The Inspiring Comeback of Weightlifter Tim Caso

When I first started Olympic Weightlifting in 1981, at nineteen years old, Tim was one of the first to help me. Tim had about three years of competitive weightlifting experience and was roughly three and a half years older than me. To say he was tough on me would be an understatement.

Since I had been bodybuilding in my basement for about four years, I had built decent muscle and strength, but Coach Bucky Cairo and Tim made it clear to me that strength and muscle wasn’t enough. They stressed technique and mental toughness, and Tim harassed me about things I thought were trivial, from not lacing my lifting shoes correctly to not wrapping my wrists correctly. I thought he was either nuts or just a mean person, or maybe both.

Fast forward to my second competition, the Junior Olympics in Jackson, New Jersey. It happened to fall on my 20th birthday, and my coach couldn’t be there on that day due to a prior commitment. Being that it was only my second contest and I was all alone with no one to help me, I was very nervous. I weighed in and started my warmups, but couldn’t calm my nerves.

It was getting close to being my turn to go out to the platform and take my first attempt when in walked Tim. He calmed me down and coached me through the meet. I don’t remember what my lifts were, but I won the silver medal in the 75-kilo weight class. I realized that day that Tim was not a mean guy, and I eventually understood there was a method to his madness. He was teaching me that if I wanted to be a competitive Olympic Weightlifter, it would require an extreme amount of self-discipline, patience, and focus. “When you’re in the gym, there shouldn’t be anything on your mind except lifting,” he said.

I went on to become a pretty good lifter, achieving a 140 kilo/308 pound clean & jerk at 179 lbs bodyweight. In my later years, I competed in some powerlifting meets and achieved a 600-pound deadlift and a 431-pound deadlift in my mid-fifties.

As often happens in life, Tim and I lost contact with each other for many years but reconnected through social media about 6 or 7 years ago. I sent him some of my lifting videos, and he was thrilled to know that I was still competing.

Tim Caso Weightlifting Beginnings

But this article isn’t about me, so let’s get to Tim’s story. Like many weightlifters, Tim started weight training to get bigger and stronger for football. Tim played defensive tackle and guard for West Essex High School in New Jersey and was good enough to make All-State. He joined the Belleville Barbell Club in New Jersey in 1978 and set his sights on competitive weightlifting. In his first competition, he snatched 90 kilos/198 lbs and clean & jerked 120 kilos/264 lbs at 190 lbs bodyweight. 

Tim continued training hard and was fortunate enough to train beside the likes of Phil Grippaldi, Bob Giordano, Jerry Hannan, and Brian Derwin (who eventually became his training partner). All four of these individuals made it to the Olympics. It wasn’t long before Tim was lifting over 300 lbs in the clean & jerk.

In 1981 at the McBurney YMCA in New York City, Tim had the best meet of his career, snatching 135 kilos/297 lbs and clean & jerking 170 kilos/375 lbs in the 100 kilo/220-pound weight class. His 305 kilo total qualified him for the Region One vs. Canada competition, where he lifted 130/286 snatch and 170/375 clean & jerk.

Tim was close to achieving the lifts he needed to make to qualify for the Nationals, but along the way, he made a mistake that far too many lifters have made, including myself. That mistake can be summed up in one word; OVERTRAINING!! The overtraining resulted in an acute case of tendonitis in the knee joints, which required surgery. 

Tim was on the comeback trail and had his squats back up to 500 lbs when he partially tore his patella tendon. Just like that, his promising career was over (or was it?) He retired from competitive lifting but continued training as a means to stay strong and stay in shape.

Some of his best training lifts were a 405-pound split jerk from the squat rack and a 405-pound front squat for two reps. On the back squat, he did 500 pounds for five reps. He also did a clean & jerk with 177.5/391.

Tim Caso squatting 500 lbs. for reps
Tim Caso squatting 500 lbs. for reps

Later In Life

Years later, Tim got into coaching at a high school and also a CrossFit gym. In 2010, at age 52, Tim got the itch to compete again and entered a powerlifting squat contest. He squatted 340 lbs, and that satisfied his desire to compete, at least for a little while.

In 2015 Tim’s desire to compete returned again. But while preparing for a masters competition, he ruptured both quadriceps tendons. He had surgery and spent eleven days in the hospital. It was a long road to recovery, but through some grueling rehab, prayer, and his strong faith in God, Tim came back, and before long, he was squatting over 400 lbs.

Tim competed in 2018 in the 102-kilo weight class and did 80 (176) and 105 (231). At the time, that was good enough to be ranked #1 in his age group.

He competed again in 2020 and lifted 70/154 snatch and 90/198 C & J. His 160 kilo total was enough to qualify him for the Masters Nationals. But there always seemed to be some injury that held him back from his ultimate goal of competing at the Nationals.

While training for a meet that was to take place in January 2023, Tim injured his hamstrings. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to prevent him from competing, and he did well enough in the January competition to qualify for the Masters Nationals. Although his hamstrings were still not fully healed, he managed to snatch 70 kilos/154 lbs and clean & jerk 90 kilos/198 lbs to win the gold medal in the 102 kilos weight class (his actual body weight was 96 kilos).

While these lifts are a far cry from his all-time best of 135/297 snatch and 177.5/391 clean & jerk, keep in mind that Tim is 64 years old (an age when most athletes are long ago retired. And if that’s not impressive enough, consider how many major injuries and surgeries Tim has come back from. It’s truly inspiring.

Tim Caso lifting in his 60s
Tim is still competing in his 60s

Tim wrote a book with some practical advice for anyone interested in weight training. The title is Weight Training for Old Guys (and good advice for the rest of us!) Amazon affiliate link. Ten percent of the proceeds are donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. Click on the photo below.

Outside of lifting, Tim has always had a fascination with turtles and owned between 15 and 20 at one time. He also enjoys reading about the history of World War II. One particular story that piqued Tim’s interest was the story about Irena Sendler, a Catholic Polish social worker and nurse who served in the Polish Underground Resistance during World War II in Warsaw.

It’s estimated that she saved over 2,000 children from the Nazi holocaust, risking her own life in the process. Tim was so inspired and impressed with her story that he wrote a play about her. Click on the link below.


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Mark Morthier is the host of Yesterday’s Sports, a podcast dedicated to reliving memorable sports moments from his childhood days and beyond.  He grew up in New Jersey just across from New York City, so many of his episodes revolve around the great sport’s teams of the 70s for the New York area. 

He is also an author of No Nonsense, Old School Weight Training (Second Edition): A Guide for People with Limited Time and Running Wild: (Growing Up in the 1970s)

Mark Morthier headshot - host of Yesterday's Sports podcast on the Sports History Network
Photo Courtesy: Mark Morthier
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