Thorbecke's cartooned gorilla.

 .. .Notes. in. .the Gym...
 ..the Bio-Graphy ...

Thorbecke's Lightning bolt

By Andrew DiCiaccio Jr.

Arizona is rich in history of the old west. Thoughts of cowboys, Indians and Wyatt Earp at the OK corral quickly come to mind, but there is another subject with a long rich history in that state. A history full of stories, events and characters as interesting as any old west tale. That history is in powerlifting. For over 35 years Thorbecke's Gym has produced some of the most successful powerlifters and strength athletes the state has come to know.

It all started at Lucy May Thorbecke's house in North Phoenix, Arizona. Living there was her grandson, Brick Darrow. Brick became interested in powerlifting after he saw an event held at J & J Gym, owned by John Kanter and Joe Petrucci. These were the first powerlifting events held around Phoenix at the time. With the help of his friend's, Brick, would sneak weights up to his room to workout. Other friends would come by and before long his room was full of weightlifters crowded in his room sitting on his bed waiting their turn at the weights.

Young Brick's bed was starting to sag under the weight of these giants and he was forced to move it out doors. The group got together and made a 12' x 20' carport on the side of the house. Brick and his friends poured the concrete floor, put up walls and built a roof (which always leaked), and the original Thorbecke's Gym was born on January 21, 1967. At this time little did they know this enclosure was soon to be home to some the strongest athletes in Arizona. The original members were Brick Darrow, Mike Matousek, Bob Martens, Jim Martens, Val Blask, Bob Calvan and Wayne Coleman. The gym was very active as more people became members and soon the roster had an impressive roll call with ten members bench pressing 500 lbs or more, members to achieve this level were Brick Darrow, Jon Cole, Marvin Allen, Rand Collett, Wayne Coleman, Dave Keaggy, Mike Matousek, John Kanter, John Hawbaker, and Rich Leek. Also they could boast that 9 of them could squat 700 + and 6 who went over the 800 lb barrier.

Lucy would become a caretaker to the little home gym, watering down the concrete floor and turning on the air conditioning on those hot Arizona days when the gang showed up. She had plenty of cold water waiting and when the gym was not in use, did the cleaning and straightening, which quickly ended when a 100 lb. plate fell on her foot. These were all her boys in a sense and they showed appreciation by helping her out when she needed it. One was a painter and painted her house, another put in the air conditioning. Granny always had a house full of people and was never alone. Her doors where never locked and all were welcome. As this group of weightlifters started to enter competitions, the trophies they won were given to Granny, who displayed them proudly in her house.

 Some of the members achievements are as follows:

Brick Darrow
Brick Darrow incline bench pressed a world record of 450 lbs. at a 220 bodyweight and also bench pressed 515 lbs. weighing 242. In 1968 Brick entered the Golden Gloves boxing tournament after a dare from the other guys and also to impress the girl he was engaged to, he won but when the couple broke up he lost not only his ring but the Golden Gloves trophy too.

Star and Brick.  

Wayne Coleman,
Wayne Coleman, who became Superstar Billy Graham the world champion wrestler for the W.W.W.F., became Teenage Mr. America, Best Arms at the 1975 Mr. America contest, competed in the 1980 World's Strongest Man contest and had a 585lb official bench press.
Superstar Billy Graham flexing right arm. Star and Arnold. Star, Brick and Steve Cepello.

Bob Calvan

Bob Calvan was 9th in the world in 1969 with a 410lb bench at 198. He went on to win many arm wrestling titles and later coached powerlifting teams and became an international powerlifting referee. Jack Barnes squatted a world record 710 lbs at 181in 1972. After winning the World's Championships he went on to set many Master's records.

Jon Cole
Jon Cole became a legend in the strength world and his achievements are well known being a world record class powerlifter, Olympic lifter and discus thrower.                        
Signed photo by Mike Civalier with Jon Cole. Jon Cole squat. Brick, Jon Cole and others by trophy after a Meet.
Bruce Wilhelm
Bruce Wilhelm was an Olympic bronze medalist in 1976 and won the first two World's Strongest Man contests.
Brick, Ron and Bruce Wilhelm posing in Granny's yard.Bruce and the company in front of Granny's.Bruce Wilhelm in a from the floor clean in a step before final stance!

Fred Millan
Fred Millan was the Arizona State Champion 7 times held many state marks and lifted in 58 consecutive meets without a bomb.

Ron Pritchard
Ron Pritchard was an all American and pro football star for the Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers and Cincinnati Bengals.

