by Dave Warner
Cassie Grippi is from Frankfort, but most of us in Little Falls know her because of the restaurants she has been bartending at. In fact, she has a nickname, but we’ll bring that up later.
Grippi graduated from Frankfort High School and then went to college in Albany. “I moved back last October, and that’s when I got involved in Little Falls because I started bartending all the places here, waiting to go back to school for my Master’s Degree.”
“I’ve always had a spot in my heart for the Valley. It’s always been home. But Little Falls is just the perfect little City for me. I’ve always said that if I moved back home, I’d move to Little Falls. There are so many events going on.”
She says that the best job she’s had is bartending at the Renaissance. “I’ve just met some of the best people with the craziest stories. The connections I’ve made in Little Falls are just wild to me.”
Grippi had played soccer in school, so she had done strength training, cardio, and other workouts to keep in shape. “As I got older, I realized, wow, you can really get injured playing soccer. So I hung up my cleats and focused more on weightlifting.”
She joined a gym and got a personal trainer and group classes, which she thought was always a hobby. “I liked lifting weights, and so many people asked me if I’d competed professionally, and I always took that as a compliment. I told them no, I just like lifting weights.”
According to Grippi, her Uncle Dave Drapalski (from Little Falls) was always into powerlifting and bodybuilding. “He was always at the Y down here, and every time I went over there on Sundays, we used to reminisce about bodybuilding and powerlifting,” she said.
Covid came along, and all the gyms shut down, so she had to get creative. “At that time, I was still living in Albany, and we went looking for workout equipment, and the prices had gone through the roof.”
She said she was lucky because she had a lot of equipment back in Frankfort. “I put 400 pounds of weight in my little Civic and dragged it back to Albany and made this basement workout area, kinda like a dingy gym.”
Grippi was making the gym work for her, and her Aunt Grace had done the same in her basement, hanging up pictures of her Uncle’s bodybuilding and powerlifting on the wall, along with her brother Jerry. “I was down there one day, and they said that the only way I could get my picture on the wall was if I did a bodybuilding competition.”
It was a challenge that Grippi wanted to take on, so during Covid, she prepped herself and did her first body competition in June of 2021. “It was out in Syracuse, and it was all natural (OCB) bodybuilding. I didn’t know much about it. I taught myself to pose, and Grace, Dave, and my Mom came.”
She ended up winning the whole show, all four classes, and got her pro card that day as well. “I was just blown away. From that competition, I qualified for the Yorton competition, and that’s the biggest event – the Super Bowl of bodybuilding, and it was down in Poughkeepsie last year.”
“All these pros were going to be there, and I thought if I qualified for it, I might as well go for it,” she said.
At the time, she was still bartending at the Renaissance, and she said, “The whole Little Falls community was so supportive of me. They’d tease me because they’d come in and be drinking and eating food, and I’d eat out of my Tupperware to prepare for the event.”
Grippi said that there were about 50 girls that she was competing with at the event and that she did not expect much because they had been doing this for years. “I ended up getting third overall, which was humbling, but that qualified me again for this year.”
“I felt like I had to do better – I had to beat myself, so I trained again this year, and I went back and got the Gold,” she stated.
“I was nervous this time because it was me against me, and I have to do better because the last time I’d gotten third. So, this time I completely coached myself, which gets hard towards the end because you’re your own worst critic.”
During the interview, she said that her next goal was to compete on an international scale, and she would compete in an event on September 30th. The results are now in from that event, and she received a 1st in class but was one spot shy of receiving her IFBB Pro card (International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness – which allows for international competition).
She said, “The athlete in me is disappointed and knows I could have switched some things and have gone all the way. But I have to remember I’ve only been doing this for a year, and there is much more room for growth. This journey has made me a better athlete and coach.”
Grippi had a chance to reflect on everything the next day during her 25th birthday. “I realized that at just 25, I had swept three of the five shows I’ve ever done – taking home first in all divisions and placing in the top three in the two others. I broke a deadlift record of the XPS Federation for weight class as well while working and going to school. I’d say this has been a successful journey.”
Until this point, it had been a hobby for Grippi, but now that she’s a pro and can win prize money, she plans on doing more. “At least you’re training for something and not footing that expense. If you get the IFBB Pro card, you’re on top of the world. If I achieve that, the sponsorships would be through the roof,” she stated.
After last weekend, she is now in what she calls the off-season, but she still has to continue training. “That’s the fun season. I’m always conscious of what I’m eating because you have one body, and your body is an engine. You have to fuel it the way you want your engine to run.”
What is she going to do after this? “I enjoy food, I’m Italian, and I love Christmas cookies. My customers knew that because I made so many cookies and delivered them all to my customers this past Christmas Eve. I’m a huge foodie, and I enjoy weekends, friends, and family.”
While doing this, Grippi has worked four jobs, taken on personal trainer clients, and is a certified surgical tech. Now she plans to go to PA (Physicians Assistant) school at Utica College to RN/NP. “That’s the plan…to be an NP or PA, but honestly, I’ve built up a business and launched my training team this year called Team Tekilla.”
She says that the joke behind that is that she always had a bottle of Tequilla in her trunk, and she did these different events, and somehow, the trunk Tequilla always found its way out of the trunk, “So everybody knew me as the Tequilla girl, so I said, let’s make this a fun team.”
Every slogan for the team? “Sweet or salty, you pick your poison. How many times do you hear people say pick your poison? You can either drink or party, or lift heavy weights and do a bodybuilding show. I tell the clients, it’s up to you.”
Grippi is a certified nutritionist and does nutrition plans for her clients and programming for exercise and strength training.
“I’m hoping that being in the medical field, involved with nutrition and sports – that somehow, this will all come together. I like to keep things complicated,” she said.