Building the Beast
Photo: Mark David Janzen.
Do you want to look like Seattle Seawolves’ forward Eric Duechle?
Most people do. All it takes is an extra $1,000 a month, incredible attention to detail, commitment to working out and eating right, and 14 years of high-level rugby.
The 33-year-old flanker looks – and plays – like he’s 23. When you catch a glimpse of him with his shirt off, you realize that he’s built like a statue.
“He keeps everyone’s tops on when he walks around with his off,” teammate and fellow forward Brad Tucker says of his 6-foot-4, 244-pound teammate. “No one else can take theirs off with that rig walking around.”
He’s nicknamed “The Beast’ for a reason, and fans that have paid attention to Major League Rugby for the last two seasons have seen why he’s earned that nickname.
A quick look through the stats sheet says it all. In the 14 matches that the Seawolves have played this season, Duechle has carried the ball 81 times for 655 meters and three tries. On the defensive side, he’s made a whopping 158 tackles while only missing nine to give him a 95 percent tackle completion rate on the year. He’s doing all that while averaging 49 minutes per match. Whether he’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, Duechle makes his presence felt in every match he plays in.
Making his presence felt is exactly how he earned his nickname.
“So in 2012, I started playing for Belmont Shore,” Duechle explains with a smile after his Seawolves just knocked off the Glendale Raptors 53-36 at Infinity Park. “Peter Sio. First day at practice we were doing tackling drills and I was just laying guys out. He was like, ‘The Beast!’ Because of his personality on the team, it just stuck.”
He may have earned the nickname in 2012, but his long and winding rugby career began long before his stop in Belmont Shore and is still going strong several years after. He goes through all the clubs he’s played for like anyone else would run through their grocery list.
“I’ve been playing for 14 years,” Duechle says. “I started my senior year of high school at T.C. Williams in Virginia. I went to the Air Force Academy, played there for four years. Went to D.C. again, played for PAC. Moved to Belmont Shore over there in Long Beach, played for them. Won two National Championships. Went to the U.S. 7s, was down there for a year. Came up here to Seattle. Won a 7s championship with them in our Canadian division and then I stopped playing for like two years. I thought I was done. I hurt my back. Then this opportunity came up. I left the Air Force to do this and now I’ve been pro for two years.”
Duechle added a fifth championship to his trophy case last season, which served as his second stop in Seattle when the Seawolves won the inaugural MLR Championship shield in 2018. Anyone with five championships, a Falcons tour and time spent in Air Force’s world-class athlete program under their belts has earned the nickname “The Beast.”
As one could probably imagine, keeping anyone’s body in good enough shape to play high-level rugby for that many years is a tall task. Duechle has explored just about every avenue to keep his body right, and that’s something that his teammates have noticed about him.
“Eric’s story is pretty amazing,” wing Brock Staller says of Duechle. “Coming from the Air Force and the intense job that he had there and then coming back to rugby. He’s probably one of the most athletic guys in the league and one of the most professional when it comes to recovery, looking at film and trying to make his body the best that it can be.”
“He’s a hell of an athlete,” Tucker says. “He’s pretty good in the gym. I’d never think anyone is in that good of shape.”
It takes a lot more than just the gym to keep Duechle on the pitch. You’d be hard-pressed to find a recovery method that he hasn’t tried at least once.
“I’m a big yoga guy,” Duechle says. “I try to do it at least once a week. I do sensory deprivation tanks. I just float in there. It’s like all Epsom salt and it just relaxes the whole body. I do transcendental meditation. I do that twice a day for 20 minutes. I do a regular massage once a week. This Russian bathhouse, which is incredible. It’s called Banya 5. They do the hottest sauna you can imagine. It’s like 240 degrees Fahrenheit and these cold plunges which are 37 degrees. It’s like this Eastern philosophy going between the two.”
Contrary to popular belief, muscles aren’t built in the gym. They are built in the kitchen. For someone with the build of a caveman, it only makes sense that Duechle eats like a caveman as well.
“Whole Foods, man!” Duechle says with a laugh. “I’ve got everything. I love lamb and bison. I used to eat a lot of meat. I’ve been cutting back because it’s harder to digest. I follow the paleo diet.”
He is the first to admit that he likely wouldn’t be able to care for his body the way he does if he lived in a different part of the country. The Pacific Northwest provides him with the opportunity to explore a wide variety of recovery methods to keep him looking, feeling and ultimately playing his absolute best.
“Just living in Seattle,” Duechle explains. “Sensory deprivation tanks? I’ve never seen that commercially. Russian bathhouse? It’s an Amazon. They have everything there. It’s really fortunate. I know in Austin they have some stuff too. They have cryo(therapy). We’ve been doing cryo. I’m just really lucky to live here.”
The extent that Duechle goes to keep himself on the pitch not only requires a significant amount of time, but it also requires a significant amount of money as well. For professional athletes, their bodies are an investment. If they don’t take care of their bodies, their bodies won’t take care of them.
“I probably spend $12,000 a year,” Duechle says. “That’s like $1,000 a month, which is a lot.”
Now, that annual $12,000 may hail in comparison to the $1.5 million that megastars like LeBron James spend on themselves, but it’s all relative. If Duechle had the means, you get the sense that he’d be right up there with James in terms of spending.
“He’s really shining as a player and I am really happy to see him succeed,” Staller says of his teammate. As long as he continues to take care of his body in the fashion that he does, there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to shine in Seattle for years to come.
That’s got to be music to Seawolves fans ears.
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