Kingwood Observer - Sports... One Tough Hombre
By STEPHEN WHITFIELD - Published: 05.05.09
One of these days, Ryan Bracewell may very well be the strongest man in the world.
Anyone who takes one look at the guy would easily believe he is one of the strongest fellows out there. But soon, he may have the title to prove it. Bracewell is slowly becoming a household name in the world of American Strongman, the sport where guys with big muscles lift trucks over their heads and pull airplanes with their bare hands.
With his pro card within reach, Bracewell is already one of the top amateurs on the circuit. And the ride is only just beginning. Not bad for an ex-accounting major.
LIFE ON THE GRIDIRON
Even though he lives in Kingwood now, Bracewell is a product of Klein. He grew up there, his wife is from there and he played football for Klein High School. For three years, he was a two-year starter for a Bearkat team that made the playoffs every year he was on varsity.
However, as a defensive tackle who never weighed more than 215 pounds, Bracewell admitted he was never a particularly gifted player.
“In football, I was good but never great on the field,” Bracewell said. “The things I did well were because of my strength and athleticism, not from football skill. This is probably why the thing I remember most about football is being the strongest kid in my school for over two years, and breaking many of the school’s weightlifting records.”
Despite not being the best of players, Bracewell was able to walk on the football team at Baylor his freshman year. Competing against the likes of Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma might excite most college kids, but Bracewell soon grew tired of it. He found big-time college football to be too much of a job, and after a year he gave up the gridiron.
MAKING THE TRANSITION
After leaving the football team, Bracewell said he entered a period of soul-searching. An accounting major, he did well in his accounting and calculus classes but not so well in his other business classes. Bracewell said he felt a little lost, and he transferred to Sam Houston State following his sophomore year.
While at Sam Houston, Bracewell found himself. He had always had a passion for weight training and decided to pursue a career that would keep him close to that. Changing his major to exercise science, he worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach during a six-month internship and also as a personal trainer at an area chain gym.
“I initially wanted to be a college strength coach,” Bracewell said, “but I needed to get a job after my undergrad was finished and was not able to get my master’s degree, which is basically required for college strength coaches.”
After graduating, Bracewell opened his own Nutrition Depot store in Kingwood in January 2007 as a way to stay in the fitness business. The business was successful enough that two years later, he opened Asylum Gym. Bracewell said he enjoys being his own boss in an industry he loves.
“Since the businesses I’m involved in are things I have a passion for, it’s a lot easier,” Bracewell said. “I don’t do it for the money. I can talk to like-minded people all the time and I’m really into it. It can be nerve-wracking up front because you worry that things won’t take off the ground.”
In most cases, the story would end here, with a local kid following his dream and making good. But that’s where Bracewell’s story takes a detour.
A STRONG CHANGE
World’s Strongest Man competitions are among the most unique athletic endeavors one can imagine. Participants often have to pull massive objects like trucks or airplanes across long distances by hand or carry weights up a flight of stairs. They are tests not only of physical strength, but of agility and willpower.
A couple of years ago, Bracewell became interested in Strongman competitions after watching one on television.
“I’ve always been pretty big and pretty strong compared to other guys I know and it seemed like fun,” he said.
Bracewell got started by competing in smaller events in Texas, where he usually didn’t have to travel far to compete. After gaining sponsorship late last year, he went to the American Strongman Europa Show of Champions April 18, a meet featuring some of the top amateurs in the nation.
Bracewell held his own at the Europa Show, coming within a point-and-a-half of winning and earning his professional card. And throughout his brief Strongman career, he has done a lot. Last August, he finished second in the Southwest Strongest Man HW open division. The following month, he won the 265-pound class at the NAS National Championship.
Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of training involved with Strongman. Bracewell said he trains four days per week, two heavy gym days and two days with light work.
“Strongman definitely appeals to me more than other sports but it is hard to say exactly why,” Bracewell said. “I guess I have always enjoyed being able to do something that others cannot. It’s not as an ego thing, but it’s just to be different.”
For many Strongman competitors, getting a pro card is the pinnacle of their careers. But Bracewell said that would only be the beginning for him. So close to that major accomplishment, he said he wants to keep performing long after he officially becomes a pro.
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