Latest News

Local gym brings home three state bodybuilding titles

Three Monongalia and Preston County natives, who all train at the same Morgantown gym, brought home the top prizes for their category in the West Virginia State Championship Bodybuilding Competition Nov. 11 in Moundsville.  

Jarod Hovatter, an Arthurdale native who co-owns Flex Fitness and Flex Fuel with Ed Shubert, took the Mr. West Virginia title in Open Bodybuilding.  He also coached the other two local champions, Anthony DeBardi, of Morgantown, and Brier Marshall, of Kingwood.

DeBardi earned Mr. West Virginia titles in both Classic Physique and Men’s Physique.  Marshall earned a Ms. West Virginia title for Figure.

The various categories within a bodybuilding competition are typically based on size and age, as well as what the judges are looking for.

Hovatter and DeBardi explained the open division would be appropriate for those with more muscle mass, while the physique categories have a little less mass, more modeling.  The women’s categories work similarly.

This year’s state competition had over 100 competitors, they said.

“I originally set a goal at the beginning of the year that I wanted to put as many people in that show as possible and bring back as many first places as we could to Morgantown and back to this gym,” Hovatter said.  “Out of the seven classes, we were able to take three.”

Hovatter, who has previously taken home a title at the competition, knew of only one other competitor from the Morgantown area to take home a top prize in recent years and wasn’t aware of any other gyms in West Virginia to have so many champions from the same gym, under the same coach.

“They may have had as many people enter, but they’ve never won as many titles under the same coach,” he said.

And while he was happy to win another title himself, he said seeing the others win was what really made the day special.

“I get more reward watching someone else win than competing myself,” Hovatter said.  “It’s more rewarding being a coach than a competitor – let’s put it that way.”

Marshall and DeBardi said getting to this point in their bodybuilding journey was no cakewalk but did involve a lot of attention to food.

“It’s a 24/7, 365 days a year sport,” Marshall said. “It’s not just a gym. It’s the way we eat, sleep, train, drink our water – we track our salt on our food, it’s every little thing that goes into it.

“Most days we just have time to wake up, go to work, cook, go to the gym and go to bed,” she said. “That’s it.”

“It’s a lifestyle, it’s not a hobby, it is a lifestyle,” said DeBardi.  “We have an off-season, but we still train and eat and everything.  Before a show we do a 20-week prep, so 20 weeks out from the show is when we really start dialing it in.  We do weekly check-ins with Jared, we train with him – most of us train with him at least a couple times a week, some of us train daily with him.”

DeBardi said that working out is one thing, but as far as competing, there’s so much more that goes into it.  It’s tissue work.  It’s posing.

“You have to be all in,” he said. “You can’t be like I’ll do a little bit today or I might try this or I might whatever.  If you want to be successful it’s gotta be all in.  It’s 100%.  I think that’s the biggest thing for anyone coming into it.”

Marshall said she did not set out to compete in bodybuilding, but fell in love with the sport after she tried it.

“Mine started as a weight-loss journey and then I went to my first bodybuilding competition, and I just got the fire in me, and I never quit,” she said. “It’s just the personal growth and seeing what you can handle and accomplish – it’s really rewarding. There’s a lot of sacrifice, but just personal growth that comes with it is worth it.”

DeBardi said that seeing Hovatter compete was what really made him interested in giving it a try.

“I was always into lifting weights and had been to other gyms before coming here,” he said.  “Jared asked me if I ever thought about competing.  I mean, I kind of followed bodybuilding, you know the famous guys, but I never thought I would actually do it.  Then I went and watched him compete.

“When we came back he said ‘which division do you want to do?’ and it was all downhill – I mean uphill from there,” DeBardi said with a smile.

Normally, competitors will enter only one division, but DeBardi said he was “at a crossroads” with what he wanted to do, so he entered both – and won both.

“Luckily that panned out,” he said.

The best moment for the competitors was hearing their number called as the winner, they said.

“When it comes down to the top two and your number is called out, I mean it’s – it’s fun,” DeBardi said. “So far it’s the funnest thing I’ve done. That’s when all the late nights cooking…” 

“The sacrifice, the times missed with friends,” Marshall added in agreement.

“… when all the work is worth it,” DeBardi said.

Hovatter said the thing about bodybuilding is the discipline it takes will carry over into other aspects of your life.

“If you can compete in bodybuilding and stand on stage, you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to,” he said, with Marshall and DeBardi nodding in agreement.