When James Wright walked off the stage Saturday night in Boise, Idaho, he had a feeling of accomplishment but also a sense of relief.
Through the years, Wright had been second, third, fourth and sixth in the Northwest Natural Bodybuilding Championships. Now, the 37-year-old 1994 Billings Central graduate had just captured the NGA Northwest Natural men’s lightweight first-place trophy, along with the men’s overall championship.
“This is my huge hurdle. My monkey off my back,” he said of winning the amateur competition. “This is my fifth time doing this show and I’ve been trying for years to win it.
“It’s emotional. If you have a picture of a weight being off your back this is how it is for me. This one was it. I needed to do this.”
Wright said there were two others in the lightweight class. In the middleweight class, he estimated there were seven competitors. Five competitors were entered in each of the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. The winner of each class then advanced to challenge for the overall title.
Wright started bodybuilding when he was 21, although he said he has been relatively inactive in competitions for the last 10 years. He said he was inspired to get back into the sport last year. And from the onset, Wright said he wanted to win his division but had his eye on the bigger prize.
“I was going for more than that,” said Wright, who was a wrestler while at Central. “I’ve been training hard for this for a year. I can’t tell you how hard I’ve been training for this.”
Wright, who owns the Billings Kettlebell Club at 2040 Rosebud, said he does work with kettlebells, adding that is the “foundation of my training.” He said he also mixes other type of weight work in to his routine.
Wright said with the amateur bodybuilding win, he is now eligible to compete in the pro division but hasn’t decided if he will yet.
First, he will take some time off to give his body some rest and possibly compete again in the fall. In doing that, he’ll take some of his own advice he offered to younger competitors over the weekend, when he said: “Hey guys, go out there and have fun and enjoy this moment. You worked so hard for it.”