PHOENIX, Ariz. — A 59-year-old retired Imperial County chief deputy sheriff recently won three trophies from a nationwide bodybuilding competition.
In his three events, Steven Gutierrez won two second place trophies and one third place trophy.
The Yuma resident didn’t have to travel very far to attend the 2020 NPC Masters USA Championships, as it was held at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa here from Dec. 9 to 11.
Competing in the Masters Classic Physique Class A division, the 59-year-old placed second in both the 40-plus and 45-plus age categories and third in the 50-plus group.
Gutierrez was especially looking forward to the Masters, as the event is an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro qualifier.
Had he won a first-place trophy and won a subsequent “overall” competition, Gutierrez would have earned his pro card — a long-time dream of his.
Although he didn’t make it this time, his top-three finish in the Masters means he’s already qualified for the next Masters USA Championships, which will take place in January 2022.
Winning a card is the first step in becoming a professional bodybuilder.
The card is a certification that proves the cardholder has won amateur level competitions. Pro bodybuilders then go on to compete around the world, build their status and gain endorsements.
This would add a cherry on top of Gutierrez’s decades-old passion for bodybuilding.
“My goal when I do a competition is, not just to win it, but, challenge myself to outdo my last performance, which is a more accurate measurement of my success,” he said.
He first took up the sport when he was 14 and realized weighing 90 pounds would not help him become a good athlete.
When he was 34, he competed in the annual Police and Fire Bodybuilding Championships in Calgary, Canada. This is a National Physique Committee-sanctioned event.
Gutierrez won three years (four gold medals total) at this “police Olympics” event during the mid-1990s.
He said it was the first and only time an ICSO deputy has won a gold medal at these championships.
As he and his wife, Stacy, had a family to raise, his break from bodybuilding stretched over 24 years.
After Gutierrez retired in 2017 as a chief deputy sheriff (the highest appointed rank possible), he underwent four major surgeries (on his back, prostate and shoulder area) within a year.
He managed to make himself stage-worthy just two years after those surgeries, during which he also had to deal with getting his body used to the sport after the more than 20-year hiatus.
“There is no crying in bodybuilding, just work,” Gutierrez said. “Always believe in yourself and nothing can stop you from achieving your goals.”
On July 11, he won three gold medals at the Patriot’s Challenge Muscle Contest in Las Vegas.
This qualified him to compete in the Masters.
A strong backer in helping Gutierrez return to the stage was his teenage son, Cole Gutierrez, who also competed in the Patriot’s Challenge and secured a sixth-place finish.
For his third- and second-place finishes at the Masters, Gutierrez credited Cole, along with his wife, Stacy; San Diego-based pro bodybuilding coach Pete Ciccone, and Dave, Justin and Ryan Hale, of the 4th Avenue Gym in Yuma.
Fortunately for Gutierrez, COVID-19 didn’t shut down gyms in Yuma while the 59 year old was prepping for the Masters.
A Los Angeles native, Gutierrez has lived in Yuma since 1990.
He worked for ICSO for 26 years, from Oct. 1, 1991, to March 31, 2017.
Gutierrez said that during his 24-year hiatus, he shifted the focus he put into bodybuilding toward college education, raising his family and moving up in the ICSO ranks.
However, his love for bodybuilding wasn’t completely suppressed during those years he wasn’t competing. He could be frequently spotted working out in the gym at the ICSO headquarters in El Centro.
In regard to Imperial County gyms currently being closed due to COVID, Gutierrez advised locals that a gym isn’t necessary to work out and stay in shape.
“Be willing to change your habits,” he said. “If you go to the gym all the time, be willing to modify and do different things. Go to the park, jog at the park, walk at the park. Do push-up, sit-ups — basic stuff. You have to stay with the mindset of, ‘Hey, I don’t need a gym to be fit. I can still be fit.’ A big part of fitness is also a proper meal plan.”