When Stephen Moreno graduated from Lodi Academy, a college prep high school just north of Stockton, 10 years ago, the 6-footer weighed 155 pounds soaking wet.
Last Saturday night, the 28-year-old threw his weight around at the 2019 Fresno NPC show at the Fresno Convention Center and walked off with a coveted sword after winning the overall men’s physique competition
That meant the U.S. Navy dentist, who is based in Washington, D.C., was the best of 33 competitors in five height divisions.
Although he weighs a rock-chiseled 225 pounds today, Moreno is not quite ready to jump into the tougher classic physique or bodybuilding levels just yet.
“I’m not big enough,” said Moreno during a Sunday morning telephone interview while munching on donuts on his drive to Lodi where his parents still live. “I don’t want to move up unless I can be competitive.
“Down the line, I would like to.”
Moreno is more health conscious after getting into the sport.
“I didn’t do a great job back then. I’m learning self discipline, which helps out in many areas of your life,” he said. “I’m dedicated to it and being disciplined to yourself.”
All of Moreno’s competitions, national shows in Miami (2015) and Chicago (2016 junior nationals) have been in physique.
Physique competitors, who wear board shorts, are judged on fitness, proper shape and symmetry. Extreme muscularity is marked down.
The world of bodybuilding began about five years ago for Moreno, whose school did not have much in sports. He played flag football and “a little bit of basketball.”
“I started lifting weights at the end of high school, and then I actually got into it,” said Moreno, who began competing in 2014-15. “My brother got into it, and I did as well. I got hooked.”
Moreno, who was born in Stockton, loves the routine that goes with getting ready for the competition.
“I got hooked. It’s something you can focus on by yourself,” he said. “It’s a solo act instead of a team competition.”
The Fresno showing was the best he has done in a local competition. His best prior showing was top three at the 2016 Junior Nationals.
Moreno, who joined the Navy three years ago, is in residency to be an oral surgeon. He joined the Navy during dental school to help pay for his education.
Moreno topped an overall field that included Victor Drumming, Kevin Guggia, Miguel Rivas, Brolin Bakzadeh and Reinaldo Hall.
There were more than 200 competitors for the Fresno NPC Classic.
Fresno NPC winners
Bodybuilding – Novice: Josh Nikitin; Open: Phillip Chiero; Classic physique – Eric Lee; Physique – True novice: Erin Banks; Novice: Brolin Bakzadeh; Overall: Stephen Moreno
Physique – Stacy Always; Figure – Masters: Chantell Propes; Novice: Lexi Kos; Open: Julie Gallardo; Bikini – Masters 45+: Michelle Flynn; Masters 35+: Jen Maravillas; True novice: Mariah Popovich; Novice: Sarah Blakley; Open: Sarah Blakley