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Matt Mendenhall Dies
Sadly, bodybuilding legend Matt Mendenhall has died at age 61. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and many fans around the world. Matt was regarded as having the greatest genetics in bodybuilding during the 80s.
“Matt Mendenhall. (AKA. Mr. Genetics) was one of the most promising youngsters in 1982 along with Lee Haney. He’s considered the greatest bodybuilder to have never turned professional. Matt has a list of unfortunate illnesses that stopped him from reaching his peak and earning his pro card. But despite all his bad luck, he didn’t give up on his dream until he was forced to – his body started to shut down after years of intense bodybuilding.”
- Shawn Ray
Legendary Industry Journalist, Lonnie Teper had this to say:
“Matt Mendenhall is dead. At 61. To this point I have not been able to find out the cause of death.
I labeled him the "best NPC bodybuilder never to win a pro card" in Iron Man Magazine back in the day. No less an authority than Lee Haney said Mendenhall was the most gifted bodybuilder he had ever seen. After Haney defeated Mendenhall to win the first ever NPC Nationals in 1982!
How good was Mendenhall? John DeFendis told me after seeing pre-contest photos of Mendenhall Jumpin Johnny D immediately scraped his plans to compete in 1983. Defendis waited until 1988 to finally do the show, which he won.
I first saw Mendenhall in person at the 1986 Nationals in Atlanta. Mendenhall was big and round as always, but a lack of conditioning, which had become a common problem by then, reared its ugly head again and a shredded Gary Strydom coasted to the Overall crown.
I saw Matt compete several times after that but the issue was always the same. Lordy, lordy, look at those God given genetics. At the 1991 Nationals in Pittsburgh, regarded by some as the greatest line-up of all time, saw Mendendall land in a distant fifth behind winner Kevin Levrone, runner-up Flex Wheeler, third place Paul "Quadzilla" DeMayo and fourth place Ronnie Coleman. Yes, that Ronnie Coleman.
By then Mendenhall was in his early 30s, and we knew that great potential would never be realized.
I visited Mendenhall in his North Carolina Physical Therapy office in June of 1999 and spent over an hour interviewing him. He told he trained Selena for a time in Corpus Christi, Texas, spoke about some of the reasons he felt he never reached his peak.Some of those are personal which I've never shared.
And I won't at this time. All I will say is Mendenhall was a real gentleman, not shying away from the direct questions I threw his way. And how easily I could see that, as disappointed all of us fans were (and yes, I was a fan, journalist or not) by never getting to see Mendenhall on a pro stage, no one hurt more than this 5"11", 235 pound specimen.
But for all to know, his class and candor during that hour visit impressed me way more than his physique.
Matt Mendenhall, RIP.” -Lonnie Teper
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