For years, Steve Wilson Jr.’s friends had been telling him he should be a competitive bodybuilder.
It wasn’t something he was interested in, despite spending years in the weight room as a member of the West York High lacrosse and football teams.
After he graduated from West York in 2013, where he was named a high school lacrosse All-American, Wilson went to Cabrini University to play lacrosse for two years before he transferred to Temple University.
Wilson always enjoyed working out and eating healthy but never wanted to take it to the level of competitive bodybuilding. He said that if someone asked him a year ago if he would be competing in bodybuilding competitions the answer would be no.
Now, not only is Wilson competing in contests, he’s winning them.
Always considered competing: While he didn’t have plans to become a competitive bodybuilder, the idea had always been floating in the back of his mind as more and more people suggested he give it a shot.
“When I went to the beach a few years ago, a group of bodybuilders asked me if I competed,” Wilson said. “I told them I didn’t, and they said I should, which is something I have heard for years.”
So, when he returned to York after graduating from Temple in 2018 with a criminal justice degree, Wilson was in the market for a new gym and decided to start training at Gold’s Gym at the recommendation of a friend in January.
While working out one day, he saw a flyer for a bodybuilding and physique competition and decided it was time to finally see if he had what it takes to win.
He decided in late January that it was the perfect time to start his preparation for the competition in May because he needed 12 to 16 weeks to get into shape to compete.
The 5-foot-8-inch Wilson started at 194 pounds and eventually lost more than 25 pounds to get his body ready for the competition. To get under 6% body fat, he changed his workout routines each week and began to cut down his daily caloric intake from 2,200 to 1,600 the week of the competition.
Battling through issues: While he started to see the progress he wanted, the process wasn’t without its side effects. Wilson said that with his body running on such a deficit of calories he experienced a lack of sleep, mood swings and had extremely low energy.
Despite the negatives, Wilson leaned on the mindset he gained through sports to maintain focus on his goal.
“I am not a quitter,” Wilson said. “I knew if I quit, I would regret not doing it. Now when I look back at it, I am 100 percent happy I did it.”
During his journey to get into peak shape for the competition, Wilson got some help when he picked up a sponsor. After seeing a friend from the gym posting on Instagram promoting Quest Nutrition, Wilson asked how he could get sponsored, too.
He went to the company’s website, applied, and in a few weeks got an email saying he was accepted. Wilson said he was excited, not only because he loved their protein bars, but he heard that a few other people who applied were denied and was proud they picked him.
“They sent me a whole kit with a shirt, a towel, three boxes of Quest bars and some (protein) cookies,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Quest Nutrition currently sends him packages of gear and protein snacks, and he promotes the company’s brand and products on his Instagram page.
Time to compete: After months of training and healthy eating, it was time for his first competition. Wilson traveled to Allentown for the 2019 National Physique Committee Lehigh Valley Championships.
He won first place in the Men’s Physique Junior bracket and finished fourth in the Men’s Physique True Novice bracket.
Through the ups and downs of the process, Wilson . said he learned a lot about his body and that he would be interested in doing a competition next year, especially if he can get another sponsor. To pay for all the food, training and travel related to the competition, Wilson said he spent more than $1,000.
While he’s not sure if he will compete again, Wilson . is proud of himself for what he accomplished and the work it took to get there.
“It was a long road, but I definitely don’t regret doing it,” Wilson said. “It’s something I can look back and say, ‘I did a bodybuilding competition and placed in my first one,’ which is a great feeling.
— Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.