The Carpenters Union has been holding competitions around the country to find the fastest the drywall hanger in North America. On May 5, the stage was set in Las Vegas at the International Training Center, where it would be settled and what a stage it was.

The final five contestants all made it through a series of grueling regional competitions to earn their way to this prestigious competition. The competitors represented the various regions of North America: the East, South, West, Midwest and Canada. The five racing lanes were all identical with door and window openings, fixtures to cut out and corners to log cabin. The lanes were set up to mock real-life conditions one would encounter on a job site. While quality was not the primary objective, all work did have to be “sellable.” Make no mistake, this was one drag race. One contestant had a shirt with a mantra that summed it all up with the appropriate phrase “Git-R-Hung.”

I have been to a few of the regional qualifying rounds and watched the competitor who was representing the West Coast work his way to make it to this final competition. I noted how he was always so cool, calm and collected, not even a hint of any nervousness or excitement. Today, however, was different. He tried to look relaxed as he leaned against the stack of gypsum wallboard, all the while tapping his foot and nervously checking and re-checking his screw gun. I would be nervous too in his shoes. There were more than 500 spectators watching, not just any people: most were experienced drywall hangers themselves and every move would be scrutinized. Television cameras were set up to record the event and there was $5,000 on the line for the winner. I was nervous for him, and I was just watching.

The gun sounded and they were off. Similar to any professional, the nerves vanished quickly, he was now doing what he had done a thousand times before and that trained instinct took over. As I walked to observe the other competitors, I noticed they had unique and slight variations as to how they got the board up and hung. All were obviously very experienced. Making every move count, trying not to waste steps and make up time any way they could. To be as good as these guys are they have to work at it, and work at it all the time.

While some tradesmen will say, “I can pour it on when I need to,” that is simply not true. These moves come from practice and staying in shape. Like the professional golfer, it takes thousands of repeated moves to make it right. As with the golf swing, poor practice results in a poor swing. You cannot just decide, “now I will pour it on.” To be good, really good, you have to work and practice at it all the time.

Misfortune struck one competitor as he went to slide the cut wallboard behind the metal door frame. The crowd gave a noticeable and unified moan. The contestant looked up and noticed what they had already seen: he cut the opening too big. His head dropped in disappointment as he froze for just a moment. But like a true competitor, he quickly regained his focus and went back at it full speed. Although, we all had to imagine his mental state now had to be challenged, questioning every cut, second guessing his measuring.

As they all came to wrapping it up, it was Dave Gibson of Columbus, Ohio, who cut, hung and screwed off 18 sheets of gypsum wallboard in 52 minutes and 2 seconds. Dave finished to loud and respectful applause from all spectators. The other competitors followed closely behind. The order of finishing was:

Dave Gibson – Midwest

Pedro Resendiz – West

Perry Giambuzzi – East

Marek Wiedro – Canada

Luis Cardenas – South

After the contest, everyone made their way to the large auditorium within the United Brotherhood of Carpenters International Training Center. Andy Silins, the UBC general Secretary-Treasurer presented the contestants their awards and noted how impressive and committed every competitor was. When Dave Gibson was announced the champion, the entire room rose and gave him a long standing ovation. It was loud, it was impressive and it was well deserved.

It struck me as to what Mr. Gibson must be thinking. What was he feeling at that precise moment? I have never received a standing ovation from a large audience, and certainly not one from my peers. What an honor. Today when movie stars or reality shows honor people for little or no talent, some even for their bad behavior, it makes me wonder. It was nice to see the average guy get some well-deserved appreciation and respect. Of course, there is certainly nothing “average” about hanging 18 sheets of gypsum wallboard in 52 minutes. W&C