IronMan, Vol 23, No 6, Page 11, September 1964

"MR. AMERICA - 1964"

By Peary Rader

A Mr. America event is always very exciting and so many people are there pulling for their favorites and when they do not win there are some unhappy people, but usually the majority are happy with the decision of the judges.

This year there was no certainty as to who might win. The field was very close. There was Dr. Craig Whitehead who was third last year, John Gourgott who came in fourth and who had improved a great deal; we had John Decola, the Junior Mr. America winner, and Val Vasilieff who had come in third in that event just a half point behind the winner. Bill Seno was another, who, with his great muscularity, was a threat; Ferraro, former Teen Age Mr. America, and always up high -- these well known men and others, many not so well known. Sergio Oliva of Chicago, formerly of Cuba, of whom we had heard great things and who proved to be quite a physique, certainly amazed everyone. Randy Watson with ten pounds added weight was sure to come in high.

1Val Vasilieff, Sicklerville, N.jJ.94
2John Gourgott, New Orleans, La.90
3Randy Watson, Manchester, Tenn.89
4Bill Seno, Melrose Park, Ill.87½
5Craig Whitehead, USAF, Texas87
6Mike Ferraro86
7Sergio Oliva83½
8Jon Decola82½
9Joseph Nista80½
10Arthur Turgeon78
11Bob Gajda77½
12Charles Estes76½
13Paul Wachholz74½
14William St. John73
15Steve Sakoulos73
16Floyd DeSpirito73
17Robert Cameron72½
18Jerry Doettrell72
19Gilbert Hanson70
20George Wojnowski66½
21Steve Kotis65
22Gary Neu64½
23Anthony Tisovec64½
24Charles Kutzer62
25Henry Vega60½
26Kent Kuehn59½
27Edmund Cook59
28Dean Elery59
29Francis McFarland57½
30Dominick Duche57

1Bill Seno, Melrose Park, Ill.
2Val Vasilieff, Sicklerville, N.J.
3Sergio Oliva, Chicago, Ill.
4Mike Ferraro, Buffallo, N.Y.
John Gourgott, New Orleans, La.

All these were top men but no one was outstandingly great as has been the case in some past Mr. America events. None of these men stood out above the others so much that people could say, "here is the winner; he has it in the bag."

As the judges looked the men over and interviewed them at the gym of the Irving Park YMCA on Saturday morning, June 13th, the lighting was rather poor and, generally speaking, the boys did not look as good as was expected. That night under good lighting, however, the picture was changed and the men all looked very good.

The selection of Val Vasilieff as the Mr. America seemed a fairly popular one with the audience, as was the selection of Chicago's Bill Seno for the Most Muscular title.

Most of the men participated in the Most Muscular contest Saturday evening and this gave both the audience and the judges a chance to see the men under the lights and together. After this preview they were better able to make the selections Saturday night. Altho the men were generally selected at the prejudging Saturday morning, the judges were permitted to make changes in their ballots if they so desired until late Sunday.

In the Most Muscular contest Saturday night there were several men who were really good. Bill Seno, of course, has great muscularity and exceptional pectoral and deltoid muscles. His abdominals are exceptionally good with not only size but good definition and shape. His legs are herculean. Bill would find it easy to win the Mr. America title if he were just a little taller and with a little better proportions. Now don't ask me what I mean by this, for it is difficult to describe. Now that he has won the Most Muscular title he could probably shape up better for the Mr. America by working for a little better back and shaping up a little all over and perhaps letting his pecs shrink just a little. Of course the bench press is one of his favorite exercises and he would like to make 500 lbs. one of these days.

We would say that Sergio Oliva is one of the most muscular men we have ever seen, yet it is not his muscularity which impresses us so much as his unusual shape. His shoulders are very, very broad and tremendously muscled, and he tapers down to an unbelievably small waist. His legs are very outstanding as are his arms. One of his back poses is just unbelievable. He has a physique which is sure to win him the top titles in the world. We would suggest that he work the backs of his deltoids more, to balance them with the sides and front. This man placed third in the Most Muscular event.

