The University Of Louisiana's National Championship Weightlifting Teams

The University Of Louisiana's National Championship Weightlifting Teams

A Companion Book to the Documentary The Ragin' 13

image: weightlifter

The University Of Louisiana's National Championship Weightlifting Teams

The University Of Louisiana's National Championship Weightlifting Teams

A Companion Book to the Documentary The Ragin' 13

University of Louisiana’s National Championship Weightlifting Teams

by Warren A. Perrin, Attorney at Law

Part Three: The Culture of Winning

Chapter 2 – The Early 1960s

I compiled a list of the venues that hosted weightlifting meets in the 1960s where USL won championships: the Lafayette Recreational and Parks Center on Mudd Avenue, Lafayette, Louisiana, (Novice and Southern AAU); Angelle Hall on UL campus, Lafayette, Louisiana (Southern USA Collegiate and Collegiate Nationals); the YMCA on Lee Circle, New Orleans, Louisiana, (Louisiana State Novice, Southern AAU, Senior SAAU, Louisiana State Championships and Christmas Invitational); NOAC, New Orleans, Louisiana, (Christmas Invitational, SAAU Championships); University of Texas gymnasium, Austin, Texas (Southwest Invitational Open); Shreveport YMCA, Shreveport, Louisiana (North Louisiana Championships); University of Maryland (National Collegiate); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Teenage Nationals); Jesse Jones High School Gym, Houston, Texas (Gulf Area AAU Open); Houston YMCA, Houston, Texas (Southwest USA Invitational) and Little Rock YMCA, Little Rock, Arkansas (Ozark AAU Open Championships).

On February 12, 2020, I received this email from Mike discussing how he and my brother Terry began working out together in the early 1960s:

Warren, I recall meeting Terry in front of the UL Library in 1960. Both of us had shaved heads and red “S” beanies because the university was still named SLI until the fall. We were both in summer school and I spotted Terry and he looked very familiar to me. I asked him if he was the same Terry I had briefly known from Mike’s Gym. After he confirmed who he was and that we had indeed seen each at the gym, we started working out together. Walter had graduated by then.


Mike Thompson recalls an incident where Bob Samuels, coach of the NOAC weightlifting team, kept USL from winning a contest by keeping them out of a meet with a technical ruling:

I still remember Bob Samuels, who was a jerk. He would not weigh us in and allow us to compete in a meet because Whitey Urban’s secretary had mailed our entries a little late and they arrived just after Bob’s ridiculously self-imposed deadline. Terry Perrin, Rollie Andre and I were incensed and let him know it. Rather than drive back to Lafayette from New Orleans, we stayed for the meet and drank beer. We cheered Bob’s competition and laughed when Samuels and his guys missed a lift. They won the meet Samuels’ way. He was an egotist.


My older brother Terry Perrin was a member of the 1963 National Collegiate Championship Weightlifting Team. The team had a desire to attend the meet at the University of Michigan, but there were no funds available. To their aid came the chain-smoking Athletic Director “Whitey” Urban. He contacted local businessman who donated the funds to purchase airline tickets for the team: Gene Hebert, Dick Fleming, James Courville, Rollie Andre (team captain for two years) and Perrin.

I asked Rollie Andre to share with me his best memory of being on the USL weightlifting team and he sent this to me:

Warren, I won the Junior Nationals in 1961 when it was held in Lafayette. I won the 165-pound class with a 245-pound press, a 225-pound snatch and a 290-pound clean and jerk for a 755-pound total. I won the meet’s Best Lifter award. Interesting side note, my protege Alvin Chustz, who was still in high school, was in the audience. He went on to become my fiercest competitor until he finally moved up to a higher weight class.


One of the best lifters from 1963 to 1966 was Alvin Chustz of New Roads, Louisiana, a real hotbed of lifters. During his career he dominated the 181-pound class. As a freshman in 1963 he lifted in the 165-pound class at the nationals and placed second by a quarter of a pound to teammate Rollie Andre, also from New Roads. He went on to win another second place and two third places at the nationals in the 181-pound class. Chustz also won four state titles and numerous regional titles, never placing lower than first in any of these competitions. More often than not he was also named Best Lifter in these weightlifting meets. His lifts often exceeded those of lifters in the heavier weight classes.

In 1941, Gene Hebert was born in Nederland, Texas. When he was nine years old, his family made a move to Abbeville, Louisiana. In countless ways, this nine-year-old now found himself in a much different place that would shape the trajectory of his life. At an early age, Gene was drawn to music, and that interest would be his longtime love. Weightlifting, a far cry from the world of music, was not on his radar during his early high school years. It wasn’t until his friend, Joseph “Spanky” Broussard Jr., encouraged him to come along to the local Woodmen of the World Gym where he would introduce him to lifting weights. Gene weighed only 110 pounds, but Spanky must have seen some potential. On that visit to the gym, Spanky proceeded to put 140 pounds on the bar cleaned the weight, struggled a bit, but pressed the weight. He weighed approximately 175 pounds. Now it was Gene’s turn. He cleaned and pressed the weight with very little effort. Mike Stansbury took notice immediately of this little boy who had just pressed 30 pounds above his body weight and said, “If you work with me, I will make you a national champion.” That meeting began a friendship that would last for more than 50 years.

