John Wallace Is a Champion Powerlifter in Delaware

Powerlifting pro John Wallace gets inducted into the Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame.

There is something to be said for humble beginnings. John Wallace, of New Castle County, discovered his passion for powerlifting at just 9 years old, when his aunt gave him a weight set. “She bought me the plastic weights with the sand in them,” Wallace recalls. “I outgrew them fast.”

Having an older brother who played football for William Penn High School provided Wallace with an opportunity to explore fitness further. “During the summer, they’d go to the weight room to train for the season,” he says. “There were days he’d let me go with him, [so] I started lifting weights, and I loved it.”

“I honestly felt like I was just here, blending into society. I wasn’t noticed at all. [Powerlifting] gave me popularity. It gave me fame. It brought so much joy into my life.”

When Wallace reached the ninth grade in 1990, he discovered powerlifting was “an actual sport” and vowed to take it seriously. After high school, he began competing internationally in bench press and power curl events. He became a key member of the World Rectify powerlifting team, earning the nickname “Diesel” and contributing to their six world bench press championships. Over a decade, Wallace amassed an impressive 31 world championships, 25 of which were individual victories.

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The athlete attributes much of his success to his late mother, who instilled in him the belief that he could achieve anything through hard work and dedication. “She was my No. 1 fan,” he says. “When I was in my prime, she was the loudest one at the competitions. I was never comfortable until I knew she was there.”

Success in powerlifting provided more than just accolades—it gave Wallace a sense of identity and purpose. “I honestly felt like I was just here, blending into society. I wasn’t noticed at all,” he reflects. “[Powerlifting] gave me popularity. It gave me fame. It brought so much joy into my life.”

Powerlifter John Wallace amassed an impressive 31 world championships during his career, including 25 individual victories in bench press and power curl.
Powerlifter John Wallace amassed an impressive 31 world championships during his career, including 25 individual victories in bench press and power curl. Photo by Andrea Smith at Hockessin Athletic Club.

After his mother’s death in 2004, Wallace retired from the sport, feeling unable to train wholeheartedly. “I never cheated this sport,” he admits. “I couldn’t do that. The sport had been so good to me.”

After hanging up his lifting gloves, Wallace shifted his focus to dominating the bowling alley, as his competitive spirit still burns bright. And he’s not just rolling strikes; he recently notched his 15th perfect game.

Throughout his powerlifting career, Wallace competed in seven or eight different organizations, and the World Natural Powerlifting Federation (WNPF) was his primary platform. WNPF inducted him into their hall of fame in October 2006. This April, the Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame inducted Wallace, alongside fellow New Castle County athletes Ray Bias (softball), Carlton Moss (track and field) and Reginald Barnes (football), at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.

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Reflecting on his career, Wallace acknowledges its unexpected trajectory. “I never in my life, in my wildest imagination, would’ve thought that I would go as far as I did and accomplish the things that I accomplished,” he says. “I am so thankful. I’m grateful. I’m humbled. I’m honored. And I am just hoping my mom is proud.”

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