With Bill Seno first and Oliva third, Val Vasilieff squeezed into second. Val is considerably improved over last year and looked very good but we were surprised to see him come into second place in this most muscular event. Mike Ferraro and John Gourgott tied for fourth place in the Most Muscular.

Ferraro looked better than ever and in spite of disappointments he still keeps right on competing. Mike has one of the must remarkable physiques to be found anywhere and his posing routine is unduplicated by anyone else. Some of his poses are his alone-his trade mark. Mike works very hard at his training, each year seeming to improve. I know that Mike, like several of the other fellows, wonders why he doesn't place higher. It is difficult for me to tell them. All I can say is that they just didn't have what the particular judges doing the job were looking for. In another contest they might place higher or win. Different judges look for different things. I've seen men who impressed me as having among the finest physiques in the country and yet they couldn't win contests. Ferraro has a very exceptional physique with a "different" type of shape than most men. We hope he will keep working and trying.

John Gourgott is another who has improved a great deal. Much of his time is spent working with the power rack and he has bulked up some and perhaps was not quite at his best due to working hard at lifting and it is just about impossible to be your best at both lifting and physique. He did exceptionally well to place so high in both events this year. He looked better than last year. I believe the final decision was to place Ferraro fourth, Gourgott fifth in the Most Muscular. No other placings were made by the judges in the Most Muscular event.

The Mr. America contest got under way Sunday night after an exciting heavyweight class lifting. All the 30 competitors marched out on the stage together. Due to the stage being a little small this was rather difficult, but it did give the audience and the judges a chance to see all the men together and they faced the front in a relaxed position then turned their sides to the audience, and then their backs.

When you see the men in this type of lineup together it is amazing how many different types of physiques you can see. It is here that the better physiques begin to show up and 6, 8 or 10 can be chosen as the top men. This was no easy task in this contest as there were so many outstanding men.

After this initial viewing the men were brought out individually and allowed to assume three poses under the lights, tho most of them usually use more than this. The lights seemed to be good and all the men looked very good on the lighted posing platform. Later the top ten men were brought out together again for comparison and thus it is reduced down to just two or three very good and outstanding men. As mentioned before, the top men this year seemed so close that it was very difficult to pick the first place man or even place the others properly. The point spread certainly doesn't give an indication of how close these men were.

The final choice was Val Vasilieff with 94 points. Val has been working hard for this title for about 7 years and has won a lot of lesser titles-about 40 I believe he said, and was third in the recent FIHC Mr. Universe. He has a very good upper body and unusually developed thighs.

John Gourgott came in second with 90 points and possesses one of the finest physiques in the country and is one of the top 198 lib. lifters in America. He has a very symmetrical development, well balanced in every respect. He has a fine abdominal formation and he shows a well knit shoulder formation from his lifting training. We would say that his chances for a title in the future are very good. We thought he might even win this year. John is studying to be an M.D. -- don't believe he is quite through yet.

Randy Watson, last year's popular Jr. Mr. America, has put on ten pounds more, but unlike many men who put on that much added bodyweight, Randy has maintained his superb definition or "cuts" as the fellows now prefer to call it. He has a terrific posing routine and looks good in every position. He has the finest shaped deltoids I have ever seen on anyone. It is impossible to find a fault with his body. We can reach only one conclusion as to why he did not win-as one judge remarked-"he is a little too short." However this has not mattered in past contests where men as short as 5'6" have won the title, and we feel that Randy has an excellent opportunity to win in the future. He has all the attributes for a great Mr. America. He is very handsome, with a dynamic, sparkling personality, is well educated and has fine character. He is a minister in the Church of Christ in Manchester, Tenn. He has a gym in the church basement where he trains some of his parishioners. There has been a rumor that Randy has taken tissue building drugs. Randy wants it known that he has never taken such drugs and has no intention of ever doing so. More about this in Roundup. Randy was third with 89 points.

