Legends: Dave Pasanella
REMEMBERING DAVE PASANELLABy Steve Colescott
More than any other sport, powerlifting is a progression. The champions of today build upon the records of the superstars of the past. While the records and total gradually increase each year, there are athletes that make huge leaps forward, dragging the sport forward as they do so. Dave Pasanella was one of those legendary lifters.Pasanella is ranked thirteenth in the 275-pound class of the all-time best totals (GoMetal Rankings 04-08-07) with 2458.2 pounds (on 5/28/89 at the APF/WPC meet in Rosemont, IL). He is also ranked eighteenth in the all-time best deadlifts in the 275-pound class for his 854.3 pull and fourteenth for his1030.7 pound squat in the 275-pound class at that same meet. He would have achieved much more, had he not died unexpectedly in a tragic 1990 car accident. A testament to his ability is that his lifts would have won him trophies in heavier weight classes and many of his records stood for over a decade after his passing.
L.B. Baker posted the following on Fortified Iron (2/2/05):“In the summer of 1988 I was benching and Jim Schultz and Dave Pasanella were squatting. It was just after noon and only a few people were in Coffee’s Gym. Dave warmed up adding 100’s like some of us add 45’s with only Jim back spotting him. He did 1035 with Jim back spotting and went to 1125. At that point he asked if I would take a side. I though we might need some one else so I asked Colleen Colley to take a side and Jim was in the back. He took the weight off the walk out rack and set up with the wide stance, did 3 reps and put the weight back by himself. We helped him steady it but he handled the weight. Dave was not a real deep squatter and these were border line to maybe 1″ high. I spotted him one night with a loose denim shirt with 605. It was a pull over Frantz shirt. Shortly before his death I saw him hit 850 for 5 reps in the deadlift wearing gym shorts. He wore a loose Inzer squat suit in the squat. Most of his training was done without equipment. He was 28.
He could have done amazing things if he wasn’t killed in a car crash…”In addition to the numerous powerlifters that he inspired, Dave Pasanella worked for Georgia Tech as the Director of Player Development (after being a football letterman there in ’83 and ’84). The recently remodeled Hugh Spruill Strength Center has a tribute to him. At the twentieth anniversary of his death, we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dave Pasanella and are reminded that we need to cherish every moment so that we may find our way to live on, in our own way, through teaching, supporting and inspiring others.
“If I remember it right, it was a Tuesday morning when I got the call from Dave Pasanella. He was about to begin his training to set a new squat record in the 275-pound class at Gus Rethwisch’s Hawaiian Classic Invitational and Dave was tired of messing around with the barbells that were available at the time.
Dave was calling to ask if I could design and build for him a special bar that would handle in excess of 1,000 pounds without flexing or whipping. As Dave was a very big guy, and since it was not exactly easy to wedge himself into a normal-sized barbell, at the top of his wish list for this new bar was an increase in the width between the collars.
Immediately I remembered a special steel used for bulldozer drive shafts from my days working for my dad’s excavating business, and thought that it would be a perfect material for this new barbell. The “dead” feeling of the bar due to this special steel, was and is an extremely important feature when working with limit weights in the squat which, of course, Dave would be handling.
The blueprint that I eventually drew up had an increased bar diameter of 1-1/4 inches, an additional six inches inside the collars, and longer sleeves to accommodate more weight.
Having witnessed Lee Moran’s catastrophic squat attempt at 1,003 pounds where one outside collar blew off, weight plates slid all over the place, and the whole mess scattered around the Senior National’s platform, it was clear a positive collar-locking mechanism was needed.
Taking my design to Bob Johnson in the R & D shop of Universal Gym, we built the first Pasanella Bar prototype. The sleeves had a series of 7/16-inch-diameter holes running along the linear axis, one inch apart. The collar itself had a knurled spinner to tighten against the plates, with a heavy spring-loaded plunger that dropped into the holes and locked everything into place.
Dave was pleased with the results and this system worked very well. Dave took the bar with him to Hawaii. in fact, I made him a carrying case out of PVC pipe and he took the bar on the plane with him as checked luggage!
At the meet, Dave squatted 1,032 pounds, at 275 pounds body weight, in front of three international judges. As the bar was thicker, longer, and heavier than all the other power bars in the world, some lifters cried foul but Dave graciously allowed that anyone who wanted to could use the bar. Gus sanctioned it for his meet, and a sample bar was sent to England with the recommendation that it be sanctioned by the International Powerlifting Federation. Ultimately the bar, which became known as the Pasanella Bar, was approved by the IPF for the 242-pound, 275-pound, 305-pound, and unlimited classes.
Unfortunately, Dave was killed in a car accident just off campus in Atlanta a short while later. Dave was a great guy, a terrific friend, and totally world-class in every way. His work at GT was carried on by his assistant Jim Lathrop, a top-notch guy in his own right.” –Jim Sutherland