If you grew up in or around Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and were involved in powerlifting, then you’ve probably heard the name Doug Ricafrente. From the mid 70’s, until as recent as this past March, if there was a powerlifting meet , there was a good chance you would see him . If you were struggling with form or technique issues, there was a good chance he would give you some helpful advice.
I first met Doug sometime between 1978 and 1980. He was helping my dad to get involved in powerlifting. They were lifting at the Charleston Barbell club, which at the time, was somewhere on the Naval Weapons Station. My dad would take me with him. I wasn’t even 10 years old yet, but there are two things that I remember clearly: one, that there were train tracks close to where they were lifting, and I liked to throw the rocks that were laying around the tracks; and two, that unmistakable sound of steel plates banging off one another as they were lifting.
My first three competitions were just as a bencher, and still a teenager. Doug helped me at all three. Before I left for the military, I was able to lift with him at the barbell club which by then, had moved to Dorchester Road. This was a guy that was a larger-than-life figure to me as a kid, and now at 19 years old, I’m benching on the same bench as him, and no doubt getting the same coaching as my dad did years before. He has been a major influence in my lifting from the very beginning. I moved back to Charleston in the late 90’s, and because of the influence of Jon Mouzon, I found myself once again, training for competition. Soon after, I was training with Doug at the Power Pit in Moncks Corner. For one night a week, in a small, hot, concrete block building, I had some of the best times in all of my lifting days. On any given Monday night, you could find up to 10 guys on one bench. Everyone spotted, everyone loaded, and we were all there for one reason. To lift maximal weight! Doug was always there!
Doug is dying of cancer. If you’ve never seen anyone in that condition, I don’t know that there is anything you could do to prepare yourself for it. It truly is a heart breaking experience. I was able to see him a few nights ago, and reminisce about old days of lifting. In 1992 he flew to England, and returned a masters world champion. He squatted over 730 pounds. He just competed at the battle this past March. Today, he can barely stand.
Before I left, he stood up and gave me a hug. He told me he enjoyed watching me grow up, and to stay involved with the sport. I don’t believe in random. We move in and out of each other’s lives, and whether realizing it or not, we leave an impression. For me, Doug helped open a door to a lifestyle of pursuing strength. A lifestyle that in so many aspects of my life, always has served me well. I’m proud to say I know him, and so very fortunate to have been able to lift with and compete alongside of him.