Alp Yurteri won the Class C and the Overall at this year's NPC Team Universe, earning his IFBB Pro card in Men's Physique in the process. Alp, thank you for sharing some time with Rx Muscle.
Q: Your name is Alp and you joked during your interview with Dave Palumbo that you were born to be chiseled and ripped. Have you always been lean and athletic?
A: (Chuckles) Perhaps "chiseled & ripped" was a bit oversight, but for the most part I was always a very active and athletic boy growing up. Both my parents are very big on education, so sports never really took the immediate priority but my father played soccer back in the day so before you knew it my sister and I found ourselves playing soccer from a very young age.
[Note: Dave Palumbo interviewed Alp at the 2014 NPC Team Universe. View here:
Q: How were you introduced to weight training?
A: I was introduced to weight training when I joined the wrestling team my freshman year of high school. Not only was I introduced to weights that year but it was also my initial experience of truly pushing my body to its highest extent enabling me to push through the intense practices. I remember at times I would feel so exhausted and weak during the drills, but I kept pushing forward, kept digging down and continued pushing myself. It truly plays a significant part in influencing and creating the tactic in my current training.
You're 100% Turkish as your parents were born in Turkey and immigrated to America for graduate school, where they both enrolled in Kansas University.
Q: What city in Turkey are your parents from?
A: My Mother was born and raised in a small city called Afyon and my Father comes from a small town called Bolu. Both of my parents came out of very humble beginnings and eventually moved to the States on an academic scholarship.
Q: What was it like growing up in Kansas City?
A: Kansas, (chuckles) well, I'm sure Kansas is a much different place than I remember since it has been almost a decade since my last stay. But I remember everyone was always extremely polite and pleasant. The town was practically one big family. I remember our back yard neighbor would come over every Christmas morning dressed as Santa handing out gifts and hugs. The neighborhood is very friendly and had lots of open room to run around and play. Catching fireflies in the summer was always a thrill. As well as endless bicycle rides around Overland Park, Boy Scouts, and soccer on the weekends making Kansas a great place to grow up in.
Q: And how was the transition to New Jersey?
A: As much as I loved Kansas when I was young, I equally love New Jersey now. The transition to the east coast initially took a bit of getting used to. There were so many things that were different. The first thing I noticed was the diversity amongst everyone with the different ethnicities, colors, accents, cultures, and languages! For once I didn't feel so different.
Being Turkish and growing up in Kansas was difficult at times. My sister and I were the only kids in our school that had parents from a different country, unique names, and being bilingual didn't necessarily blend well with the crowd back in Kansas. In New Jersey my classmates, I learned that they each had a great story of where they were from. It was intriguing to listen to my classmates' origins and backgrounds. After two years of middle school in New Jersey, I made a close knit of friends from just about every part of the continent.
I saw your hashtag #Anti-Bullying on your Facebook fan page.
Q: Would you share your involvement or interest in anti-bullying?
A: Absolutely, as you now know, my ethnicity was always a question when growing up in Kansas. So naturally, I did get picked on here and there for something I couldn't help. That's probably why I took such a liking to sports and physical activities. If I was the fastest around the lap, or jumped the highest at the high jump, or was always the last one to get out in dodgeball, then there was the proof that my ethnicity had nothing to do with my inner talent.
Once I began to excel in sports most of the bullying stopped, but a new struggle was around the corner. Every summer I would go and visit my family in Turkey. While at the time I could understand Turkish, speaking it was a bit difficult. So when I wanted to play soccer with the local kids, it felt like 3rd grade in Kansas all over again. The inability to fully express myself made me an easy target for just about anyone who had something to say.
In Turkish, it seems that EVERYONE has something to say; however, when the soccer match started all the kids who made comments against me sure ate their words when they saw what I brought to the field. I would say that this is probably one of the reasons why I loved being a part of sports and fitness. The content of my character could never be belittled by words after undeniable hard work and hustle was demonstrated. #anti-bullying
Q: Have you ever trained at Diamond Gym in Maplewood or Apollon Gym in Edison?
