This Day in Armwrestling History - April Dates
April 1st, 1995
The sixth edition of the Golden Bear International Tournament is held in Moscow. Though the U.S. and Canada had been dominating this competition since the inaugural event in 1990, it was clear that the tide was beginning to turn. Pullers from Russia and other former members of the Soviet Republic were catching up to their North American counterparts, having had a few years to learn the sport and train for it correctly. In subsequent years (1996-1999), Eastern Europeans won the majority of weight classes.
April 2nd, 2005
The Battle of the Giants IV is held in Albany, Georgia. The Battle of the Giants had quickly become one of the biggest annual tournaments in the southeastern U.S. since it was first run in 2002. The fourth edition of the event has a large turnout with 195 total entries. Legendary puller Ron Bath wins four classes. Only Dave Randall is able to stop him from winning a fifth!
April 3rd, 1999
A young Travis Bagent shows signs of a promising future, winning both the novice and open super-heavyweight divisions of the Virginia State Armwrestling Championships.
April 4th, 2009
Ultimate Armwrestling Championship 2 (UAC 2: Showdown) is held in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. The main event of the day is to be the UAC Heavyweight Championship match between reigning champion Michael Todd and challenger Earl Wilson (an 8-time WAF World Champion). Regrettably, last minute circumstances prevent Michael from attending the event, so 2-time Canadian champion Shawn Ross is invited to step in to pull Earl. Shawn is unfortunately unable to pose a significant challenge for Earl and loses the super match 4-0.
April 5th, 1986
The 10th Annual Vermont State Championships are held. By this time, it is already one of the longest running state championships in the United States. Karen Brisson earns yet another state title. (She had already won three senior division World Arm Wrestling Federation (WAWF) world titles as a teenager!)
April 6th, 2002
Steve Stanaway wins the 90kg right hand open division of the Virginia State Armwrestling Championships. This win comes an incredible 35 years after he competed in his first event in 1967. Within this timeframe, he successfully amassed at least seven world titles. He always competed at the same weight of approximately 200 lbs.
April 7th, 2001
The third annual Fort Randall Casino Arm Wrestling Championships are held in Wagner, South Dakota. The event attracts representation from 11 states as well as Canada. The first place champions of the pro classes consist of a veritable “who’s who” of ranked North American pullers of the era: Roger Nowatzke, Greg Wilson, Jason Remer, Andy Fuller, Margie Worden, Josée Morneau, and Ryan Espey.
April 8th, 2006
Gladiator’s Night VI is held in Switzerland. The event, run by Pascal Girard – the most successful Swiss armwrestler of all time – has 100 entries, including participation from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Uzbekistan, Sweden, and the UK.
April 9th, 2005
“The Brawl for it All” left hand supermatch is held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, between Canadian Ryan Espey, the 2003 World Armwrestling Federation (WAF) super-heavyweight world champion, and American Travis Bagent, the man recognized by many as the best left-handed armwrestler on the planet. Fan interest in this match grew after the 2003 WAF World Championships where Ryan won the super-heavyweight class with relative ease (Travis did not compete in the left hand class that day). The supermatch consists of a best-of-seven format, and Travis emerges victorious with a score of 4 to 3. All of Travis’ losses were the result of fouls. Afterwards, Ryan says that though the score may make the match appear to have been close, he feels Travis currently has the better left arm.
April 10th, 2010
“Pull for the Hungry XXV” is held in Saint Joseph, Missouri. This long-running annual tournament had served as a fundraiser for local food banks, and by 2010 had raised well in excess of $10,000. Every year the event attracted many of the best pullers from the Midwest. The top two super-heavyweight pullers of the 2010 tournament were future Game of Arms stars Don Underwood and Nick Zinna.
Note: It appears the numbering of the event may have gone off track at some point, as the 1993 event was labeled “Pull for the Hungry IV”.ew after the 2003 WAF World Championships where Ryan won the super-heavyweight class with relative ease (Travis did not compete in the left hand class that day). The supermatch consists of a best-of-seven format, and Travis emerges victorious with a score of 4 to 3. All of Travis’ losses were the result of fouls. Afterwards, Ryan says that though the score may make the match appear to have been close, he feels Travis currently has the better left arm.
