Many bodybuilding fans and athletes were shocked to find out that former NPC bodybuilder Matt Mendenhall passed away on Aug. 28 at the age of 61. As of this writing, no cause of death had been officially announced.
Mendenhall was a fixture on top amateur stages in the 1980’s. While many saw the potential he had, he never was able to secure a pro card. The closest he came was finishing second in the heavyweight category at the World Games in 1985. While he retired an amateur, his name was always recalled by people who remember his era of bodybuilding fondly.
Many people from the past and present eras paid tribute to a man that was considered by many to be the greatest bodybuilder to never turn pro.
Rachel McLish, former Ms. Olympia, on Facebook
“I was shocked and saddened when I opened Facebook late last night to hear of Matt’s passing. For all of us who were lucky enough to be his friend, we loved him mostly for his kind heart, his generosity, his sweet nature, and of course his sense of humor. There is so much to say about Matt, and it’s all good! Those who knew or saw him through the magazines or in person instantly realized that this guy was special and his physicality was out of this world.”
Shawn Ray on Instagram
“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. #rip #GodSpeed #legend”
Rich Gaspari, 1989 Arnold Classic Champion on Instagram
“It’s very sad to hear of the loss of Matt Mendenhall. Matt was an unbelievable bodybuilder that had the most potential to be Mr. Olympia. He came second to @lee_haney_official in the Nationals. I met Matt when I moved to California and lived in Reseda. He was one of many great bodybuilders That trained at the Gold’s Gym Reseda I managed and trained with Lee Haney. My condolences to Matt’s family. #rip”
Cory Everson, former Ms. Olympia on Facebook
“This past year, Matt and I had reconnected and communicated almost daily and I learned more and more about the incredible man he grew into being. I will miss our conversations. I will miss sharing our private stories and the laughs that came with them. Matt, I will miss your warmth and the prayers we shared. I will miss all of you, but I know where you are, and who you are with, and I know you are going to be in the best company enjoying your well deserved eternal life of health and happiness. I am so happy for you, but sad as I selfishly looked forward to our interaction. I thank you for all you did for me while on this Earth. Until we meet again my sweet little brother.”
His passing is the latest in a group of athletes who have died over the last several weeks, including John Meadows, former American Gladiator Billy Smith, Phil Hermon, and Alena Kosinova.
Everyone at Muscle & Fitness extends their condolences to Mendenhall’s family and friends.