Stepping up to the table, they grasped hands and braced elbows. Some wrapped a leg around a table leg for some extra stability. A few moments of battling and an arm slammed down meant a victor, and new challengers approaching the stage.
Despite the heat Saturday, Sept. 3, the competition was fast and furious at the 2011 state Arm Wrestling Championships at the Grayson County Fair. Competitors from five states – Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois – faced off for bragging rights and trophies.
At 30 years, the Grayson County event is the longest continuous arm wrestling tournament east of the Mississippi River. And this year, top spots in the novice classes went to two Grayson County men.
Delbert Higgs of Clarkson took first place in the novice open class. He said he’s liked arm wrestling “since high school,” and became interested in competing because of his brother, Ken.
He first entered the local competition a couple of years ago, and counts a win at the Kentucky Muscle arm wrestling tournament in Louisville – a qualifying tournament for the Arnold Classic – among his victories.
He took first place in a left-handed wrestling category there, something he correctly predicted he wouldn’t do Saturday. “I’m stronger left-handed, but the competition in that class is tougher,” he said. “There are some pros wrestling in that today.”
Brute strength isn’t key in arm wrestling, Higgs said. Rather, it’s technique and tendon strength, knowing the right moves to apply to topple your opponent’s arm.
Training, he said, can be a problem. He and Ken face off, but Ken wrestles in a lighter class.
For Michael Gaither of Leitchfield, who took top place in the 198 pound novice class, training is more of an informal process.
“I don’t really train,” he said. “I more just practice from messing around with people at work and other places. The best practice is just to do it.”
Gaither said he too has liked arm grappling since high school. He started competing on a whim about five years ago, and has twice taken third-place titles at the state championships.
Like Higgs, he said it’s a contest of tendon strength and technique.
Gaither said he hopes to wrestle in the pro classes next year. “I had decided I wouldn’t try that unless I could finish first in the novices,” he said.
Winners in the 2011 state arm wrestling championships included:
176 pounds: Dale Anderson, Evansville, Ind., first; Chris Burk, Louisville, second; Jonathon Brandenburg, Georgetown, Ky., third.
198 pounds: Michael Gaither, Leitchfield, first; Calvin Johnson, Caneyville, second; Rob Masters, Charlestown, Ind., third.
Open: Delbert Higgs, Clarkson, first; Jeff Janes, Clarksville, Tenn., second; Chad Julian, Florence, Ky., third.
Women’s: Brandi Randall, Georgetown, first; Jacinda McAtee, Sadieville, Ky., second; Chelse Leonard, Richmond, Ind., third.
176 pounds: Jordan McGuire, Lanesville, Ind., first; Dale Anderson, second.
198 pounds: Mike West, Floyds Knob, Ind., first; Rob Masters, second.
Open: Doug Allen, Lebanon, Ohio; Harold Owens II, Carmel, Ill., second; Jonathon Vogt, Columbus, Ind., third.
154 pounds: Chris Burke, first; Jordan McGuire, second; Terry Spine, Georgetown, Ind., third.
176 pounds; Cobra Rhodes, Fort Wayne, Ind., first; Mike West, second; Rob Masters, third.
220 pounds: Kenny Flynn, Dayton, Ohio, first; Mike West, second.
Open: Harold Owens II, first; Evan Berkemeier, Columbus Ind., second; Jonathon Vogt, third.