A: I haven't, but I have been dying to go to both. I constantly hear great things about Diamond Gym as well as Apollon Gym. I'll put them on my list of gyms to hit next.
Q: Where do you train currently?
A: Currently crushing it at Signature Fitness in Bellville, NJ.
Q: Does your family still reside in New Jersey?
A: My parents and I still do. My sister moved down to Washington DC with her husband for work.
You're a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management.
Q: What is one of your most memorable experiences while attending Penn State?
A: Meeting Sonyta.
Alp believes in giving back to the ones who supported him through thick and thin. As one example of this, he presented his 1st place trophy from his victory at the NPC South Jersey Championships to Sonyta's mother and the Or house.
Q: You shared that both your parents came from humble beginnings and then moved to the U.S. on academic scholarships. In your one other interview you said they went on to start their own business. Do you work in the family business or have another career?
A: I currently work with my parents in the Natural Stone Industry. Fitness is a love and passion of mine and both will be in my future without a doubt.
Right after college you were involved in a hit and run car accident which left you with two sprained ankles, cracked ribs, and a broken tibia.
Q: Were you driving, walking, riding a bike?
A: I was struck while I was walking alongside the road.
Q: How did this event change you or motivate you?
A: It at first made me very angry, extremely upset. I would have sleepless nights because I truly felt victimized. Time out of MY life was taken because of an individual's lack of self-esteem, jealousy or whatever it may be. Halfway into the recovery I became depressed, stopped eating, closed myself off to the outside world and got lost in video games.
Listen, I am all for video games and keeping the mind active, but 9-10 hours straight of looking at a screen with bloodshot eyes is just depressing. I lost 20 good pounds over that course of the recovery. As soon as I got a decent "OK" from the doctor I was back at it and shot straight to the gym.
For the first two months or so I still had to wear my cast. Luckily, it was a new age plastic removal brace that was created off of a cast from my leg that I could take on and off when needed. I made a promise to myself that I would never put myself in that type of situation again and that I would become bigger, faster, stronger and better than I was before the accident.
While that chapter in my life is now closed, I still to this day draw strength and purpose from that accident to continue to be the best version of WHO I am.
You won the Men's Physique Overall title at this year's NPC Team Universe to earn your IFBB Pro card, beating a field of more than 200 fellow competitors.
Q: Did you have expectations of a win going into the show or were you simply looking to test yourself on the National level?
A: Quite honestly I didn't know what to expect. Naturally, I'm sure every competitor came to that show prepared, but I made sure to leave no stone unturned.
Q: How does it feel to win at your first National-level competition?
A: Dear Lord! I oftentimes catch myself replaying that moment over and over in my memories. The feeling at that very moment was filled with simultaneously sheer bliss and disbelief. Even now I don't believe it at times; it feels like an awesome dream that just keeps going.
Q: And what are your thoughts on your Pro debut; anything planned or are you still putting your game plan together?
A: Not too sure just yet. I did want to take two weeks or so off just to let my body recover and rest. I would say that this past offseason and prep turned into a grueling battlefield that constantly was hit with unforeseen events. It just felt like something went wrong every week, and that my patience and faith was constantly being tested. With that said, I made sure that after NPC Universe I would give my body a bit of rest. Nothing is set in stone, but I will say I do want to make my Pro Debut sometime this year.
You competed just six times in the year prior to winning your IFBB Pro card.
5th Place - NPC Garden State Championships (Class A) - 6/22/13
2nd Place - NPC Tri-State Championships (Class B) - 8/3/13
2nd Place - NPC Muscle Beach Championships (Class B) - 8/10/13
1st Place - NPC South Jersey Championships (Class B) - 6/28/14
1st Place - NPC Team Universe (Class C) - 7/5/14
1st Place - NPC Team Universe Overall Champion (7/5/14)
Q: Did you dream you would achieve your IFBB Pro card in such a short period of time?
A: Honestly, No. I'll say that I had an idea where I stood in the Regional shows but I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do during my National Stage Debut. I just prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. I still feel like I'm dreaming half the time.