April 11th, 1981
The American Armwrestling Association (AAA) National Stand-up Championships are held in Rockville, Maryland. The tournament director is Jerry Herson, a Honda dealership owner, and host of the 1980 National Championships. The 1980 event was by far the biggest AAA tournament ever held, but Jerry kicks things up another notch for 1981. The tournament sets a record for the biggest prize budget ever: $45,000 (which equates to over $120,000 in 2014 dollars). Every class has cash prizes for the top six places, huge trophies, and championship rings for all first place finishers. Plus, the champions would be entered into a draw for four free trips to the World Arm Wrestling Federation World Championships in Brazil later in the year. The result of all this? The biggest assembly of armwrestling talent to date! The men’s classes average 34 entries (52 in the biggest) and the women’s classes average 20 entries. To provide a sense of the level of talent at the event, these are just a few of the elite pullers in attendance: Ray Patton, Dave Patton, Norm Devio, Allen Fisher, Bert Whitfield, Jerry Nelson, John Buononato, Johnny Walker, Clay Rosencrans, Rick Levine, Ed Arnold, Mike Shadduck, Virgil Arciero, Danny Stone, Al Turner, Dan Mason, Jim Northern, Cleve Dean, Cheri Fiebig, Cindy Baker, Lori Cole, and Karen Brisson! Johnny Walker and Cheir Fiebig have perhaps the best performances of the day, each winning two classes! They are also two of the lucky winners of a free trip to the World Championships, with the other winners being Virgil Arciero and Cleve Dean.
April 12th, 2003
The first “John Brzenk Challenge” is held in conjunction with the California State Pro-Am Armwrestling Championship. $1,500 is up for grabs for the first person to defeat John Brzenk with the right arm. Competitors participated in a silent auction for 102 individual spots in the pulling order. This added an element of strategy, as the $1,500 would only be paid to the first person to beat John. In the end though, it doesn’t really matter, because John successfully goes through the entire field without losing. An impressive feat, made all the more impressive when one considers some of the pullers he faced (in many cases more than once): Tom Nelson, Don Underwood, Michael Todd, Travis Bagent, Jon Land, Britton Matthews, Allen Fisher, Kenny Hughes, Scott Fleming, Don McClary, and Bob Shaffer!
April 13th, 2013
Mark Zalepa hosts the USA vs Canada Women's Super Match Challenge in Woodstock, ON. Mark had hosted similar events previously, attracting some of the top female arwmrestlers from around the world. This particular Challenge features three matches, comprising a mix of experienced and up and coming pullers. The final score is 2-1 for the United States, with Annie Fuller (USA) defeating Linda DeGroot (CAN), Sophie Oppenheimer (USA) defeating Ashley Maher (CAN), and Sarah Wilson (CAN) defeating Krysta Prior (USA).
April 14th, 1984
The 1984 AAA Stand-up National Championships are held in Houston, Texas. A total of 226 armwrestlers take part in the contest, including representation from 35 states. They compete for $5,000 worth of trophies and $15,000 in prize money. Bert Whitfield wins his second AAA national title, Jeanette Davis and Norm Devio each win their fourth AAA national titles, and Cleve Dean wins his fifth. Gary Ray comes back from the losers’ bracket to beat 185-lb sensation George Givens twice to win that class. But perhaps the most impressive performance is put on by 19-year old John Brzenk, who easily finishes atop a field of 26 to win his first AAA national title. Even at this young age, he is noted for his versatility and lack of apparent weaknesses. His almost immediate ascent to the top of his class in the armwrestling world is compared to the one Dave Patton had five years earlier.
April 15th, 1989
Richard Lupkes beats John Brzenk to win the 1989 Can-Am Invitational tournament in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, adding to the saga of their rivalry for the top spot in the armwrestling world. By beating John, Richard re-assumes the ranking he had held for nine months in 1988 that John took back from him at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship in October. On this day, Richard gets his payback, and also beats Gary Goodridge in the process!
