Two of bodybuilding’s most reputed prep-coaches also have one of the longest and most storied histories together in the sport, and it’s still being written! Chris Aceto and Chad Nicholls’s story starts in the mid 90’s and has played out over the last three decades, much to the delight of bodybuilding fans. The NPC Nationals, the Arnold, the Olympia… these two have duked it out for practically every prestigious title at all levels of competitive bodybuilding, and Chris Aceto & Chad Nicholls show no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Laura Creavalle – Kim Chizevsky
It was Chad who initially pushed his then future wife Kim Chizevsky into the sport of bodybuilding, who was an aerobics instructor at the time they met. Kim would go on to win the 1992 IFBB North Americans, which qualified her to become an IFBB Professional; the following year the two would be married.
Working with her then husband Chris Aceto, Laura Creavalle would win an impressive three Ms International titles, beating upcoming Chizevsky and coach / husband, Nicholls in the process. 1995 would be the last time Laura placed above Kim, who received 2nd behind Laura; later that year, Kim would finally top Laura in her placing at the Olympia, taking 2nd, which was held by Creavalle the year prior.
The final nail in the coffin for this rivalry was 1996, when Kim won the Ms International title, and Laura received 2nd place. The same year, Kim went on to win her first Olympia, toppling the legendary Lenda Murray in the process, while Creavalle’s placings began to plateau. With the assistance of her coach and husband Chad Nicholls, Kim Chizevsky went on to win the Olympia a total of four times during her illustrious bodybuilding career.
Jay Cutler – Ronnie Coleman
Probably the most infamous of the coaches and client’s duels. Two future legends of bodybuilding, guided by two future legends of bodybuilding. Ronnie Coleman coached by Chad Nicholls, and Jay Cutler by Chris Aceto. Year in and year out the duos would face-off for the sport’s highest title, Mr. Olympia.
Under the tutelage of Chad, Ronnie Coleman went from a respectable 9th place at the Olympia, to winning the contest the following year, and so began his reign as possibly the greatest bodybuilding champion of all time, only to be cut short by one man, Jay Cutler.
Working alongside Chris Aceto, Cutler quickly rose through the ranks of the IFBB, eventually becoming known as the ‘bridesmaid’ to Ronnie Coleman, as he repeatedly fell short of toppling the Coleman / Nicholls regime.
But nobody can beat father time, including Ronnie Coleman, and as we have seen more recently, Cutler as well. As lingering injuries and lacking muscles began to develop on Ronnie, a younger and more ‘fresh’ Jay Cutler was ready to take his place at the top of the IFBB professional ranks, under the supervision of Chris Aceto, who had this to say of their relationship following Jay’s first Olympia Win:
Their wives had battled for the Arnold championship just years prior, where ultimately Chad and Kim had come out on top; but it was a Aceto who would get the ‘last laugh’ during this phase of their careers, when Cutler took home his 1st Olympia in 2006, relegating Ronnie to 2nd Place.
Brad Rowe – Kevin Jordan
A bout with cancer would briefly remove Aceto from the sport, and after the Dennis Wolf ‘Cookie Fiasco,’ Chad took a step from the limelight as well. Coincidentally, the two would return around the same time, choosing to work with elite and driven amateurs, instead of the big-name pros many had associated them with.
Chad began working with Kevin Jordan. In one year the duo went from 10th place at the National level, to winning a competitive Junior Nationals. Kevin’s heavyweight-class at the Juniors included names such as 2nd place finisher Justin Compton, Lloyd Dollar, Akeim Williams, and former Jr’s Champion, Chad Ray Martin.
Aceto started building his stable of amateur athletes as well, this included Dusty Hanshaw during the time of his Junior National class win. Eventually, Aceto teamed up with Brad Rowe in late 2012, who had been in contention for a number of years. Rowe was able to finally ‘nail it’ working with Aceto, and find the formula that’s best for him.
