Bridger Paulich hit a milestone in bodybuilding on July 22 in Pittsburgh at a regional show when he won first place in the heavyweight division and earned his IFBB pro card. He is now allowed to compete for cash at national and international contests. IFBB is the International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness.
Paulich is the first person in Tooele County to qualify to compete at the highest level and one of only four pro qualifiers in the state of Utah. For bodybuilders, receiving a pro card is similar to signing a contract to play in the NFL for a football player.
The triumph was an emotional one for the 37-year-old from Tooele.
“I’m still trying to figure out how I feel. I went through all sorts of emotions from balling to laughing. I was extremely proud of what I had accomplished. I’ve played a lot of sports in my life but this by far took the most focus mentally,” Paulich said.
His achievement did not happen overnight. It took years of conditioning while competing in sports, and for the past 12 years Paulich worked almost full-time sculpting his body through weight lifting, diet and closely monitoring his vital health numbers.
“I’m by far as fit as I have ever been,” he said.
Paulich was a three-sport athlete at Grantsville High School and competed in football, basketball and tennis.
He was an All-State performer in football and played safety and fullback in 2000.
“Coach Kevin Butler was a really good motivator and the kids all looked up to him and respected him,” Paulich said.
The coach said Paulich loved the weight room.
“He definitely was a hard-nosed kid, hard worker and great team player. Our team definitely overachieved his senior year and reached the state semifinals,” Butler said. “When you needed a spark you could depend on Bridger.”
The coach said the team played well, but suffered a loss at South Summit, and then had another tough game the following week against Manti.
“We threw a screen pass to Bridger. Through sheer desire he got us on the board and we won the game by one touchdown and shut out a good Manti team,” the coach said.
In basketball, Paulich starred as point guard for coach Jeff Hamm.
“He was an excellent coach. Each day he had an inspirational quote for us and would have us write down our goals,” Paulich said.
He won three state singles titles for the Cowboys with legendary Gransville tennis coach and uncle Don Wayne Nelson as his mentor.
“I started working out as a junior in high school with my buddy Dustin Ford and we took it seriously. Later on I worked out at Sweat Fitness where I met Max Curry. He was getting ready for a show and told me I should jump in and do the show with him. Max took me under his wing and I did my first show when I was 21,” Paulich said.
He started out as a light heavyweight for those who weighed up to 198 pounds and then moved up to heavyweight for those up to 225 pounds.
“My wife Marissa is my main motivator. She competes too and cooks all my meals,” Bridger said.
He now works out five days a week at VASA Fitness in Tooele.
“The fun part is the workouts where I can go down and talk to my buddies and we can set new goals. The work is diet and cardio,” Bridger said.
Cardio includes one hour on the bike at 4 a.m. and another one hour on the stair stepper.
“I don’t take protein powders; I’d rather eat my food, and I don’t take a lot of supplements. I take vitamins for my heart, prostate, blood pressure and kidneys. Before the competition I went on a 20-week diet. I went without carbs for 22 straight days. I felt very very drained and it was like I was walking in cement. I missed family parties so I wouldn’t be tempted. I mainly ate chicken and rice, egg whites, a little red meat, asparagus, spinach … six meals a day.”
In the future, Bridger would like to help and motivate youth about fitness and pass along what he has learned during the past 12 years as a bodybuilder.
He certainly has the credentials as a certified pro.