Lafayette attorney and Acadian activist Warren Perrin, pictured above at the 1967 National Collegiate Championship; below he speaks about his inspiration, French Canadian wrestler and later Louisiana resident Adrien Baillargeon, and a near competition-ending injury as a young man.
“The Baillargeon brothers were Francophone; that was important. They wrestled every Saturday afternoon, and we would watch them on TV. My grandpa would bring me to see the wrestling matches and talk French to these guys. That’s how we began to realize our Acadian connection. They would have evening matches all over. They wrestled in Abbeville and Opelousas, North Side.
In the 1960s, Adrien Baillargeon visited our gym. You don’t think we were proud to have a professional wrestler come see the gym in our toolshed in little Henry? And a French speaker at that? Around this time I was in a lift competition with my cousin. I tried a clean and jerk and passed out, fracturing both wrists. I was in a cast for eight weeks, unable to feed or wash myself and was told I’d never lift again. Within six months I was back working out. Two years later, I broke two state records, snatched 195 pounds, a 40-year record, and clean and jerked 245 pounds.”
Taken from a preliminary interview for The Ragin’ 12, a forthcoming documentary from filmmaker Nicholas Campbell about one of the winningest collegiate weightlifting teams of the 20th century, the Olympic weightlifting team of UL Lafayette (then SLI and USL), which won eight national championships from 1958-1970.