Bill Seno, who had won the Most Muscular title, was fourth with 87½ points for his terrific physique. Bill, of course, has had to work for his massive physique but we are told that he is a "natural" and gains much easier than many fellows. He has a great future ahead of him. He had just graduated from college and will practice teach at Carl Sandberg college this fall. He has been training for about four and a half years, weighed about 175 when he started and has bulked up to 210 and has made 960 total in the 198 class.

Dr. Craig Whitehead came in 5th with 87 points. We expected him to place much higher and possibly win this year since he was third last year, but he did not appear to be in as good a condition as we have seen him in the past-at least he didn't look as good. We hope he will get back at this training and do better next year. He has what it takes to win this title. He gave a very good talk at the Lifters Clinic held during the meet.

Mike Ferraro was 6th with 86 points. As mentioned earlier in this article he looked outstandingly good. He has one pose in which he displays his very flexible rib box to great advantage. Several of his poses are quite "different," perhaps "too different" for the judges who seem to prefer the straight, standard poses.

Sergio Oliva in 7th place with 83½ points as mentioned earlier was very outstanding. We really expected him to place higher --much higher. He was one of the lifters with the Cuban team who "defected" while on a tour (I believe it was in Mexico) and finally escaped to this country. He is now working as a TV repairman. !He had made an 885 total in the 19!8 lb. class. He certainly has a bodybuilder's physique rather than that of a lifter. Continued training should put him at the very top but whether or not he ever wins a title, he is still one of the greatest.

John Decola who came in 8th place seemed to be a victim of very unusual circumstances. John bad beaten Vasilieff for the Jr. Mr. America title a short time previously, yet here Vasilieff was winning the Sr. Mr. America title and Decola placing way down in 8th place. Tho he had received 5 athletic points in the Juniors he received only two here, then later it was changed to three. Some suggested that because he did not use direct back poses that his back was not good. However, his back appeared exceptional to me. I also heard it mentioned that he has a bad leg but this I could not see. He did say that he had a bad back which prevented him from doing Olympic lifts but this was an admission made by many competitors, and quite legitimate. He certainly has a marvelous physique. I could see no weak points. I do believe his posing routine could be polished up a bit but then I could say this about nearly every man in the contest. Many men use poses; they should not if they are interested in winning a contest. One great fault with nearly every man is a sort of nervous bouncing in placing the feet for each pose. Master posers do not do this, but seem to flow smoothly from one pose to another with grace, ease and precision. The posing of nearly every man in this contest was a bit rough in this respect.

Joe Nista coming in 9th showed an outstanding physique. He is a bit short in stature and not as heavily built as the other top men but what marvelous definition and excellent shape and too, he has some very impressive poses. He operates a bowling alley in California, I believe. He was one of the older ones in the contest.

Arthur Turgeon has a very fine physique and has been training 12 years and gained 80 lbs. in bodyweight. At 5'9" he weighs a rugged 186.

Bob Gadja in taking 11th place, showed a nice physique with very good pecs and shoulders. His calves were exceptional and measured 17½. He is a black belt in Judo. You know, one notices a man with such fine calves, for I noticed that so many of the fellows were very deficient in this respect.

Charles Estes in nth place has a very fine physique and is quite tall, being 6'2" and weighing 217. He has a very small waist and powerful shoulders and arms. He, too, has exceptional calves, measuring 18½ inches. He played football in the Marine Corps and has done 100 yards in 10 seconds. He has bench pressed 385 and works for the Gates Rubber Company in Nashville.

Paul Wachholz of Denver did well in coming in 13th place. Paul is a great lifter in his area and excels at power lifting as well as Olympic lifting. Paul has a very responsible position in 11 bank in Denver. He is a real inspiration to all who know him. He is married, has two children, and has been working out about six years.

