A Thirteen-Year, Overnight Sensation To Becoming A Pro!

Since I was 12 I wanted to become a bodybuilder. By the time I was 13 I was competing. It took over 13 years to become a pro, find out how I did it!


Height: 6'0
Weight: 255-60 (contest) 280 (off-season)
Chest: 58 in.
Arms: 22 1/2 in.
Thighs: 31 in.
Waist: 31 in. (contest)
Calves: 21 in.

Birthplace: Rochester, N.Y.
Birth date: 12/1/65
Name: Robert Michael Cicherillo (chick-er-ello)

Big Dreams, Big Hair...

Like many 12-year-old kids, I collected comics, watched the Incredible Hulk religiously, and saw Pumping Iron on TV. All I ever wanted to be was a superhero. I figured the bets way to start would be to LOOK like one.

Instead of asking for the usual assortment of G.I. Joe's, Atari, new baseball bat... I asked for a set of weights for Christmas. Sure enough, Santa granted my wish and there was a brand new DP set of state of the art, interlocking sand and plastic weights complete with course, griping handles, and spring things! I immediately mapped out my strategic plan to get... "An Atlas body in 7 days!"

My first actual show was in 1979 at 13 yrs. Old. It was a local, neighborhood show organized by a parks dept. I placed 3rd, but won trophies for best arms, legs, back, poser. (Yes, they used to give away body part trophies in the "old" days.) I consider my first REAL show the 1980 Teenage Mr. Monroe County. This was a well-organized AAU competition (The NPC had yet to be born).

From a contest in 1981 and 1983. (Click to enlarge).

I finished in 8th place out of a field of 10, but I was only 14 years old. I had trained in my basement with plastic and sand weights for six months. I was dying to get on-stage, and when I lumbered up onto that platform, I got a huge ovation... that was it for me, I WAS HOOKED! I was 170 pounds, had the John Travolta hair working, and the basic structure, drive and determination that I would build into a Mr. USA physique... 20 YEARS LATER!

Teen Sensation, Humiliation, Realization...

I won 12 or 13 teenage titles in the following five years, culminating in a second place finish at the 1985 Teenage Nationals. A kid by the name of Shawn Ray took first at that show in the light-heavyweights and the overall.

After winning all those teen shows, I was pretty cocky and convinced that I could beat anyone who got in my way. I moved up to the Junior Nationals 1986 in Niagara Falls, Canada. I prepared meticulously and came in big, hard and ripped and failed to make the top 15! That was a huge blow to my inflated ego, but I needed to be humbled, and it helped me focus on making improvements, and re-assessing my physique.

I decided to return to the Junior Nationals 1 year later in Toledo, Ohio... this time with a new attitude, and a new physique! This time I was rewarded with not only a 1st place in the heavyweight division, but the OVERALL title! I made my debut at the 1987 Nationals, held in Atlantic City, NJ. There were 0ver 240 athletes in the show! Some of the biggest names in the amateurs were there. Phil Hill, Joe Meeko, Matt Mendenhall, James Demelo, Troy Zucolotto, Vince Comeford, Shawn Ray, just to name a few.

I ended up taking 5th in the heavyweight class at 210 pounds. (There was no Super heavyweight division at that time), Phil Hill won the heavies, and a kid named... you guessed it. Shawn Ray won the light heavies and the overall.

In 1988, I entered the USA Championships and finished 3rd. In 1989 I made steady improvements and climbed to 2nd at the USA's, behind Johnnie Morant who lost to [light-heavyweight] Eddie Robinson in the battle for the overall. Nine weeks later, Morant and I would meet again to do battle at the IFBB North American Championships. This time he won the show and I slid back to 4th place with 2 guys in front of me I just beat earlier in the year. I still contend that was a show I should have won.

I decided to hold it another 8 weeks to try and get the elusive pro card at the 1989 Nationals in Miami, Fla. I dragged a tired, over trained physique to a 4th place finish. Hey, three top 5 finishes in a year, not bad for a 23 year old kid!

