Bodybuilders lose, add weight in preparation for Fresno Classic

Silvestre Robles of Selma and Iliana Castellanos of Woodlake train under famed bodybuilder Sal Rivas in his Visalia gym.
Silvestre Robles of Selma and Iliana Castellanos of Woodlake train under famed bodybuilder Sal Rivas in his Visalia gym.

Lilianna Castellanos and Silvestre Robles have been going in opposite directions for the last few years.

The 31-year-old Woodlake divorcee, with two children, has whittled 80 pounds in the last two years to get down to a healthy 135 pounds.

The former Parlier High School quarterback, who weighed 120 pounds as a senior, has bulked up to 180 pounds and wants to get to 200 pounds next year.

The end result is the same for both: A strong showing at Saturday’s (April 29) 2017 Fresno NPC Classic at the New Fresno Convention Center, 848 M Street.

Casatellanos, who was born in Stockton and graduated from Golden West High School in Visalia, will make her competitive debut in Class B women’s figure.

Robles, a 20-year-old construction framer who resides in Selma, will be in his third competition in the men’s physique novice and open categories.

Both train under famed Visalia bodybuilder/trainer Sal Rivas, who has operated his gym since 1994.

Castellanos, who has worked as a Tulare County welfare case worker for four years, was heavy during her high school years. Her weight ballooned to 230 pounds after having her children, now 9 and 5 years of age.

“I hated what I saw,” said Castellanos, a basketball and volleyball player in high school. She started to diet on her own and go to the gym.

Working out with her sister, she dropped some weight but “plateaued” at between 165 and 175 pounds. That’s when she decided to contact Rivas.

“That led to dramatic changes,” she said. “It’s been a blessing.”

Last fall, she told Rivas she wanted to compete as a bodybuilder. She weighed about 155-160 pounds at the time.

The secret, said Castellanos, has been high repetition exercises. Her body fat, once 33 percent, is down to about 13 percent. She also saw muscle gain.

“Sal pushed me to that top level,” said Castellanos, who works out 12-15 hours a week.

The workouts are not punishing, she said. “You see the results and it pushes you to keep going.”

The most difficult part of losing weight has been living at home with her parents where Mexican food is common. “Nobody diets except me,” she said about her household.

Once her competition ends on Saturday night, her cheat meal will be nachos with carne asada. “For some reason, they call me,” she said.

Getting healthier has had a positive affect. “I feel great right now,” said Castellanos.

Of course, her parents are very old-fashioned Mexicans.

¡Ay mija, te vez tan chupada de la cara! (Oh my, you look so thin in the face!)” her mother told her.

Her father would look at her muscles and complain his daughter, the middle of three children, looked too muscular.

“It comes with the territory,” said Castellanos. “Now, they’re getting used to it.”

Her only concern is wearing a bikini on stage at the competition. It will be a first for her. “I’ll be getting my feet wet,” she said.

Robles is not new to the competition, but he is moving up in class and hopes to at least repeat last year’s second- and fourth-place finishes.

“I was really skinny,” said Robles about his pre-bodybuilding days. Two years ago, he began working out with his cousin Tabo Cano.

Then, he had to eat a lot because of his fast metabolism. Pizza. Chicken. Burgers. Whatever he wanted. One would think that Robles, the youngest of 12 children, was skinny because his older siblings would crowd up him out from the dinner table.

“My dad is really, really skinny,” said Robles, who hopes to eventually become a correctional officer.

“It’s a tough sport,” said Robles, who feels happier about his life. He is married with children ages 9 and 5.

It was not until he started working with Rivas that his body responded quickly. Most of his weight has gone to his upper body.

“It’s like family,” said Robles about working at Ripped by Rivas Training Center in eastern Visalia.

An older brother, Eugene, will also compete in the classic’s physique competition.

His wife will come out and work out once in a while, but Robles said she is not looking to compete.

The female competition will include bikini, figure and women’s physique. The men’s competition will be in physique, classic physique and bodybuilding.

The classic will also host the California State Powerlifting championships and Strongman Competition.

Up to 275 competitors are expected, according to organizer George Jackson.

Doors open at 9 a.m. for prejudging ($30 admission). The championship starts at 6 p.m. ($35 admission).