and his family - - ife and one daughter.

NORMAN BEDELL has been training for 9 years and was a track star in high school and has had two years of college. He has made a 750 Olympic total at 181 bodyweight. He ran the 100 yards in 9.9 in high school. He is a State Policeman in New Jersey and has a very nice physique which will improve greatly with further training.

HAROLD POOLE who has won a Jr. Mr. America title and many others, comes very close to the top each year and this year was much improved, being bigger and more mature looking. Harold is 18 years of age and is graduating from high school this year and we understand that he has three college scholarships. He will go to Purdue next year. This young colored fellow has an outstanding personality and certainly has a physique that it would be hard to find a flaw in. He is an outstanding athlete in school, especially at wrestling where the other high school athletes just don't stand much chance against him. He has made a 750 total as a 198 lb lifter though he has done very little lifting. We don't believe Harold will mind our mentioning it, but we feel that the only thing that keeps him from the Mr. America title is a slight speech difficulty. He has a slight stutter when he becomes nervous, and who wouldn't be nervous in a Mr. America contest? He is rapidly overcoming this though, and who knows, he may be the next Mr. America. I'm sure he would be a credit to the title.

JOE ABBENDA, the new Mr. America, needs little introduction to readers of Iron Man, for his photo was on the cover of last issue, and his story in a previous issue. Joe is single, 23 years of age, and trains at home most of the time. He is going to St. Johns University and is studying law. He has made a lifting total of 850 as a heavyweight and is one of the most enthusiastic workers for the game, always willing to go out and put on shows, talk about training and help the game in any way he can. He has a fine physique and a very attractive personality. We are sure that Joe will do much in the coming year as an ambassador for the barbell game. Joe has a very thin skin which gives him outstanding definition, and he has a rather unusual muscle shape.

JOSEPH SIMON, long a physique contender, is a man who has about the most outstanding definition of anyone there. In addition he also has good bulk and excellent shape. Joe is 28, married and has a son. He was an all-state football man and Bi-State champion in baseball and works as a crane operator. Joe gives a lot of fine shows around his area with his little son who enjoys working with Dad. When Joe tenses up his muscles you would swear they are going to jump out of his skin.

JACK ALLEN has had one year of training and has done wrestling, boxing and track in school. He has a nice physique and should improve considerably in the come year, with hard training.

RALPH KLEINER has won several top physique titles. His physique impresses one with the fine upper body. He has good shape and definition. He came from Austria in 1952 where he was a member of the state football championship team at 14 years of age. He is a Judo 2nd degree brown belt, has had 2 years of college at Rice and will be going back this fall.

ROBERT HERZOG has won the Mr. Michigan title, among others, and has a very rugged physique. He is an outstanding specialty skater and works as an interior decorator. He made the background designs for the Mr. America contest which you see in the photos with this article.

STEVE SAKOULOS has entered a number of contests a few years ago and was the Mr. Illinois in 1955. He works as a glass blower and has done some good lifts, making a total of 800 at 181 bodyweight.

VIC SEIPKE, last but not least by any means. Vic had not entered a contest for 6 or more years but had been working out regularly twice a week to keep in fair shape. This time he looked better than he did when he was entering contests years ago. He is a Fireman in the Detroit Fire Department, 30 years of age, married, 1 son. He also works as a dental lab technician in his off hours. We would like to see Vic continue entering contests as many feel that he is Mr. America material. You can't pick a flaw in this man's physique. He isn't as tall at some may like, and has a little longer than usual neck which is of tremendous size, and says he never did anything to develop it. It just grew that way along with the rest of his body. He had a beautiful tan and we took some color photos of Vic but believe they were rather badly scratched when removing them from the camera. However, if they come out well we will show one on the cover of Iron Man. Vic appeared on Iron Man cover in Mayor 1959. Vic has made an 805 total while weighing 190, and was outstanding in football and swimming in high school.

There then is the picture of these boys as the judges saw them and as the audience viewed them two nights.