Q: Was earning your card your goal from Day One or were you competing simply for fun and as part of your lifestyle?
A: I always idolized Arnold when I was a kid. Every movie he was in, every line he spoke, I wanted to BE Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was the mindset that I carried at the start of my fitness journey. As I saw my body transform, I decided to take on some photo shoots. I was shocked to see what I actually looked like in photos.
I honestly had no idea what my back looked like for Christ sakes, I was such a rookie. After getting good feedback, I decided to try my luck at competing. After my first show, taking 5th at Garden States in 2013 amongst 22 other competitors, I was HOOKED. After that day I knew I had a new life goal that needed to be attained. Like the Hunter Orion, I took my bow and aimed for the stars.
Q: You mentioned your passion for the sport of Men's Physique. How did you become aware of the competitive side of training and the NPC opportunities?
A: I actually came across the sport when I started to take on photo shoots. I saw that the photographers that I was working with also had worked with other models that were competitors. The more I learned about the sport I realized how it greatly intrigued me in terms of competitiveness given the fact that I am naturally a very competitive person.
Q: You mentioned getting opinions on your posing/presentation from other top competitors. Who are your mentors in the sport?
A: I'd have to say that my immediate coach, Dan Hawtin is my mentor. After meeting Dan and following his career I knew he was someone who had also lived through the hardships of life. Taking three years off for double shoulder surgery and coming back stronger than ever as well as winning his Pro card, I tell you what, I was freaking sold. The man is a calculated beast. I remember, when I first met him, I said "Coach, I'll be lucky if I'm half the man you are at your age."
I actually had the opportunity to work with him once he turned Pro. The weeks leading up to his Pro card was within the same time as my regional shows was very special in that we both were in contest mode, dieted down, exhausted, fatigued but still hard as nails. Dan and I spoke the same language in terms of understanding my goals and aspirations.
There were other great inspirations from the big dogs in Men's Physique, such as Matt Acton, Sadik Hadzovic, Julian Jean, and Chris White. I had been following Sadik's success long before he started competing. I remember meeting him for the first time at Team Universe 2013, a great guy and excellent competitor who kept up with my progress and gave me feedback.
My first time going to Bev's Francis East Coast Mecca, I walked in on a Bombshell seminar and everyone I saw was in stellar shape. IFBB Pros walking around, Bikini Bombshells rocking serious lifting belts while crushing weight, it was then that I knew I was at home. That day I got the chance to meet Matt Acton. At first I was a bit nervous because he seemed very serious and focused on his lift, but I was able to catch him before he left and after talking with him for a few short minutes, I quickly found myself in the Bev's famous posing room getting tips and pointers from Matt Acton himself!
Moreover, I want to note that Chris White will always be a competitor that I have immeasurable respect for. Chris and I are both Coach Dan's pupils, and as pupils I'm sure many assumed that there might have been some kind of rivalry between Chris and myself, when actually it was the exact opposite. In terms of my posing, Dan and I had been working on my front posing for quite some time and had a few different poses lined up for the South Jersey Championships back in June of this year. Coach Dan and I were at cross roads with my front pose. I was trying out new stances and routines, I was not crazy about my front posing but while back stage at the South Jersey show, Coach was taking a look at all of us before we checked in and when it was my turn, Chris took a second and just said, "That's it, that's the money shot." Then the rest was history.
Q: Can you share about your friendship with Julian Jean?
A: IFBB Pro Julian Jean is more than just a mentor. He is one of my idols and role models. He's someone I can say I have been very fortunate to work with. I had also been following Julian's career for quite some time. Being a published and successful fitness model for companies like Under Armour as well as Vitamin Shoppe I was a bit nervous to approach him. After meeting him at Tri-States last year we immediately clicked. At the time I was living down in Belmar, New Jersey, so we couldn't link up to train much, but it's funny how life works at times. Soon after my last season, I moved out with my lovely girlfriend Sonyta and joined Signature Fitness. Little did I know it was Julian's home gym!
