1997 Brother Bennett Award Recipient
Through the ADFPA and USAPL’s history, there have been a few cities that responsible for sustaining the organization with the meets, both local level and National level, that have been held there. These locations, through the hard work of a few meet directors and their armies of help, have made indelible marks in the world of powerlifting. St. Louis, thanks to the work of Dr. Mike Cissell, is one of the hallowed grounds of the ADFPA that still exist.
Mike and I have loaded trailers on late, cold dark evenings after meets. We have sweat during the most humid St. Louis summers. In the earlier years we drank more than two people probably should have. I have probably even stayed in as many hotels with this guy, as I have my own wife. Not only have we had some of the best laughs, but we have unfortunately even attended a few funerals together. As someone who has worked closely with Mike through the years, I’m honored to have a chance to pay tribute after the fact, to his 1997 Brother Bennett award.
In 1986, just by chance, an entry for the Ozark Championships found it’s way to my hands. It was there that I first met Dr. Mike. As a 16 year old kid, I thought “Who is this meticulous, Ward Cleaver looking guy with a beard, who with his tunnel vision, is hell bent on keeping the meet rolling smoothly?” Little did I know, and not until much later, that by lifting in that meet, it would be a life changing decision. Dr. Mike was a huge benefactor in my life, but more on that later.
Mike began as a lifter in the late 1970’s and continued on into the early 80’s. Around that time he got involved in running some meets after seeing that it could probably be done a little better. By 1985 he and John Petroff were doing well enough that they landed the bid for the USPF Womens Teenage Nationals and the USPF Mens Teenage Nationals the next year. By 1986 the ADFPA had really begun to spread it’s wings and Mike could see the writing on the wall, that drug tested powerlifting, even if not foolproof, was plain and simple just a better alternative. That same year a Missouri State meet was held and Mike agreed to step in as the State Chairman. As they say, the rest is history.
Over a period of 17 years, from 1985 until he stepped down in 2003, thanks to the work of Mike Cissell and his family, which included his wife Sue, daughter Dawn and son Steve, St. Louis played host to 24 National Championships. With the exception of the Police and Fire Nationals, every National meet at one point or another came through the Gateway City. A very impressive feat paralleled only by Mike’s close friend Dennis Brady in Chicago. Mike and Dennis had a mutual level of respect for one another, and each of the two always made it a point to cross the Land of Lincoln to attend the other’s meet. As a meet director and also a person, I could only wish to have this type of balance and sustained efforts in my own life.
In 1997 at Dennis Brady’s Mens Nationals in Chicago, Dr. Mike was awarded the Brother Bennett award. I was very proud that Mike was finally honored with such a prestigious honor. As quiet and low key as his approach has been, I wondered if it was something that would ever come to pass. When it did, the group of guys who traveled from St. Louis for the sole purpose to spot and load, couldn’t have been more happy for him.
By the end of the decade, the 1999 Mens National Championships were awarded to Dr. Mike and St. Louis for the 4th time since 1988. With the age of the Internet upon us, the idea was hatched to post a web site for the contest. As I mentioned before Mike played a big part in who and where I am today. As a single, 20-something computer operator working nights at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who sleeplessly lived and breathed for the meets, Mike made a proposal: You build it, and I’ll pay for it.
Looking back, I should probably humbly apologize to each and everyone who had to endure looking at this crude 1998 excuse for a web site. As a struggling and still learning web developer, it did what it needed to do, and even had biography pages for each returning National Champion. It was with this limited experience and the opportunity that Mike provided, that I was able to fill a web developer position at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in late 1999. As a result of Mike’s helping hand, it enabled me to make a huge career switch that my family and I are thankful for each day. So please, when you see the brown wrapped car commercials for Enterprise, think not just about the commercial, but let it also be a reminder of Dr. Mike and his generosity, and how he has played a very big part in the lives of many. Mike, Brother Bennett would be proud of you and your body of work.
As someone who knew Brother Bennett having had the opportunity to sit down with him on a few occasions, and someone who practically grew up around Dr. Mike, I am honored to be able to write this tribute that centers around two quality people that have had an impact on so many.
By: Rick Fowler