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Competitive arm wrestling in Belleville

By Topher Seguin

BELLEVILLE, Ont. (11/02/12) Nicola Gazzetto, 38, from the Ottawa High Hookers team works up a sweat competing in the men's 221-pound-and-up weight division with the left hand Saturday at the Wahoo 2 Sports bar in Belleville. Photo by Topher Seguin.

These athletes have the right to bare arms.

Stepping up to the small table in the middle of the room, the competitors take a quick glance at one another until moving their attention to what really matters: each other’s hands.

Slowly finding a comfortable grip, they look at one another as if they are the only two in the room. With tense muscles and worn fingers, they stand and wait for instructions from one of the two referees. Waiting in silence and not moving a muscle, they finally hear their three favourite words, “Okay, ready, go!”

The crowd cheers, chanting and shouting tips to their fellow club members. In an impressive show of raw energy, they battle back and forth, often only moving their arms a few inches before someone overcomes the opponent. As veins protrude from their necks and faces turn red, the referee calls it. The round is over and the winner is announced.

The Wahoo 2 Sports Bar and Grill played host to Arm Melter 13, an arm wrestling competition bringing contestants from all over Ontario, Saturday afternoon.

“Its super addictive. It’s the adrenalin that gets you going,” said Laura Cook, a member of the Ontario Arm Wrestling League.

Cook, competitor in the women’s open, walked away with first place in left-handed wrestling and second place for her efforts with the right.

“It was extremely hard. I didn’t expect the outcome that I got but it was a lot of fun,” said Cook. “There’s lots of good people involved with these competitions, and I’d definitely recommend it to my friends.”

The 2002 world champion, Greg Boyes, turned up for the event and was pleasantly surprised with the level of competition he saw.

“The competition has certainly improved over the years,” said Boyes. “Some of the competitors are getting much stronger and filling up many of the heavyweight classes.”

Just like every other sport, there are some rules. Competitors must always have their elbows on the pads, always have their non-wrestling hands holding securely onto a peg, and have an eye on their wrestling hands to prevent slippage and injury.

Just before the round starts, the referees will make sure the grip looks good and square the wrestler’s shoulders to the table. Matches last as long as needed, and the first person to win three rounds takes the cake.

“It was a great event,” said Bilal Kreidieh, a spectator at the event. “I’m definitely not going to miss another one.”

Everyone is extremely sportsmanlike and polite in the world of arm wrestling. Giving tips and helping each other out during a tournament this size is the name of the game, explained Joe Gould, tournament director and national left-handed champion. “Although some people do tend to get a little rattled up when it’s for all the marbles.”

“There’s obviously a lot of weight training involved,” said Gould, “but most of the training is done in clubs on a good old [arm wrestling] table.”

Allen Ford walked away with 23 wins at the end of the night, capturing the “most wins” award. This was Allen’s fifth time winning the award.