Carson City brothers Tobin and Ted Rupert are the local boys competing in the Nevada Day 31st Annual World Championship Single-Jack Hard Rock Drilling Contest, but Ted said he isn't competing against his older brother.
It's them versus the rock.
The rock is a 2.5 ton, 3-foot block of Sierra White Granite from a Raymond, Calif., quarry.
"It's the hardest granite in this part of the country, and it's real expensive," said Nevada Day Rock Drilling Chairman Fred Andreasen, a seven-time world champ and the Rupert brothers' coach.
Mining fans donated the $3,400 to buy the block. This will be the third year of its use in the annual Nevada Day contest, known for its fast-hammering action egged on by parade revelers in the downtown parking lot of the Nugget Casino. Andreasen said this block should last them eight or 10 years because "It has enough room for a couple hundred holes." When the granite isn't getting drilled by a steel bit, powered in by a muscled arm wielding a four-pound hammer, it's sitting in the city yards by the sewer pond.
Andreasen said most single-jackers are miners - except for the Ruperts.
"Tobin will be one of the crowd favorites because he's local," said Andreasen, retired from the Nevada Department of Transportation. "He's well known and everybody likes him. Both of them. But Tobin is going to be a contender this year for the money."
His third year in the contest, Tobin, owner of Rupert's Auto Body, is the more experienced brother. This will be Ted's first time at the Nevada Day event. He insisted that he's not nervous.
"I guess I should be," the 33-year-old general manager of the auto body shop said. "This will be my first time, so it'll be a big thing for me."
Ted decided to try it himself after following his brother from contest to contest for about three years. Tobin learned by trial and error and Ted said he profits off that. There aren't any manuals on single-jack drilling.
"My goal is to survive the 10 minutes and not break my hand in half," Ted said. "If I do that I'm happy."
The brothers can be found on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons practicing outside Rupert's Auto Body, 2800 S. Curry St.
The old-fashioned mining method goes like so: the driller swings a hammer over his head and pounds a hand-forged steel drill bit into the rock. After each hit, the driller will rotate the bit inside the hole. A helper washes the hole out with water to remove the granite shards. This goes on for about 10 minutes. Thumb hits are common.
"I haven't hit my hand in over a month," Tobin said.
The experts drill as deep as 13 or 14 inches in 10-minutes. This time limit is unique to Nevada. Contests outside the state are usually five minutes. Champion drillers hit the bit with 80 to 90 strokes a minute.
Ted's deepest hole has been 63Ú4 inch.
Last Nevada Day, Tobin drilled a hole just short of 9 inches, at about 70 strokes a minute. The 39-year-old would like to hit more than 10 inches this year, which would be his career best during a competition. He's drilled as deep as 14 inches in the rock outside his shop. He's hitting up to about 75 strokes a minute with a 41Ú2-pound hammer.
Every year the grandstand beside the rock drilling ring is full of bloody Mary-sipping fans who would have no problem treating one of the contestants to a beer after the contest.
This offer might sound good to Tobin Rupert, who has been on a strict diet for about four months.
"I drill four times a week," Tobin said. "I go to the gym six times a week and at home I work out five times a week. So that's all I do. I've got a mission."
Tobin tied for second place in the Nevada State Mining Championship this year with a 91Ú4 inch hole. Skip Leedy, of Reno, won that one. He also won the Nevada Day competition last year with 137Ú8 inches. The competition is close - last year the top three were all within one-quarter inch of one another.
"Skip's my idol, but I'm trying to take him out," Tobin said then laughed. "But I've only been doing this for three years and they've been doing it for 20."
As for competing against his brother, Tobin said: "If you're going to lose to someone, you might as well lose to family."
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
If You Go
What: Nevada Day 31st annual World Championship Single-Jack Hard Rock Drilling Contest
When: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Oct. 29
Where: The west parking lot of the Carson City Nugget at the intersection of Carson and Robinson streets.
About a dozen single-jackers from around the West will compete for $6,000 in prize money. First place is $2,000, second is $1,500, third is $1,000, fourth is $750, fifth place is $500, and sixth place is $250.
Who else to watch
Defending champion Skip Leedy of Reno
Craig Leedy of Reno
Tom Donovan of Reno
Steve McDonald of Yuma, Ariz.
This year's judges are Scott Barry and Ken Brown