Wisconsin mason Michael Schlund made history at the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 World Championship by becoming the first back-to-back winner since its inception in 2003. Schlund, with the help of his mason tender, Aaron Kowalski, laid 752 bricks in one hour to claim the title “World’s Best Bricklayer.” In addition to retaining his bragging rights, he’s also now the proud owner of a new Chevy Silverado Super Crew 4x4 truck, an Essick Pro12 Mixer and more than $15,000 in added cash and prizes.

Marking the event’s 22nd anniversary, SPEC MIX, LLC, hosted the world’s largest and most prestigious masonry competition, the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500. Renowned as the “Super Bowl of Masonry,” the action-packed bricklaying battle took place in front of thousands of spectators on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the World of Concrete expo in Las Vegas.

For 60 minutes, Schlund and Kowalski battled against 25 other world-class masons from across North America to lay as many bricks as they could with as few craftsmanship errors as possible. The champion team, working together like a finely tuned machine, proved the competition is a true test of human skill, speed and stamina designed to determine the best craftsman in the masonry industry.

This was Schlund’s fifth time competing in the championship round after winning the Wisconsin Regional Series qualifier competition. In 2023, Schlund and Kowalski teamed up to put down 759 bricks to claim their first victory and World Champion title. This year, the two reunited to take on what was arguably the most skilled field of competitors in event history, including three-time champion Fred Campbell from Tennessee. And, for the second year in a row, Schlund left Las Vegas with the keys to a new pickup truck, a payload of cash and prizes, and the heavyweight belt declaring him the reigning World’s Best Bricklayer!

While on the winners’ stage, event emcee Tom Clark asked the champ, “How does it feel winning back-to-back?” Schlund responded, “Crazy, just crazy — I was more nervous this year laying than last year!” Schlund and Kowalski had a huge group of fans in the crowd. Using their cheers and support as motivation, they remained laser-focused to meet the judging criteria; a steady pace to result in a high brick count. Schlund was feeling anxious about the backside of his wall, thinking he could’ve done better. Yet, even after the judging session was over, his wall not only had the most brick, but it also had zero craftsmanship deductions. “Weeks before we left for Las Vegas, Aaron and I practiced 10 times trying different strategies,” Schlund continued. “I’ve got to thank the guys who donated the brick and my boss for buying the SPEC MIX mortar for us to practice. And I need to look up at my buddy, Joe. He passed away about a week after I won the event last year — I know he was smiling down on us today.”

When Schlund’s name was called for first place, his wife, Kara, went running out of the crowd to greet him with a long-deserved hug and kiss. The time had come for Clark to hand Schlund the keys to the Chevy Silverado. With Kara standing in the front row below the stage, Schlund took the keys and tossed them to his number one fan. She erupted with excitement as she sprinted to the truck, flung the door open and jumped behind the wheel. As the champion explained, “About a week before the competition, we talked about the possibility of winning again and, of course, the truck. I told her if it happens, she gets the truck.”

The event’s second most coveted award, the SPEC MIX TOP CRAFTSMAN, went to bricklayer Dave Sontag and mason tender Sunny Harvey. No stranger to the World Championship, this was Sontag’s fifth appearance in Las Vegas but his first time making it onto the leaderboard. After building a flawless brick wall, an emotional Sontag was at a loss for words when presented the TOP CRAFTSMAN Award. “It’s unbelievable,” Sontag said. “It truly is. I have no words.” He was also awarded $5,000 and thousands more in additional prizes from Stabila, Stihl, Marshalltown, iQ Power Tools, Razor-Back and Blaklader Workwear.

Like Schlund, Sontag will have the duty of returning to the 2025 World of Concrete show in Las Vegas to defend his title from a new roster of SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500 Regional Series winners. Only the champion and TOP CRAFTSMAN masons have the privilege, and chance, to give a repeat performance. Once a bricklayer makes it to the championship round in two consecutive years, competition rules state they must abstain from competing for one year.

Second place went to Campbell and mason tender Javier Melina. Campbell, the second-most decorated mason in Bricklayer 500 history, has claimed the “World’s Best Bricklayer” title three times over the previous years. Campbell once again put an amazing performance but, in the end, came up 22 bricks short at the chance of winning the TOP CRAFTSMAN title, a trophy that has eluded his legacy. Campbell took home $4,000 and later that day was presented with the first-ever “Wall of Fame” induction by the Mason Contractors Association of America and the Brick Industry Association.

In his third appearance at the championship event, Johnny Lageraap took third place with the help of his tender, Mike McCarrick, both with Langeraap Masonry out of Sparta, New Jersey. Lageraap laid a total of 737 bricks, but judges levied a 25-brick deduction for exceeding the bed joint thickness criteria, dropping his adjusted brick count to 712, which came with a $3,000 payday.

The TOUGHEST TENDER award went to Charlie Cheatham with United Masonry out of Columbus, Ohio. His winning time was 15 minutes and 10 seconds, almost two minutes less than the previous year’s winner yet just over four minutes longer than the record time of 11 minutes and 7 seconds, which was set in 2005. The TOUGHEST TENDER is a preliminary competition where the mason tenders are timed as they set up their mason’s SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 workstations while following strict guidelines. For Cheatham, his winning performance came with $2,500 and a load of prizes.

To reach the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 World Championship, 23 regional competitions were held from August to November 2023 across North America. It’s estimated that each year, well over 2,000 world-class masons compete in the SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500 Regional Series string of competitions to qualify for a spot on the following year’s grand finale roster.

“We created this competition in 2003 to highlight the incredible skill and pride that bricklayers all over the world dedicate every day to the projects they build,” said SPEC MIX Vice President Brian Carney. “Now, it’s the masonry industry’s most celebrated annual event that gains more popularity each year and becomes the top recruiting tool for the next generation of skilled masons. We are thankful to have so many great sponsors and industry partners to help us highlight masonry as a solid, rewarding career choice.”