FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WFRV) – 498 bricks carefully placed in one hour. 8.3 bricks per minute.
That is the pace that it took for bricklayer Jake Brock and his tender Nick Miller to win Wednesday’s Spec Mix Bricklayer 500, the Wisconsin championship of bricklaying. They bested nine other pairs to get the crown of Wisconsin’s Best Bricklayer to take home over $1,000 in cash and prizes.
“We did our best, and the wall looks pretty good, so I think that we should be able to at least take home a podium stance,” Brock said after putting down his trowel.
Roman Graebel and Jose Garcia finished in second with 430 bricks laid, and Mitch and Paul Seliger came in third with 354. Brock, last year’s runner-up, said that the key to his victory was all in a change to an old technique.
“We changed the strategy up this year, we went back to the olden days when we first started competing and ran both walls up at the same time,” Brock said. “I tried putting up a back wall in previous years first, and then you’re on the front wall, but it went pretty good for not really practicing (this technique).”
Brock carefully slathered the mortar on top of the wall, then placed the brick and scraped away any excess mortar. He would line the bricks along one side of the wall, then the next, and then onto the next layer. He completed eight layers in all.
His tender Nick Miller lined up the bricks on the table for Brock to grab, and hustled back and forth with his wheelbarrow to get more mortar, piling it on the table every few feet in between the stacks of bricks.
Brock said he will be practicing for hours in the coming months before he heads to Las Vegas in January to compete in the Bricklaying World Championships, with a grand prize of $125,000, which he qualified for with his win on Wednesday.
“When you stand back and look at what you did, it keeps you going,” he said.
Family is what got Jake going in the first place.
“It’s in the family, all of our kids and grandsons are all bricklayers,” Gerry Brock, Jake’s grandmother, said. “They make us proud. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.”
Just on the other side of the rope separating the competitors from the crowd sat Gerry and her husband, Mike, Jake’s grandfather.
“Every time he competes, we like to be there,” Gerry said.
“I like to see him work because I wish I was up there (competing),” Mike said.
Mike was a bricklayer for 40 years, and in that time he taught the trade to his sons and grandsons, too. They have won the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 14 times.
“He was my mentor, and so was my dad, my uncles, my brother owns a big company too, so it’s throughout the family,” Jake said. “I was born and raised with it.”
Jake and Mike share the same pride in the finished product they create.
“The best part is seeing what you did when it’s done,” Mike said. “That’s why I’m here today. It’s still in me, I guess.”