Andy Retucci has seen the needle and the damage it’s done to the sport he loves.
That’s why when Retucci decided to be a competitor in the World Natural Powerlifitng Federation, he selected it because it’s a nonsteroid organization that requires drug testing for its placewinners.
“Steroids are scary,” said Retucci, who is a senior accountant in charge of production at the Meyersdale plant for Bayer Corp. “I’ve seen young kids use them to get big, and it’s not going to last. The only way to retain true strength is to do it without steroids.”
The 54-year-old Retucci, a Houston resident, won the state, national and world powerlifting titles in his age division, 50-54, last year in the WNPF.
And he did so after taking a nearly two-decade break from a full competition schedule.
“I missed it,” said Retucci. “Now, I think I will keep going until I can’t walk. I just can’t get away from it.”
So much so that his vacation trips must include a nearby gym.
Retucci, whose arms are as thick as most individual’s thighs, won the multiple-repetition part of the event by bench pressing 241 pounds 31 times. He won the single-lift contest with a weight of 460 pounds.
Retucci began lifting at age 14 with one of his high school friends, Jeff Connors, who is the son of former Beth-Center and Ringgold football coach Bill Connors, and Mike Perozzi. They used the back porch of Perozzi’s home to store and use their weights.
From the beginning, Retucci made a decision not to use steroids, which were easily available and especially widespread in the lifting world.
“We used to work out in a gym in Vestaburg,” he said. “I saw people shoot things in their (behinds). A friend of mine had a (behind) that looked like a pin cushion. It turned his skin this yellow color. Later on, I heard he had a heart attack.”
Retucci’s weightlifting helped him become a stronger athlete, which is why he began in the first place. He played linebacker on the football team at Beth-Center and wrestled at 167 pounds.
“I was a decent wrestler,” he said. “I was a guard and linebacker on the football team. Our ’75 team was the only WPIAL champions in the school’s history.”
Retucci lifted well into his 20s and competed with varying degrees of success but stopped when his schedule got to be too burdensome. Much of his time was taken up working on his degree at California University, which he finished in 1992.
“I got out of competitive lifting but continued to train five days a week,” said Retucci, who works out at Alexander’s Athletic Club in Canonsburg. “I rarely miss a workout now, even if my scheduled workout falls on a holiday.”
He decided to compete again when he turned 40 and chose the World Natural Powerlifting Federation because he wanted to be sure everyone was on the same level as him: free of any enhancements.
In 2010, Retucci entered the Pennsylvania State Tournament and took first place in the bench for reps and bench for weight divisions. He set the state record in the 50-54 age division by lifting 220 pounds 29 times.
The WNPF is different from some weightlifting competitions in that a competitor chooses a weight class that corresponds to that lifter’s weight. For example: If a lifter’s weight falls into the 220 class, he must do his reps at 220 pounds.
The bench for weight competition has no limitation. It’s as much as you can lift in one try.
“I’m older now,” Retucci said. “But I’m not that much weaker.”
He entered the national tournament, which was held in July, and set a record for his division with 31 reps at 242 pounds and a 460-pound single effort.
In November, Retucci took first place in the world competition, which included lifters from 16 countries, and won both divisions.
You have to be strong to compete in the world tournament because the trophies are about two-foot tall and weigh about 50 pounds.
Retucci plans to compete in this year’s national tournament but will skip the worlds, set for Brazil in the fall.
“When I qualified for nationals and the worlds, I got tested,” said Retucci. “I like competing on an even plane. I never did steroids in my life. I’ll be 55 this year, and I don’t have any health problems. I plan to keep on going as long as I can.”