The Ragin’ 13-a Story of Friendship and Excellence

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum hosted a talk by Warren Perrin, a lawyer, law professor and author who spoke of his latest work “The University of Louisiana’s National Championship Weightlifting Teams: a Companion Book to the Documentary The Ragin’ 13” Saturday, April 30.

The book details an extraordinary group of young men, the 13 members of the then University of Southwestern Louisiana, now University of Louisiana Lafayette’s, weightlifting team. In the years between 1957 and 1972, the team won a phenomenal eight national championships. Those accomplishments are all the more noteworthy in that the team never had a coach during that period.

The members of the team were an eclectic group. One of the slides in Mr. Perrin’s presentation was titled “Reflections on a Jewish, Asian and Cajun Friendship”. One of Perrin’s team mates was Walter Imahaha, the first student of Asian descent to attend the university. As a four year old, he was deported to a camp in Arkansas during WW II. Imahaha came to USL after a brief tenure at LSU where he faced prejudice and derision based on his race. Another team mate was David Berger, a Jew who was chosen for the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. He was killed by Black September terrorists after he and another Israeli rushed the attackers. Their bravery enabled several athletes to escape. Perrin came from a Cajun family that had felt the sting of prejudice from a society that looked down upon their culture and discouraged speaking French. The young men used adversity as fuel and excelled as champions.

NCHS Powerfifting and Football Coach John Daugherty brought five lifters from the NCHS Powerlifting Team to the presentation. They got to meet Mr. Perrin and Dr. Joseph Murray, another team member and former strength coach of the Buffalo Bills from 1973 to 1978. Mr. Perrin’s talk showed the discipline the young men and women are learning now will pay dividends in later life.