Updated January 19, 2022 - 7:50 pm
Cole Stamper’s strategy in the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 was simple: lay the bricks perfectly.
Stamper, a mason for Mason Structure in Lexington, Kentucky, did just that. On Wednesday, he was proclaimed the world’s best bricklayer at the annual competition held during the World of Concrete trade show.
“I wanted to lay a perfect wall,” said Stamper, who landed second place in 2019. “Straight, plumb level, straight and perfect — and that’s what it was.”
Stamper and his tender Jeff Becker’s 760-brick wall earned them a $5,000 check, various masonry tools and the keys to a Ford F-250 truck — which Stamper intends to drive back home.
The Bricklayer 500 was one of four events during ‘Masonry Madness,’ a set of competitions that highlight the trade. The Bricklayer awards the title to a mason and tender team that builds the best and largest 26-foot-long brick wall with the fewest errors in an hour. This year’s bricklayer event, also known as the Super Bowl of Masonry, marks its 20th anniversary.
Other competitions Wednesday tested the grit and handiwork of tenders and apprentices.
Craftsmen from across the U.S. were selected to compete through regional qualifiers, plus a wild-card entry and returning champions.
Some masons said the competition was a way to highlight the hard work of their jobs, while showing what about the work brings them joy. Competing mason Leif Reints said he and others take a lot of pride in their finished products.
“The guys that take the time to do this, it takes many years to do it and it’s hard on your body,” said Reints, of Wyandotte, Oklahoma. “A lot of people quit just because they don’t want to deal with the pain. But stick with it, you do good and it pays off.”
The competition is a key event during World of Concrete, which runs through Thursday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Conventioneers flocked to the convention center’s Silver Lot, where family, friends and others filled two bleachers and lined the perimeter of the working arena.
Syracuse, Utah, resident Teresa Lundell was among the crowd supporting loved ones during the Bricklayer. She was cheering on brothers Scott and Brian Tuttle, who earned both second place and the best craftsmanship title. The pair own Quik Trowell Masonry in Clearfield, Utah, and switch between the tender and mason roles each year.
“They love having the family come out and support them,” Lundell said. “It gets them fired up. We usually bring like 10 people.”
Organizers expect World of Concrete’s attendance to exceed that of the 2021 show, held in June, and be closer to the event’s pre-pandemic numbers.
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.