Brian Carney (right), vice president/general manager of SPEC MIX, interviewed  the winner at the conclusion of the competition.
Brian Carney (right), vice president/general manager of SPEC MIX, interviewed the winner at the conclusion of the competition.

“It feels great to come back again,” said Mike Boll, who placed 791 brick in 60 min to win the title of “World's Best Bricklayer” at the 2007 SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500 competition during the World of Masonry/World of Concrete in Las Vegas. Boll also took first place in the 2005 contest and came in second last year. “I tried a different strategy last year, but it wasn't any better,” he remembered.

The challenge, Boll explained, is to work as fast as possible while maintaining the competition's stringent specifications. “They're really improving the contest,” he said. “The walls are looking a lot better. You can't just throw them up and not worry about what they look like.”

Though he has 17-yrs experience doing residential brickwork, Boll doesn't get quite as much practice in his current job with G. Porter & Co., St. Charles, Ill., where he does more commercial block work. “I try to work with someone on weekends to lay brick, usually my brother, Timmy,” Boll said. These two, plus their oldest brother, Bob, all compete regularly in the national event. Bob Boll took top honors in the 2004 contest.

As Boll began building his wall, he noted that the mortar was a little stiff, which meant he would need to be on the lookout for voids. He counted on his teammate and long-time co-worker, Ken Huizenga, to work the mortar and to act as coach and sounding-board as he progressed.

While working, Boll focused on quality and did not count brick, but kept an eye on the height of the wall to make sure his count would be sufficient. “I have an idea by looking at my corners how high I am, and I know how high you have to go,” he explained.

When reaching the home stretch, Boll found himself glancing at the wall being built by last year's champion, Patrick Baxter of Summit Concrete & Masonry Inc., North Branch, Minn. “In the last couple of minutes we were neck and neck, and stopped at the same height,” Boll related. “We were checking each other's walls, back and forth, and each put a few more on.”

When time was called Boll thought he might be a contender. “I felt good. I knew my corners were right,” he said.

Should readers look for Mike Boll's picture in this space again next year? “I'll certainly try,” he laughed. “But there'll be a lot of brick layers gunning for me.”

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