April 16th, 2005
The pro division of Ultimate Armwrestling II “The Pull at the Plaza” is contested in Las Vegas, Nevada. Significant buzz had been building in the months and weeks leading up to this event (which was also billed as the United States Armwrestling Championship) due to a number of factors. One was the $30,000 in cash prizes, and another was the fact that the finals were being filmed for airing on Fox Sports Net’s Best Damn Sports Show Period. It also helped that the tournament was being promoted by John and Joan Burgeson as well as Dave Devoto, all of whom had excellent track records of putting on professional events. The end result is the most stacked event held in North America of the decade (outside of WAF World Championships). Every class contains multiple national and world champions. Roman Tsindilliani, Cvetan Gashevski, John Brzenk, Farid Usmanov, Matt Girdner, Barb Zalepa, and Dalia Medziausyte are the right hand champions of the day, while Roman Tsindilliani, Kenny Hughes, John Brzenk, Marcio Barboza, and Travis Bagent are the left hand champions. Todd Hutchings makes a big impression, almost beating John Brzenk to win the right hand 198-pound class. Farid Usmanov also steps up his game considerably, winning the right hand 242-pound class with relative ease.
April 17th, 1982
The 1982 AAA Stand-up National Championships are held in Newport News, Virginia. The 1982 event is much smaller than the 1981 event. Whereas over $45,000 in cash prizes were available to be won in 1981, there are no cash prizes in 1982. Consequently, the tournament only attracts 120 participants, as opposed to 1981’s 277 armwrestlers. Nevertheless, the national event does attract some top-shelf talent. Dave Patton wins his fourth AAA stand-up national title in a row. Steve Stanaway makes a comeback and wins his first AAA national title, which he adds to the six world titles he won during the ‘70s. He announces his retirement from the sport immediately after his win. And Florida’s Bobby Hopkins is given the Outstanding Newcomer Award after beating Al Turner to win a national title in his first attempt.
April 18th, 2004
The right hand pro division of the 2004 Harley Pull is contested in Montpelier, Ohio. After taking a break in 2003, Mike Bowling decides to revive the Harley Pull for a fourth edition. The 2004 event features more classes than ever, thus increasing the number of keys available to be won. This helps attract competitors from across the United States and Canada who dream of leaving the tournament with a new motorcycle. Marcio Barboza gets the best odds of taking home the bike, by winning 4 of the 18 keys (he won them by winning his classes as well as the left and right overalls). At the conclusion of the armwrestling, those with keys line up and one-by-one they try to start the bike. Many are unsuccessful, before the Harley’s lights are finally turned on. The winner is thrilled Canadian Maksim Khodau who had earned a single key by winning the left hand 138-pound class.
The 2004 Harley Pull is also remembered for the right hand overall championship, which saw 171-pound champion “Crazy” George Iszakouits secure win after win before finally losing in the final to Marcio. Everyone was wondering: can George actually pull this off?
April 19th, 1986
The 1986 AAA Stand-up National Championships are held in Jacksonville, Florida. The contest features cash prizes for the top three finishers in each class and awards for the top five, which help attract a total of 135 pullers. Ray Taglione has a terrific day: not only is he the host of the event, but he also wins the 135-pound title fighting back from the losers’ bracket to beat Massachusetts’ Gabe Accardi twice in the finals. Legendary pullers Dave Patton, Johnny Walker, John Brzenk, and Cleve Dean are in attendance, and of course each wins his respective class. Consequently, the event is low on surprises. Many of the best pullers of the ‘80s pad their résumé: John Brzenk and Carolyn Liebel win their third AAA stand-up national titles in a row, Danny Stone wins his fourth AAA national title, George Givens wins his fifth, Norm Devio wins his seventh, Cleve Dean wins his ninth, Johnny Walker wins his tenth, and Dave Patton wins his twelfth!
