A renowned professional wrestler, Mark Henry exudes a persona of a hard-hearted and brawny man that terror-struck his opponents inside the area. Yet before he blazed the wrestling stage and won many championships and titles, he first cemented his presence in powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and other strongman competitions and broke many records. In this article, let’s discover how he started in early life, his journey, and how he never looked back from being arguably the strongest man to walk on the planet.
Born on June 12, 1971, Mark Henry grew up in Silsbee, Texas. He has always been a fan of wrestling, idolizing Andre The Giant, a renowned French professional wrestler at that time. Henry grew up as a tall, robust, well-built teenager, which was of no surprise as he came from a family whose men stood pretty larger than average.
He started his powerlifting journey in Silsbee High School and became a three-time Texas State High School Powerlifting Championships from 1988 to 1990. With such a remarkable feat, he was dubbed by Los Angeles Times as the “world’s strongest teenager” and soon was featured in the headlines after winning the National High School Powerlifting in 1990 and making national records in different categories, namely, deadlift at 815 lb, square at 823 lb, bench press at 525 lb, and a powerlifting total of 2,033 lb.
During the same event, the University of Texas at Austin’s Kinesiology and a former weightlifter himself saw Henry’s prowess and invited him to go to Austin, and learn Olympic weightlifting. While Henry clearly has the strength, the sport of Olympic weightlifting was far more intricate, which involves technique, timing, flexibility, agility. With such, there are only a limited number of history, who both excelled in both sports.
In a breeze, Henry grasped Olympic-style weightlifting, a coup other individuals usually take several years to accomplish. In only a few months, he was back in quashing records. In 1991, he won in the United States National Junior Championships, ranked no. 4 in the U.S. Senior National Championships, and placed no. 6 at the Junior World Weightlifting Championships, with only a few weeks or months interval. In the same year, Henry also became International Junior Champion in Powerlifting. During his freshman year in competitive weightlifting, break 12 American records in the junior category and overtook Mario Martinez, to become the country’s leading Super Heavyweight.
About a year before the 1992 Summer Olympic, Henry started training with a former Olympics medalist, Dragomir Cioroslan, who acknowledged his sheer talent. He managed to qualify in the competition and ranked tenth in the Super Heavyweight Division. Afterward, Henry’s passion for weightlifting grew even more, and joined many major competitions.
In the latter part of 1992, Henry emerged victorious in the USA Weightlifting American Open, 1993 and 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival Championships, and grabbed gold, silver, bronze medals at the 1995 Pan American Games, further establishing supremacy in the country.
Despite many accolades, Henry was ceaseless and joined the ADFPA U.S. National Powerlifting Championships in 1995, and made another statement not only in the U.S. but to the world by registering a powerlifting total of 2,314.8 lb. That achievement also came without the utilization of supportive equipment compared to other competitors, such as Brad Gillingham, and Mark Philippi, which also made amazing records on their own rights. In the event, Henry was able to set new world records, such as in the raw deadlift at 903.9 lb, and squat sans the squat suit at 948.0 lb, and the given powerlifting total.
Still, in 1995, Henry was seen in the Powerlifting World Championships and again bagged the victory, shattering world records again, recording a squat at 953.5 lb and his best all-time powerlifting total at 2,336.9 lb.
Jumping to 1996, Henry was declared as the NACAC (North America, Central America, Caribbean Islands) champion, and was chosen to represent the country in the 1996 Summer Olympics. He also made a record in snatch, and clean-and-jerk, getting a total of 1,944.1 lb and making him a Senior US American record holder from 1993 to 1997. Many experts deemed that the said powerlifting total of the said category was the highest ever recorded by a lifter who was never aided by anabolic steroids in his entire lifetime.
At the age of 24, Mark Henry is considered to be the strongest man on the planet, as his five lift total remained as the best in history by a significant amount, securing his place as the world’s greatest lifter. As such, Henry gained the interest of the public and guested or featured in different shows, such as in The Oprah Winfrey Show, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, The Today Show, and HBO Inside Sports.
In the last stretch of his preparation for the Olympics, Henry’s improvement was clear, getting 407 lb in snatch, and 507 lb in clean-and-jerk. He was chosen as the U.S. Olympic weightlifting team captain, and at 6’4 tall and 414-pound, he became the largest athlete to be part of the Olympics. Sadly, his preparation went for naught as an injury happened during the competition and affected his performance. He finished the competition only at a dismal 14th place.
Before the Olympics, Henry already connected with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
owner Vince McMahon that resulted in a deal, which was a 10-year contract with the professional wrestling organization. Shortly after his Olympic stint, Henry started his career in the WWE arena as a professional. However, another injury plagued him, with him suffering from a broken leg in the fall of the same year.
In 1997, Henry was able to recover and went back to joining different competitions while also emerging as the champion. He planned to train harder and focus more on powerlifting yet it conflicted with his professional wrestling career. Thankfully, his contract with the WWE provided him ample time-offs from the arena to train for the national and global championships.
Without any injuries, Henry was hopeful he could lift more in the subsequent years and earn new records. In early 1998, he was able to lift remarkable weight in training, however, he never went back to joining competitions again with him shifting his attention to his WWE career wherein he also enjoyed a successful career. At the age of 26, Henry officially ended his competitive lifting career and it is most likely that he never attained his maximum potential. Nevertheless, all the records and achievements under 25 years old prove that he is indeed, one of the strongest men in history.