LATS OF POTENTIAL

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They don’t call Duke basketball fans Cameron Crazies for nothing, as the Blue Devils’ many foes over the years can attest, having left Cameron Indoor Stadium on the losing end 83% of the time. Supporters of opposing teams think twice before wearing visitor jerseys into McAfee Coliseum in the heart of Raider Nation for a reason.

Home-field advantage is a precious commodity in the world of sport. Bodybuilding is no different. Just ask Dennis Wolf.

COMING UP SHORT Riding a sea of momentum from his overall victory at the 2005 IFBB World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships, Wolf brought a polished 247-pound streamlined physique with an impressive combination of size, definition and symmetry across the Atlantic for a pair of shows in late August and early September of this year.

First up was Arlington, Texas, for the Europa Super Show. Amid a veteran field, an admittedly off Wolf finished seventh, but the argument could have been made for a top-five placing for him. A week later in Canada, at the Montreal Pro, Wolf finished fifth, another questionably low placing and one that cost him an Olympia qualification.

True, the contests were Wolf’s first two in the professional ranks, and in the subjective field of bodybuilding judging, debating contest placings is more the norm than the aberration. But to say that some thought Wolf should have placed higher at both shows is an understatement. To his credit, Wolf has heard about having to “pay your dues” before getting them — and he’s willing to play the game.

“It’s a very difficult sport because the judges can decide if you are in the top five, top three or not,” Wolf says. “In the pro league, I’m the German guy. So to compete in the United States and Canada for the first time, it’s very difficult.

“I respect every bodybuilder. It was very great for me and very awesome to compete, to stand with Darrem Charles and Johnnie Jackson, you know? The guys I saw in the magazines. It was amazing for me.”

MAKING A NAME At the relatively young age of 28, time is one advantage Wolf has over the field. His proverbial career clock is nowhere close to winding down. If waiting is what it takes, Wolf will bide his time. After all, waiting is nothing new to him.

After winning the heavyweight class of the 2000 International NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) Championships and the 2002 Amateur Belgian Grand Prix — the latter at the age of 23 — Wolf was clearly destined for success. But soon after, Wolf was forced to take some time away from competing.“No money,” he states matter- of-factly. “It was difficult.”

The hiatus stretched into two years, longer than Wolf had expected. He continued to train and improve, and when he took the stage in 2004 after that layoff, Wolf was bigger, better and more focused. He won the NRW Championships and finished second at the German Championships. A year later, he would go on to win the overall titles at the NRW, the German Championships and the World Amateur Championships, the latter securing his IFBB pro card.

Wolf decided to make his professional debut at the Europa instead of waiting one more month and using the potentially more European-friendly Santa Susanna Pro Grand Prix in nearby Santa Susanna, Spain, as his springboard to professional success. “I planned to compete my first competition in the United States for a reason,” Wolf says. “I have to make my name in the United States.”

BEING BETTER With the package he brings to the stage, it seems a foregone conclusion that Wolf will one day be a force in the professional ranks, regardless of what continent he battles on. Until then, Wolf is realistic about his shortcomings, and of the improvements that are necessary for him to be a perennial contender.

“I think I need more quality,” Wolf says. “Some guys have been competing 10, 15 years. They are older than me — I’m 28, some of these guys are 35. They have more quality in the muscles and that is the difference right now. It’s bodybuilding. If you’re not [where you want to be], if you don’t get a good place, you have to be better next time. So I will be better.”

As for home field? It finally paid off, as Wolf took the stage on the European continent, battling in Santa Susanna on Sunday, September 24 for one of the final three Olympia qualifying spots. With just five days to the O, he earned the invite that had eluded him twice before, finishing third behind Paco Bautista and Markus Rühl. Six days later at the Olympia, he finished out of the top 15 in a loaded lineup, but no matter. Next time he takes the Olympia stage, he will no longer be a rookie, but a veteran — a bit older, wiser, bigger and better, and likely making himself at home among the best in the sport.

WOLF’S BACK WORKOUT

EXERCISE SETS REPS
Behind-the-neck lat pulldowns 4 10-15
Pulldowns to the front 4 10-15
Bent barbell rows 4 6-8
One-arm dumbbell rows 4 6-8
Seated close-grip cable rows 4 15

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