Coming from a town of around 5000 people, West graduate Tony Cress ’96 never imagined that he would someday be working alongside famous celebrities ranging from talented musicians to nationally-ranked athletes. This all sparked into action following an odd turn of events in which Cress entered a reality TV show called Strip Search and danced his way to the top, participating in various boot camps until he finally won a spot in the final troupe that performed for a live audience in Las Vegas.
After winning the TV show, Cress was able to solidify his career and set his personal training business into motion. Today, he owns and operates his own training facility in Las Vegas called the Tony Cress Training Center.
While other students scrambled and stressed to figure out what they wanted to do, Cress had his mind set on one thing. From the age of 14, he knew that he wanted to have a career in his lifelong passion: fitness.
“I knew I wanted to be a trainer when I was 14. I did not know at 14 to what capacity that could become,” Cress said. “The fact that I’ve worked with my favorite all time musical group [Boyz II Men], Joey Fatone and some NFL players makes me affirm how much I’ve achieved [my goals].”
Upon discovering that he could get paid to workout by being a fitness trainer, Cress made it his goal to attain his dreams in any way that he could. Through his participation in basketball for four years at West, Cress found an outlet for his love of exercise.
“I’ve always been obsessed with exercise, and when I found out you could get paid to do it, say no more,” Cress said. “I had blinders on after that.”
While his aspiration for the future has not changed over the years, Cress’s determination to go after what he wants has intensified immensely. During his days at West, he lacked the drive that he has gained in his adult life, and regrets not going after more of the things that he wanted when in school.
“I didn’t always go after what I wanted because I listened to the doubts of other people,” Cress said. “I knew I could do the things I wanted to, but it was other people holding me back from those exact things. I’d just go after more of what I hadn’t growing up.”
Some of that motivation he eventually acquired to achieve his dreams came from trusted adults at West High. The bonds that Cress formed as a student with teachers and coaches helped him become the person he is today.
“I think for my own agenda, what I learned at West happened outside the perimeter of class time,” Cress said. “It was the conversations I had with teachers and coaches outside my class time with them that made me realize they are there to genuinely help make successful adults and see the promise in everyone.”
One of those adults was Steve Bergman, Cress’s basketball coach for two years while he was at West. Cress was close with Bergman both as a coach and as a person, and Bergman has watched him grow more and more successful over the years.
“I’m really happy for Tony that he went out [of his comfort zone],” Bergman said. “He did the reality show, and it’s turned into something that he really loves to do and he’s really good at.”
Another major influence on Cress throughout high school was social studies teacher Gary Neuzil, one of the announcers at all of the basketballs games that Cress was in. Having taught several of Cress’s family members over the years and witnessed Cress’s confidence firsthand, it came as no surprise to Neuzil that Cress went on to be a successful business owner.
“Tony had a personality that drew people to want to like him,” Neuzil said. “He was just one of those school leaders that you can see has charisma, but also has those natural characteristics that you have to have to be successful.”
From Iowa City to Las Vegas, Cress’s history at West has been a constant in his life.
“I would not change a thing about the education I got at West High, the faculty or the students when I was there,” Cress said. “I really do think that it is one of the best high schools in the nation.”