April 20th, 2008
After a four-year hiatus, the original Harley Pull returns. Once again, the competition is stacked with talent from across North America. Going into the draw for the motorcycle, Matt Harris, Marcio Barboza, and Travis Bagent have the best odds of winning with two keys apiece. However it is Cobra Rhodes who leaves with the bike: the single key that he earned by taking first in the right-hand 150-pound class was enough to make him the big winner.
April 21st, 2002
The third edition of the Harley Pull is held. Once again, the event does not disappoint, and the classes are stacked. John Brzenk, Bill Brzenk, Travis Bagent, Ron Bath, Christian Binnie, Marcio Barboza, Earl Wilson, Kenny Hughes, RJ Molinere, Craig Tullier, Kevin Bongard, Denis Dubreuil, Cobra Rhodes, and Eric Woelfel are some of the superstars in attendance. At the conclusion of the event, the first place winners line up to try their keys in the Harley’s ignition. The bike is started on the third attempt by French-Canadian Denis Dubreuil, who had also just been given an award for Best Sportsmanship. What a way to end the weekend for someone who had taken a 14-hour bus ride to attend the event!
April 22nd, 2006
The pro division of Ultimate Armwrestling III is contested in Las Vegas, Nevada. Though turnout is considerably lighter than that of the previous year’s event, many of those in attendance are among the world’s best. The women’s division features some exciting match-ups, including Canadian multi-time world champion Barb Zalepa facing off against Swedish multi-time world champion Heidi Andersson. This is the first time the two have met. Though Barb’s dominance in the lightweight class during the ‘90s was unquestionable, it appears as though Heidi now occupies the top position: she soundly defeats Barb. Canadian Joyce King also pulls off a tremendous upset, beating Russia’s Lilia Khamidoullina (current WAF World Champion) twice to win the heavyweight division. But the event will probably best be remembered for John Brzenk’s return to peak form. After losing weight to pull the 198-pound class at Utlimate Armwrestling II the previous year, and looking noticeably weaker, he arrives heavier and stronger than ever. He pulls both the 242 and super heavyweight class, and looks very impressive, showing minimal strain until the finals of the supers. John had faced off against Farid Usmanov earlier in the day and top rolled him quite easily. Farid made quite an impression at the 2005 event, and now he too was back, bigger and stronger than ever. In the finals, John knows he’d be able to top roll Farid again, so he decides to test out his hook. The result is an incredible war, with Farid eventually emerging the victor. One would think John would revert to top rolling Farid in their rematch, but he once again goes into a hook – he wants to see if he can beat Farid in his strength, and the crowd loves it! Another battle ensues, but this time John comes out on top and the entire room erupts! The king is back!
April 23rd, 1994
The fifth edition of the Golden Bear International Tournament is held in Moscow, Russia. Canadian Armwrestling Hall of Famers Dave Hicks and Liane Dufresne are among those who take home beautiful Golden Bear awards for finishing in first place. John and Bill Brzenk are in attendance and are also class champions on the day. The tournament features an Absolute division, where the best of the best compete against each other in an open class. John and “Georgian Giant” Zaur Tskadadze are in this division, and the crowd is eager to see if the turnout will be any different from the first time they met. The two had pulled each other at the first Golden Bear in 1990, where Tskadadze was no match for Brzenk. However after four years of armwrestling-specific training, the big man’s abilities are believed to have improved significantly. They have indeed, and Zaur actually manages to beat John in their semi-final match, only to lose to him twice in the finals!
April 24th, 2010
The Professional Armwrestling League (PAL) holds its first and only Vendetta of the year: ArmFight 38. Three supermatches are contested: Poland’s Mariusz Grochowski vs. Bulgaria’s Krasimir Kostadinov, fellow Bulgarian Plamen Kisov vs. Hungary’s Gyorgy Szasz, and Belarussian Slava Sharagovich vs. Poland’s Grzegorz Nowak. Unfortunately, the matches appear better on paper than they do in reality--the results of the matches are lopsided with all of the victors winning 6-0 (Kostadinov, Szasz, and Nowak). It is Krasimir Kostadinov’s first international supermatch, and he makes enough of an impression on the event organizers to be invited back for ArmFights in 2011 and 2012.