These boys were pre-judged the morning of July 3rd and the decisions were made then, but nothing was announced before the evening performance after the lifting. The judges were asked to sit on the stage and make a pretense of judging again. Such a foolish farce to go through! Why not tell the audience that these men are pre-judged in the afternoon. No one will care. A judge feels embarrassed and foolish sitting there acting as if he were doing a job.

The lighting was good for the contest and the boys all showed up at their best and gave a good show. We believe that most people agreed with the decisions. It must be remembered that a lot of things other than the physique are taken into consideration when choosing a Mr. America. This isn't just a physique contest, for a man must have high moral standards and a good reputation and must be a good athlete, have a pleasing personality, and be able to present himself well to the public for the coming year.

The selections should therefore not be based only on the physique, though this is important. Most contests throughout the world are judged on physique alone and this makes quite a difference in the selections. A Mr. America should represent the ideal of American manhood in all respects as nearly as possible. A strict physique contest does not need to meet all these restrictions or requirements.

Here are the point totals as made by the first ten men: Joe Abbenda 89; Harold Poole 87; Hugo Labra 86½; Vern Weaver 86; Victor Seipke 84; Mike Ferraro 82; William Stathes 81½; William Seno 80; Joseph Lazzaro 80; Kenneth Hall 78.

Most Muscular: 1st Harold Poole; 2nd Hugo Labra; 3rd Joe Abbenda.

Judges for the Mr. America and Most Muscular contests: Peary Rader, Rudy Sablo, Joe Raymond, Bob Hise, John Terpak, Joseph Paul, Owen Olson.


- Joe Abbenda, at center of photo below, placed second last year, and this year won the title of Mr. America. Harold Poole, left, was second, as well as Most Muscular, while Hugo Labra, on the right, was in third place. On the opposite page we show Abbenda posign on the platform during the contest.

- The two photos below show the Most Muscular Man, Harold Poole, in a fine back pose as well as a dramatic front pose. This young 18 year old is a top athlete in school and will attend Purdue in the fall.

- Here is the fine, broad back of Joe Abbenda; massive and muscular in repose, finely defined when tensed.

- Hugo Labra, a peppy, bouncy, vivacious personality, certainly has a terrific physique. He is also a great athlete and was the Pan Am Games Hammer Trowing Champ, as well as a weightlifting champion. He has a very broad pair of shoulders.

- Vern Weaver was tremendously improved this year as shown by these photos. His back was outstanding as you can see. Compare these photos with the cover shots used in Vol. 20. No. 2 Iron Man. He should be tops in any competition.

- Mike Ferraro, a recent Iron Man cover man, looks better than ever. he has won many top titles and compared well with the best in this contest.

- Vic Siepke, back in a contest after over 6 years, looked better than he ever did before. We wish Vic would stay in there working and we believe he could win a title on of these days. he has everything and is a wonderful fellow too. At lower right we see Bill Stathes, heavier this year but looking great. He is one of the top physiques in the country and an outstanding Olympic lifter.

- Bill Seno, a top physique from Chicago, has a lot of bulk and definition and will climb higher with more experience and training.

- Billy Lemacks won the southern division of the Jr. Mr. America title, and looked great in the Sr. Mr. America, with outstanding development and definition, as you can see in this back pose.

- Joe Simon had about the most definition of any man there. His skin is thin and every fiber of his muscles seemed to stnad out in bold relief, as you can see in the photo below.

- Ken Hall, at left, gave his usual fine posing exhibition, and his physique looked great. He has outstanding abdominals. Tuny Monday, at the right had just won the Midwest division of the Jr. Mr. America contest, and has very good definition, and with more bulk would really go places.

- We believe the photo at lower right is Joe LaPorte, who has a fine build, with a small waist, broad shoulders and very good shape. Gary Steuer, below, just entering the service, had the largest arms in the contest, as well as outstanding shoulders and chest. Too bad we don't have sub-divisions in the Mr. America contest anymore.

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