St. John has a nice physique and has a good athletic background. He gained 40 lbs. bodyweight since taking up barbells. Steve Sakoulos has been entering physique contests for a long time and is a likeable, rangy type fellow. perhaps the oldest in the contest at 38, he is a salesman of beauty parlor equipment.

DeSpirito looked very good this year with great muscularity and fine definition. Floyd lifted in the 165 lb. class taking third place.

Cameron, with a nice physique, weighing 206, has done 100 yards in 10:7, which is not bad at all! He attended Purdue on a football scholarship.

Doettrel, who competed last year, is a husky fellow of about 5'5" and 148 lbs. bodyweight and has made a 690 total. He has been working out about 7 years and works as a cook. Hanson is a handsome blonde fellow of 29 who has been training for four years and is a police officer in Iowa. He looked very good. Wojnowski is another blonde of about 165 lbs. bodyweight and 33 years of age. He has been training for 13 years, has six children and another on the way. He works as a marble cutter. Kotis looked good, with fine definition but needs more bulk. This is something I could say about a lot of the fellows. Steve has very good shape but needs more posing training. His abdominals. back and shoulders are exceptionally good. Gary Neu has a nice body with very broad shoulders. He trains at home, and weighing 195, has done a 380 bench press. He, too, has very good calves and works as a printer. We could sure use a good printer here at the Iron Man plant! Tisovec has fine legs but not enough definition. He has been working five years and is a refinery operator. Kutzer has nice shoulders and is about 6' tall and works as a truck mechanic. Vega has a very outstanding body for a short man and he could have placed higher. He has a lot of definition. He is 36 years of age. Kuehn is Mr. Michigan and 28 years of age and a YMCA worker. Cook has a very fine body to my way of thinking and should have placed much higher. He has a heavily developed waistline with unusual abdominals and obliques. Perhaps a little more bulk would help him. Ed works for General Tire Co and is 33 years old. Too bad we no longer have a Best Abdominals title.

Elery is on the way up and looks good. He works as an Addressograph service man. He has a nice upper body. McFarland has a very nice upper body. His legs need more work but he has a bad knee from a motorcycle accident. He has done a 350 bench press at 195 bodyweight. He looked very good on the posing platform and recently won the Mr. Hawaii title. We thought he would place much higher than he did. Duche who was a boxer in the service has very nice arms and shoulders, is 26 and rather short in stature.

Many of the boys were disappointed in their placings and I know some times these things are a bit difficult to understand. I believe the point scores do not give a true picture of some of the follows physiques and I'm afraid that judges sometimes give too little attention to careful scoring of the men below the first eight or ten men and thus do an injustice to the men lower down, for they do not use these point scores as a guide to their competitive positions. A point spread of from 94 to 57 is just too big a spread between competitors in a Mr America contest. We hope these boys will not become discouraged. A title is not worth as much as the health, vitality and fine physique which is theirs--titles or positions in contests are just by-products.

Very nice trophies were given to the place men and the big meet was over for another year and the question comes to mind-who will win next year?

Judges were: Morris Weissbrot, Bob Blundell, Steve Stanko, Joe Joseph (Joe did not arrive and Dave Mayor substituted), Jack King, Peary Rader and Joseph Paul


- Sergio Oliva on the left, has one of the finest physiques in America and was third in the Most Muscular contest which Bill Seno of Chicago won. Bill is in the center, and second place man, Val Vasilieff, is on the right.

- In the Mr. America contest John Gourgott with a much improved physique was 2nd, while Vasilief in the center was first and Randy Watson, who had also made a great deal of improvement, was third.

- Sergio Oliva has some most exceptional poses which show his physique to great advantage.

- Vasilieff accepting the congratulations of his training partner (also a contestant), Bill St. John.

- Gourgott, 2nd; Vasilieff 1st; Watson 3rd and Dr. Craig Whitehead 5th.

Sergio Oliva's name was spelled Olivia throughout the article

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