Gene trained with Stansbury and won the Louisiana Novice Weightlifting Championship twice. He competed in the Jr. Nationals and meets in and around the state, winning almost every one. The workouts continued throughout high school, and he put on a muscular 20 pounds. Mike also led him to gymnastics and the art of hand-balancing which was partly responsible for his increased strength. In 1959, Gene enrolled in SLI. While at SLI, the first organized gymnastics team was begun, and he joined. The team was coached by Jeff Hennessy, another influential person in Gene’s life, who went on to become the first U.S. Olympic Trampoline Coach.

Gene Hebert continued to train, work with the gymnastics team and practice hand balancing with Mike, Red Lerille and many others who worked out at Mike’s Gym. Many of the young men at Mike’s Gym would ultimately end up being a part of the national championship teams for the university in the 1960s. During this time, a group of guys from Mike’s Gym who had been competing in weightlifting approached him and asked if he would consider working out with them because they needed a 123-pounder (bantamweight) on their team. He agreed and showed excellent progress. In 1962, the team won almost all of their meets, and Gene was able to win every meet. In 1963, they won the National Collegiate Championship, beating multiple Big Ten Conference schools and other top schools. Gene again won his class. Hebert said that on the flight back, all of the passengers on the plane were impressed with the big trophy that they took turns holding. Strangers bought drinks for the lifters; a party broke out. In 1964, at the University of Maryland the team placed second, but he again won the bantamweight division. Their return each year to Lafayette from the national competition was always welcomed by an enthusiastic group of band students playing the school’s fight song.

In 1964, Gene graduated and returned to complete his Master of Music Education in 1967. He became a successful band director. The university honored him in 2005 by naming him to the UL Athletics Hall of Fame. Looking back, he remembers fondly when Mike Stansbury, in that small Abbeville
gym, said, “I’m going to make you a national champion.” He did it twice.

Shown here is a very fact-intensive and interesting article about how popular the weightlifting team was in the early 1960s. It was published in 1963 and was reporting on the team winning the National Collegiate Weightlifting Championship at Michigan State University. It was probably written by Bob Henderson, who was then the Sports Information Director for the university. Clearly, it was written by someone who had a lot of knowledge about the history of the team because the author references that Gaynor Burleigh broke Walter Imahara’s record in the press which was set in 1960. Note that
the lifters were referred to as the Dixie Dandies. The article also recounts that the USL bowling team captured a National Collegiate Championship in Kansas City, thereby making 1963 the “finest sports year in USL history.”

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In an email to me dated February 15, George Weatherford provided a few more details about the raucous flight back to Lafayette after winning the 1963 National Championship:

Warren, Rollie told me an interesting story of your brother Terry on the flight back from East Landing, Michigan to compete in 1963 at Michigan State University. He said Terry had tied his seatbelt in a knot because it would not work properly. When they landed, he could not get it untied so he couldn’t get out of his seat. He became frantic in his efforts to exit the plane because he wanted to be with his teammates as they appeared triumphantly before the USL Marching Band and the cheering crowd. Also, during the flight to Lafayette the crew wanted to throw them off of the plane for being drunk and dancing in the isles with the stewardesses!


As requested, Rollie Andre sent to me additional facts concerning the somewhat overly celebratory flight from Michigan to Louisiana:

Warren, as I recall, the flight crew was very happy to announce that the newly crowned national champion team was on board. The stewardesses introduced us to a round of cheers. I am not certain how the celebration started however, there was champagne flowing freely. It is true that Terry was dancing in the aisle with a stewardess. Somewhere over the Midwest things got out-of-hand and we fell into disfavor with the crew and several passengers. We were told they would not honor our connection in New Orleans to Lafayette. After contacting Coach Urban he said to charter a flight to Lafayette since the school band, cheerleaders and a large crowd of students would be at the airport to greet us. We had to charter two small planes because of luggage, trophies and the athletes. It was determined that Gene Hebert would fly with the luggage and trophies and the rest of us would fly in the other plane. Needless to say, we were greeted with enthusiasm and Coach Urban was very happy! We never mentioned the fiasco on the flight, and no one asked.


In 1995, Bill LeBlanc and Gaynor Burleigh were jointly inducted into the UL Athletics Hall of Fame. In 1962, Burleigh, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, captured the national intercollegiate weightlifting championship in the 132-pound class in East Lansing, Michigan, and also served as the team co-captain. That same year, he set a national record in the press. From 1960-1963, he won every meet he entered. In 1963, he was named the Outstanding Lifter in the Louisiana State AAU Championships, setting state records in all three lifts.

In 1962, Terry Perrin won the North Texas State Weightlifting Championship with a combined total of 740 pounds. He is shown completing a 275-pound clean and jerk.