Dave Draper
Dave Draper, "...I met Brick back in 1980 when he was involved with Wayne Coleman, A.K.A. Billy Graham, Super Star, in the presentation of a impressive power lifting championship in Phoenix. I was invited to participate in the judging and overall presentation. I kicked around with him and his gang at Thorbecke's Gym for the days surrounding the event and we got to know each other as athletes do in their environment and amid the energetic atmosphere of competition. I recall Thorbecke's Gym to be one of no frill and much spirit. If you arrived at the workplace at the right time, it was alive with buddies (girlfriends included) supporting one another as they lifted heavy weight and shared in their lives. We've got to hang onto these less-than-glitzy neighborhood shops we're honest hard work is honored and muscle and might is built, rather than the game and act of physical fitness is played, poorly. The chains and 20,000 sq. ft. showplaces remind me of -- I'm not sure -- casinos or shopping malls or downtown twelve-screen theaters. Win n' lose, buy n' sell, entertain me.

Several years later ('83 and '84) Brick offered me a place to stay when I was recovering from CHF -- congestive heart failure. For three months I resided at his grandmother's house in the extensive Phoenix area, put in some mild work hours at the gym and slowly re-righted my life. Our growing relationship with Jesus Christ became the common bond in our renewed friendship. Today, though 20-years have past without a lot of communication, we are still pushing the iron and praising God. Those friendships established under crunch, excitement and need live forever.
God's Speed... ." Dave Draper

Dave with Brick. Dave working out at Thorbecke's Gym. Dave giving seminar at Thorbecke's Gym.
You can visit Dave Draper's Website

Sadly, Lucy May Thorbecke passed away on May 21, 1996 at the age of 103. During the time of 1965 to 1971, Brick worked as a bouncer and bartender at JD's, a well know club in the southwest, to support himself because at the time the dues were only $5.00 a month. This is where he met and befriended Jon Cole, who became one of the biggest names in the strength world. Jon spent his time training at Thorbecke's and at ASU, where he worked. Mr. Cole went on to set many records in powerlifting and later opened his own gym in the late 70's. At about 1979, Brick wanted to leave JD's and on the suggestion of his friend, Duke Eldridge, he got into the gym business full-time. He moved Thorbecke's Gym to a place in Scottsdale AZ, and the 40 members grew to over 250. The gym was at it's peak at this time with names like Dave Draper and Bruce Wilhelm added to his already impressive list. Brick and Bob Calvan were now coaching the Thorbecke's team to many teen and senior national and state titles. Members such as Dave Pasinella, Wes Phillips and Harold Escorbedo and others were able to travel from money raised from car washes, and win meets around the country. Thorbecke's Gym remained here until 1984 when rising rent costs forced Brick to move the gym to it's present location in Tempe.   
Several teens at Meet.
Dave Pacinela at a met.         
Squatting at Thorbecke's Gym.
The gym had maintained it's winning ways at it's new home. With names like Mike Wyneti winning in the Masters and George Soto's 825lb squat (photo in center immediately below) standing out among others. Brick continues to use his vast wealth of knowledge to train and help those who still compete at the gym, and also tell a great story or two from the old days, and Thorbecke's has their own line of supplements and protein powders that are made with the powerlifter in mind. Training consultations and supplements can be obtained by calling 480-966-6621.
Fallen ThorBrother Mike Morris deadlifting at a Meet. George Soto, squatting 825lbs. John Shultz squatting at the Gym.
A lot has changed in the powerlifting world over the years that Thorbecke's has been in existence, many clubs have come and gone and now the scene is full of new organizations and many different types of classes to compete in. There has been one constant , that is Thorbecke's continues to put out great strength athletes.
Berserker picnic. Fallen ThorBrother Mike Cepello flexing. Members behind trophies won after a Meet.
When one enters Thorbecke's today, they will find it to be a virtual "Field of Dreams" of the strength world. The walls are lined with pictures of the greats from a time that has gone bye. A day when lifting suits did not exist and everyone competed in the same organization with one set of rules. A simpler time of true raw power that is exemplified in the stacks of iron plates and hardcore equipment that litter the gym. You can look around and know these are the weights that some of the strongest athletes in the world have trained with and still picture legends such as Jon Cole, Bruce Wilhelm, Jack Barnes, Dave Draper and Superstar Billy Graham, tossing them around. Brick once jokingly described Thorbecke's to me as "A time warp back to the 70's and that if you stay in here you wouldn't grow old."

Thorbecke's Gym activity from the Scottsdale gym days. The Berserkers and their picnic table in the lake serving flexing Thor Brothers! Thorbecke's with the traditional walking away with the trophy's photograph.

ThorBrothers  posing at Berserkers Lake Pleasant.

Well that may not be true but Thorbecke's Gym is a treasure in powerlifting history that is locked away out there in the Arizona desert. So if your looking for a way to get back to training in an honest uncomplicated atmosphere, Thorbecke's may be your place.

Two young Thor brothers flexing in the gym.Great Meet, Thorbecke's history of Victory and Passion!Brick and Star flexing wearing Thorbecke's t-shirts.

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