Tragedies fuel Hug grad Burton to top 10 world ranking in professional bodybuilding – Reno Gazette Journal

Professional bodybuilder Tonio Burton works on his upper body during his daily bodybuilding workout on Oct. 4.

He was already a dedicated bodybuilder before his brother was killed by gang violence. But that terrible incident, along with several other tragedies, served to further fuel Tonio Burton.

His brother, uncle and aunt, along with two good friends, died within a span of a few months in 2017.

Burton, a 2009 Hug High graduate, is in avid bodybuilder, one of the top in the world as shown by his top 10 finish in the Mr. Universe contest earlier this month in Florida.

Professional bodybuilder Tonio Burton works on his upper body during his daily bodybuilding workout on Oct. 4.

He is also determined to try to prevent more young people from dying because of violence, as he continues to pursue his bodybuilding dreams.

His brother, Trezelle Holloway, died from gang violence, as did a friend and another from domestic violence. His relatives died from health issues.

Burton will be on the stage in his hometown this weekend as part of the Legion Sports Fest, Friday-Sunday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Burton will be part of an exhibition on Sunday.

Pro bodybuilder Tonio Burton poses for a photograph before his daily bodybuilding workout on Oct. 4.

After enduring those tragic deaths, Burton continued with his bodybuilding and entered his first bodybuilding show in 2018 on a whim, thinking it was silly and weird.

But his coach talked him into it and he won that contest.

“The hype and the excitement that came from it, I was like, ‘Oh, I love this,'” Burton said.

Burton turned pro in bodybuilding this year and won his first pro event. He regularly travels the world for shows and contests.

Bodybuilding is just a part of his life, though. He hopes to work for Homeland Security. He plans to finish work for his bachelor’s degree soon to help achieve that goal.

Burton had wanted to be a police office and was prepared to take the tests necessary to complete that pursuit in 2017.

Professional bodybuilder Tonio Burton works on his upper body during his daily bodybuilding workout on Oct. 4.

His good friend, Ryan Jones, was going to join him as an officer.

But violence intervened.

“A week before testing he got shot twice in his chest. On the day of his funeral is when I did my testing,” Burton said. “I stopped by his funeral, then went back to finish my test because that’s what we wanted.”

Hs younger brother was proud of Tonio and would brag about how big and strong he was.

But he too became a victim of gun violence. Burton said it was partly due to “wrong place at the wrong time.”

Burton said his brother wanted to follow him in bodybuilding, which prompts him to work even harder now.

Professional bodybuilder Tonio Burton talks with the RGJ before his daily workout on Oct. 4.

Hug High School

Burton played football for Coach Rollins Stallworth at Hug.

“Stallworth was the dad that we never had,” Burton said. “If he saw us late to class or walking the hallways, he had no problem smacking us in the back of the head and telling us to get to class.”

Stallworth remembered Burton as not being too big, but strong for his size.

Burton, who played at Hug with Duke Williams and Courtney Gardner, was listed at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds on the 2008 Hug roster.

He led the team with 1,029 yards on 101 carries with 10 touchdowns his senior season as the Hawks went 8-2.

“He was always a small student athlete, but always strong if not stronger than most his size,” Stallworth said. “He also ran track and was one of the best track athletes on the team, but was sometimes overshadowed by some of the other great track athletes on the Hug team. A two-way starter as a running back and corner on our football team and was a valuable all-league performer.”

Professional bodybuilder Tonio Burton works on his upper body during his daily workout on Oct. 4.

After high school

Burton has two sons, now ages 11 and 12. He went to play football at Feather River College right after high school, but returned to Reno to care for his young sons before the season started in 2011.

In 2014, he went back to Feather River to play football and graduated, earning a scholarship play running back at Div. II Arkansas State.

He worked at Willow Springs in Reno, a residential psychiatric hospital for children. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, most of the staff left, except for Burton.

At Willow Springs, he could draw on his own past experiences, running with the wrong crowd, as well as his friends and family to try to steer the residents in the right direction.

“I let them know, that if you want to live that life, act like this, this is what’s going to happen,” Burton said. “I was able to connect with them. Even to this day, I have kids reach out to me on social media and say, ‘You saved my life. I went back to school. I have my degree now.'”

Professional bodybuilder Tonio Burton works on his upper body during his daily bodybuilding workout on Oct. 4.

Pro bodybuilding

Burton won his pro debut this year in the 2012 Men’s Open Bodybuilding category in IFBB Professional league after winning the NPC Mother Lode in 2018, and turning pro in his next event.

Ted Johanson with Legion Sports Sports Fest said Burton has made incredible strides in bodybuilding.

“In our sport, this is an extremely rare occurrence to turn professional that quickly and qualify for the Mr. Olympia, the Super Bowl of bodybuilding, in one’s first professional competition is mind-blowing,” Johansen told the RGJ. “He’s the next big professional athlete from Reno.”

Burton works out in the gym seven days a week, about an hour and half to two hours each time. He eats six meals a day, most meals consisting of nine ounces of chicken, two cups of rice and asparagus.

In addition to being a sponsored athlete, he works as a personal trainer.

The Masters IFBB Pro competitions begin on Friday (Oct. 22) before the expo on Oct. 23-24 and will feature 2,000 athletes competing on several events and categories.

Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on Twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to