Each year, the SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500 World Championship is one of the most highly anticipated events at World of Concrete. And 2022 was no exception.
The 20th annual competition, held Jan. 19 outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, spotlights the top masons in the country, at the same time showcasing the opportunities of the masonry industry. This year, the event brought together 23 competitors who earned their spots by winning regional competitions last fall.
Capturing the title of “World’s Best Bricklayer” for 2022 was mason Cole Stamper and his mason tender Jeff Becker. Stamper and Becker hail from Mason Structure in Lexington, Ky.
To win, Stamper laid an astounding 760 bricks in one hour. For his feat, he won a new Ford F-250 truck plus more than $10,000 in other cash and prizes.
The competition also honored mason Scott Tuttle, along with his mason tender, Brian Tuttle, as the “Top Craftsman.” Judges bestow the highly coveted award on the mason who builds the wall with the highest quality. Even with his top marks for craftsmanship, Tuttle still managed to lay 730 bricks in the hour, just 30 less than Stamper.
Lessons From the 2022 Bricklayer 500
The fact that Tuttle’s total number of bricks was so close to the winner while maintaining utmost quality is a testament to how the Bricklayer 500 continues to elevate and highlight the craft of masonry, say longtime event emcees Shawn O’Malley and Will Scott, both sales representatives with Quikrete.
O’Malley and Scott noted that much has changed since the first event two decades ago, which saw just nine teams competing (and had only a smidge of today’s fanfare).
The biggest change over the past few years is how teams approach the event, O’Malley says. “They know they have to push the envelope to be the best at it. If they’re not pushing the envelope, they’re not going to be in the hunt.”
For some of these competitors, this comes in the form of preparation—watching videos, watching their competition, integrating nuances, and lots of practice.
“We had a new winner because of that,” O’Malley says. “Cole Stamper did just that.” Stamper’s company gave him time on Fridays to practice leading up to the event.
In fact, Stamper was so in tune with his approach he predicted how many bricks he would complete to the exact number. “He had a plan and stuck to it,” O’Malley says.
“It’s not just your ability to lay brick—it’s your ability to game plan,” adds Scott, noting that Stamper laid out his materials precisely ahead of time and stopped with a minute to go and pulled out his level.
O’Malley and Scott also have seen some shifts in technique over the years. One area the masons never take to chance is the line; many use fishing line rather than traditional masonry line because the former isn’t as stretchy and therefore less likely to sag.
Overall approach is changing for some competitors. While Stamper followed the traditional method of spreading larger quantities of mortar at once, others have adopted the pick-and-dip method of putting down a bit of mortar for one brick, then repeating the process.
Regardless of technique, each competitor is judged on the same criteria. O’Malley and Scott say some of the downfalls come when looking at the plumb. They often see leads begin to sag due to how the brick and mortar have set up or if the mason makes too many adjustments. Another sticking point is the thickness of the beds; when competitors are moving too fast, they can end up with uneven bed joints. “I refer to the bed joint criteria as ‘the heartbreaker,’” O’Malley says, since there’s not much the contestant can do to adjust at the end.
Details such as these are what helped Tuttle earn the Top Craftsman title. “Scott Tuttle laid an amazing wall—a lot of brick and it was beautiful,” O’Malley says.
Tuttle, of Quik Trowel Masonry in Clearfield, Utah, won a Kubota RTV-X1140 utility vehicle and, like Stamper, another $10,000 in cash and prizes.
Leaving a Legacy
Showcasing the art and craft of masonry is one of the most important missions of the SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500. “The whole premise is providing a platform for our industry to come together and recognize these skills,” O’Malley says. “It’s the most celebrated masonry event in the world.”
The legacy continues on the newer Jr. SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500. Held at a handful of the regional competitions, the Jr. Bricklayer 500 allows high school and apprentice students to test their skills in a 20-minute competition. “Ultimately, our goal is to introduce this to as many youth as possible and keep our trade going strong and moving forward,” O’Malley says.
The youth event continues to grow. In Eastern Tennessee, the student competitors originally stumbled across the contest on YouTube. The North Carolina regional saw 20 competitors in the Jr. Bricklayer.
“The schools all want to participate,” O’Malley says. “They’re already vying for those spots to be a part of it. It really shows the growth of the competition.”
It’s a true testament to the vision of the SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500, as the next generation of masons gets inspired to learn and perfect the craft.
See images from the competition and take a closer look at this year’s competitors at www.specmix.com/spec-mix-bricklayer-500.