Illusion, Confusion, Resolution

The '90s were here and I was one of the favorites to win. I started to get a lot of press, articles and photo shoots. People were starting to know who I was and that pro card was mine for the taking! After placing 5th at the drug tested '90 Nationals, I regrouped and went into the 1991 Nationals and a disappointing 6th place finish.

1989 USA contest and Me as Titan.

Granted it was a hell of a line-up (Kevin levrone, Flex Wheeler, Paul DeMayo, Ronnie Coleman, Matt Mendenhall, Myself, Chris Cormier would make up the top) but I was starting to get impatient and started to change everything from cardio, to training. BAD MOVE! The next six years (1992-98) would produce a series of less than stellar placing. People thought I'd dropped out of the sport, but the truth was that I was stinking up the place, and people don't remember who placed 12th. I got an opportunity to be the newest American Gladiator "Titan", and jumped on it! Even though it was a great experience, I was still a bodybuilder at heart, and still had a goal to get to.

I could not figure out a game plan to do to come in with the combination of full yet dry, big but ripped, etc. The last 48 hours before a contest would be a series of failed attempts. The harsh truth is that I was better when I was young and didn't know what I was doing, than when I started to over-research and over-analyze, and over-train everything.

I blew out a disc in my lower back 4 weeks before the '98 USA Championships and, like an idiot, I decided to compete anyway. Not the brightest move, but I've always had a warrior mentality when it came to contest preps. I may not have been winning, but it wasn't for a lack of effort! I dropped out during prejudging because of the pain, and after the contest I considered calling it a career. After major back surgery and coping with the idea that maybe I just didn't have what it took, I decided that if I were to go out, it would be with dignity and pride... not on my shattered back!

Revelation, Salutation, Exuberation

I partnered up with George Farah [2000 Nationals middleweight champion/IFBB pro], We decided that I would enter the 1999 nationals in Orlando, Fla. George was convinced that I DID have what it took and that with his knowledge I would WIN the show... in 12 weeks! Twelve weeks? I hadn't picked up a weight in 2 months, and was still nursing a back surgery. Didn't matter. Being that I was already 10 lbs. down in weight, we decided my best strategy would be to enter the Heavyweight division, and come in bone-dry. George's techniques worked!

I FINALLY dialed it in for a contest, I was hard as rock and standing there after they announced 5th, 4th, 3rd place... Was this it? Would I finally realize my dream? Second place... BOB CICHERILLO! So close, was I disappointed? No. I was ecstatic to have finally come in at 100% and I knew we could do it again. Besides, the guy that won was pretty damn good and had an awesome posing routine. His name? King Kamili!

Thirteen Years, Lots Of Tears...

The 2000 USA Championships was to be my moment of glory I would NOT be denied. I trained the hardest I ever trained in my life. I knew I was the man to beat, and that this show was mine for the taking. I decided to come in with an attention to detail and showcase my aesthetic build. Most of the super heavyweights have delusions of grandeur about being able to compete as mass monsters. I kept hearing all these stories... this guy's coming in at 265, this guy is 270, hard! My plan was to compete with a pleasing and complete look and let the judges see the difference.

It was like Deja'vu all over again as I stood on stage... only two guys left... me, and a big monster named Robert Washington, 255 lbs, hard as rock. I was giving up almost 20 lbs of muscle. He was bigger, but I was prettier! Which way would they go? "In second place... ROBERRRRRT... Oh, come on, that's not even funny... WASHINGTON! Like a moment frozen in time, I don't know if I was excited, relieved, I wanted to cry and laugh. I opted for the crying. I would go on to win the overall easily... I WAS MR. USA after 13 years at the national level... I DID IT! If I died the next day, at least I would have died a CHAMPION!

Next Week... My Pro Debut! For Now Check Out:
An Interview With Bob Cicherillo!