After bumping into last year's champ, we quickly began training together. Pushing each other and helping each other on posing as well as diet. After a month of solid training and posing we knew that our chemistry was electric. The synergy of a fellow competitor pushing each other was a rush and the results showed. Shortly after, both our schedules became extremely busy. Julian hitting Expo shows for 360 Cuts and me traveling for business. Regardless of the schedule changes, when we saw each other again finally at NPC Universe 2014 after a long absence of seeing each other, we were like two peas in a pod.
I could hear his voice thundering from the crowd supporting me and guiding me in my performance when on stage. After everything was said and done he was one of the happiest for me that day. It was then I knew I had a great friend along my side. Julian and I have begun working together once again and have tons of ideas ahead of us so be sure to stay tuned! It's time for me to start my journey in the footsteps of the great giants before me.
Q: And would you say there is good camaraderie among the competitors overall?
A: From what I have seen, absolutely! I'm sure there are many out there who wouldn't lift a finger to help another competitor but that's not who I am. Back stage at both South Jersey and NPC Universe teammates were helping each other pump up, posing, and getting ready for the stage. I really did find a great appreciation for the camaraderie back stage. Everyone was encouraging each other, complimenting each other as well as critiquing and giving positive feedback. That's what it's all about at the end of the day. Positive vibesssss!
Q: What are your favorite video games?
A: Aw, man! What games DON'T I like is a better question (laughs). I've ALWAYS been a huge Blizzard gamer. I've been playing Starcraft and Blizzard games since the mid to late '90s. Right now I go back and forth between Starcraft 2 and Hearthstone. Starcraft is a RTS (Real Time Strategy) kind of like playing a real-time interactive game of online chess against other people. Hearthstone is more a fast paced card game, where the goal is to reduce your opponents life points to zero with spells or creature cards.
God, I'm positive people are asking HOW did this kid ever become an IFBB Pro?! Regardless, I love strategic games as well as games where I can be competitive and rank up.
Q: What other things do you enjoy doing outside of the gym?
A: I got a need, Curt. I got a need ... for speeeeddddd. (Chuckles). I am a bit of a gear head/ speed nut. When I can get the time I love carving out some turns on a good Bear Mountain run up North. I love taking my bike or car (depends how I'm feeling) up there and just forget about all the trivial stresses.
You gave thanks to your girlfriend Sonyta during your one interview and stated earlier in this interview that meeting her was your most memorable experience while attending Penn State. I love a love story...
Q: How did you and Sonyta meet?
A: Believe it or not I saw Sonyta back in Freshman year of college. We were both attending a Penn State satellite campus. Like now, back then I was far too shy to actually approach her. So I said to myself "guess it's just not meant to be." Little did either of us know, three years later she would strike up a friendly conversation at a college bar up at Penn State Main. Both of us had earned our way into our respectful fields and transferred up to Old Main.
So after a few short weeks we realized that our senior year was coming to an end and alas she lived in Philadelphia and I in Bergen County. From there we decided to part ways not knowing what God had in store for us. We kept in touch, she mostly had questions about dieting and training, that's what kept us connected. A year or two later, unfortunately, Sonyta's father got very sick. She decided to leave her full-time job and help take care of her father.
As time progressed Mr. Or's health became an immediate concern, and unfortunately took a sudden turn for the worse. As soon as I heard the news I was right by her side.
She is the strongest person I know, and I will always admire her for her strength. Shortly after, a temporary position opened up at our small family company, so I offered Sonyta the position to help her take her mind off of her loss. She took the job on a whim with no expectation. The position was scheduled to be terminated after four weeks. Due to the nature of our industry and the rotations, four weeks turned into four months.
When the rotation was over and the time came to terminate her position, our Vice President was so impressed with her work and work ethic she decided to make Sonyta a permanent employee with full benefits. From then on we have been inseparable. She is truly my heart, and I her armor.
Q: How can potential sponsors, fans, etc. contact you?
Discuss this interview on Rx Muscle Forums @ http://forums.rxmuscle.com/showthread.php?127974-Alp-Yurteri-2014-NPC-Team-Universe-Overall-Champion-and-New-IFBB-Pro!