In 2013, Aceto and Nicholls would again have clients (Jordan / Rowe) compete directly with one another, this time for the elusive ‘Pro Card.’ Early in the season it was Rowe who came out on top, getting 2nd to Jordan’s 3rd place finish at the IFBB North Americans. There they would both fall short of professional status, as only elected class winners would receive qualification.
It wasn’t long until the two would meet again, both guided by their respective coaches, this time at the NPC Nationals. Brad bringing the consistency and condition he’s become infamous for, and Kevin making changes based on the lessons he and Chad learned from North Americans. Both were impressive and deserving of pro status, which they obtained, only this time it was Kevin the victor, not only placing above Rowe, but winning the whole show and title of National Champion.
Though he probably would have preferred to win, it’s safe to assume Rowe wasn’t too upset as he still qualified to be a professional; and if he was, it wouldn’t be for long as the next year he would get 3rd place in his pro debut, at the highly competitive Phoenix Europa. Later in the year Rowe would go on to receive 2nd at the Ferrigno Classic, with ‘nasty’ conditioning thanks in part to the plan assembled by Aceto. Meanwhile, Jordan is in the midst of a serious off-season put together by Nicholls, adding the mass he knows is needed to be competitive and reach his potential at the next level.
While there is no planned competitive meeting between these two, with their similarity in both age and potential, it feels inevitable they will meet once again, and the skills of their coaches put to the test.
Montgomery – Cardone
If you hadn’t heard of Dominick Cardone before the 2014 Nationals, you likely have now. Though most followers of the amateur division were aware of Dominick coming up through the ranks, to many casual fans of bodybuilding he seemed to come out of nowhere at the NPC Nationals. It was there Cardone attained professional status at just 21 years of age, becoming the youngest pro in the IFBB professional ranks, while working alongside his coach, Chad Nicholls.
As historic as Dominic’s accompaniments in competitive bodybuilding have been, there’s only one blemish on his record; though small in comparison to his achievements, is still worthy of note because of the potential plotlines that may stem from it into the future. This is his loss of the Overall title to Cody Montgomery, at the 2012 Teen Nationals. A show which Dominick was (deservedly) a heavy favorite to win, only to be upset by then light-heavyweight Montgomery.
The loss at Teen Nationals is in part what fueled Cardone’s flames as he prepared for his return to the stage at the New York Metropolitans. At just 21 years of age, Cardone won the contest, one of the most prestegious and historic ameature regional bodybuilding competitions in the NPC. This alone is a huge feat, but a couple weeks later guided by Chad, Cardone would shock spectators at the NPC Nationals when he swept a competitive heavyweight-class at his first (open) national level bodybuilding contest; falling just short of the Overall title to Puerto Rican Super-Heavyweight, Alexis Rivera-Roton.
Montgomery in the meantime went on to accomplish a few historic feats of his own. He won the title of Teen National Champion, not two, but three times total, making him the first athlete in the history of the contest to do so, while collecting a Collegiate national championship along the way as well. While many bodybuilders his age are worried about winning their first open class, Cody has already started constructing a well formulated overall legacy. Following in the footsteps of Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler, Montgomery has hired Chris Aceto as he prepares his advance to the National level; making his expected debut at the 2015 NPC Nationals, the same contest which Cardone turned professional.
There are no planned battles for these two in the immediate future, especially as Cardone’s primary concern is adding the size needed for his professional debut; but, if they continue to excel as consistently as they have, another meeting (or 10) feels imminent, possibly on the greatest stage in bodybuilding, bringing their coaches with them.
Trading wins like boxers punches, Chris and Chad have been neck and neck with each other for longer than most marriages last. Though it would be easy to be bitter towards one another, at the end of the day, this is men in speedos, lubed up with fake tans; both Chad and Chris are smart enough to recognize this as well as each other’s skill, even if there are some public jabs thrown here and there **cough**peg leg Jay**cough.** Who is the ultimate victor in this rivalry that’s built over a quarter century? The fans. Chris Aceto and Chad Nicholls are both masters of their craft. As followers of bodybuilding we are lucky to be able to say that we witnessed their creations, and get to watch history unfold before our eyes.
– Waylon Martin