When mason Mario Alves and his tender Michael Alves of Hamilton, Ontario heard their names announced as the World Champions of the 2019 SPEC MIX BRICKAYER 500®, their enthusiasm was infectious. Family members raced in to celebrate with a group hug, in a raucous display of pure joy and emotion. Not only did they take home a Ford F250 4×4 truck and ton of other great prizes, they also earned the honor of being the first international competitors to win the competition. With his brother Michael by his side, Alves laid 760 perfect brick, edging out the second place finisher, Cole Stamper, by 11 brick.

The 31-year-old mason with A&M Masonry was inundated with calls, emails, and text messages following his victory. “It’s off the hook,” said Alves. “I’ve heard from CBC, I’ve done live radio interviews, the whole experience has been pretty neat.” He went on to mention how family members and friends have been reaching out after hearing his name on the radio, even his supervisors are giving him the “royal bow.”

“My background is Portuguese. I even heard my name on the Portuguese radio, its great hearing that kind of love,” he said.

The title didn’t come without sacrifice. After an injury to his regular tender, Kevin Avila, Michael (Mario’s older brother by eight years), who is also an outstanding brick mason, would have likely challenged Mario for the regional qualifier. “We started off practicing in his [Michael’s] backyard. When Kevin got hurt, my brother put his trowel down and stepped up, now look where we are.”

“We are one in the same,” Mario went on to explain, “Having my brother as a tender made it easier to practice, and we took full advantage. We built six full practice walls. He coached me the whole way. We worked on strategy and building leads. I would build them up [leads] and tear them down. I knew where I needed to be at certain point in the competition.”

The duo also took to YouTube to research techniques of past winners. They noticed as the walls got higher the mason had more distance to cover to spread the mortar. So to counter the movement, they placed brick underneath the Gatorback Mortarboards, reducing the amount of time and energy going back and forth.

As the dust from the World Championship settles, Mario Alves hopes to do something positive with his accomplishment. “Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to be in a Super Bowl or a World Cup. This was a great opportunity and it felt just as special. I hope to speak to the younger generations about this great opportunity. I’d like to talk to the union and apprentices, what a great way to get people interested in my line of work,” he said.