April 25th, 1999
The final Golden Bear International Tournament is held in Moscow, Russia. No North Americans are in attendance, due to security concerns. Russian superstar Vika Gabakova adds to her collection of first-place Russian Bear awards. Georgian greats Erekle Gurchiani and Vakhtang Javakadze are also winners on the day (Erekle in the super heavyweight class and Vakhtang in the Absolute (open class) division). Unfortunately, they do not compete in the same divisions, so the match that many in the crowd would like to see does not take place.
April 26th, 1998
The ninth annual Golden Bear International Tournament is held. Petaluman Eric Woelfel wins his second left-hand Golden Bear title. Russia’s Vika Gabakova wins titles with both arms. John Brzenk, who continues his tradition of attending the event every four years, wins the right-hand super heavyweight class, but loses to huge Russian Alan Karaev in the Absolute division. Though Alan wins fairly, he does not receive widespread acknowledgement for his success, as he avoided competing in the regular portion of the tournament to remain fresh for John. Many wonder if the result would have been different had both pullers been 100%.
April 27th, 1990
The inaugural Yukon Jack National Armwrestling Championships are held in Chicago, Illinois. The event features champions from nine regional tournaments that were contested during the preceding six months. Reigning middleweight AAA National Champion—in both stand-up and sit-down competition—Grace-Ann Swift wins the open women’s division. Dave Patton becomes the 160-pound champion with relative ease. Veteran puller Jerry Nelson beats Cobra Rhodes to win the 190-pound class. But the most anticipated match occurs in the heavyweight division. Mountain-of-a-man Richard Lupkes grips up with a much smaller John Brzenk in the finals. The two had pulled on a few prior occasions, but Richard had the last win. The crowd watches intently to see who will leave with the Yukon Jack title, the $1,500 cash prize, and the top spot in the armwrestling world. Before long, the wait is over: John pins Richard and the crowd erupts!
April 28th, 2012
The New York Arm Wrestling Association holds its biggest annual professional event: the Big Apple Grapple International Arm Wrestling Championships. The tournament historically attracts competitors from around the world, and this year is no different, with pullers from as far away as Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia in attendance. Puerto Rico’s Rich Calero and Connecticut’s Ron Klemba each receive Arm Star awards for winning with both their left and right arm classes. Future Game of Arms star Rob Bigwood wins the overall left hand division. But it is Tim Bresnan and Joyce Boone who win the overall right hand divisions and earn the event’s most prestigious titles: New York’s King and Queen of Arms!
April 29th, 2000
The third annual Bikers World Armwrestling Championship is held at the River Palms Resort, Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada. After winning two classes at the previous year’s event, veteran puller Clay Rosencrans—whose career has already spanned more than 25 years—must settle for second place in the left-hand supers and fourth in the right-hand supers. He does, however, win a masters division world title. Utah’s Kody Merritt is the big winner on the day, taking first in both the left and right super heavyweight classes.
April 30th, 2011
The elite and main event supermatches of UAL “King of the Hill” are contested. Five elite right-hand supermatches are on the card: three middleweight match-ups and two light heavyweight match-ups. Californians Luke Kindt and Jake Smith win their contests over Corey Miller and Goeff Hale, while veteran Matt Harris beats young Ethan Fritsche. Whereas the middleweight results are rather lopsided, the battles in the light heavyweight division are close. American veteran pullers Cobra Rhodes and Chad Silvers both emerge victorious from their matches with Europeans Niklas Nannestad and Frode Haugland. The main event matches pit Michael Todd against Tim Bresnan, and Jerry Cadorette against Richard Lupkes for the UAL Super Heavyweight World Title. Michael’s unconventional style of pulling secures him a 5-1 win over Tim, while Richard is not able to stop Jerry’s dead wrist press and he loses 4-0. Richard injures himself and cannot complete the final two rounds. With less than a year since it held its first event, the UAL firmly establishes itself as the premier North American professional armwrestling organization.
Researched and Written by Eric Roussin