Denise was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Montana to attend Eastern Montana College. Little did she know that her education in Business Administration, Marketing and Finance would be used in the creation of a wristwrestling/armwrestling association. After college Denise worked in the banking industry before a short period of self-employment as a bookkeeper for small businesses. During this time Denise started working part-time for Heavy Duty Awards doing payroll, government reports and accounting. In 1989 she started working for a United Way agency as an Administrative Assistant until 1994 when her Heavy Duty Awards position required more of her time. In addition to her accounting duties she now was managing the business and spending a lot of time creating logos and garment designs. Working at Heavy Duty Awards has enabled her to have the freedom to travel and promote the sport of Armwrestling.
Denise attended her first armwrestling tournament, hosted by Jim "The Blonde Bear" Wright, at Rimrock Mall in Billings, Mt. in summer 1981. Her husband, Gary, had been going to tournaments for a short time to watch their friend Leonard Harkless compete, but Denise really had no interest in this very "macho" sport. She had been involved in high school with score keeping and cheerleading for various sports including wrestling. The attitude and testosterone that can be involved in these male dominated sports can be a bit much and she had left those days behind. The only reason Denise attended this particular event was that it was in a shopping mall, and to quote Leonard, "You will probably be there shopping anyway". He was right, she was there. Denise had, like millions of others, watched the World’s Wristwrestling Championship in Petaluma, California on ABC’s "Wide World of Sports” for years, but it was here that she first witnessed what true Armwrestling is, up close and personal! She now realized that most of the men involved in Armwrestling are serious athletes and she also saw the excitement of the spectators when they were watching. Denise was addicted! It wasn’t long before she began traveling, even through blizzards, to watch the tournaments and to begin collecting memories of the history of many athletes in the sport.
In 1985 Denise Wattles assisted Leonard Harkless, Dave Naylor and Steve Ventling in the creation of the United States Wristwrestling Association sanctioned by the World’s Wristwrestling Championship, Inc. Leonard and Denise had met David Devoto and Bill Soberanes in their annual trek to the World’s Wristwrestling Championship in Petaluma, California. From 1985 to 1992 Denise orchestrated and made travel arrangements for the team of athletes from the Montana area to attend this World-renowned tournament. This experience would come in handy when she started planning the annual trips (1992-1998), initiated by Dave Devoto in 1990 and continuing thru 1998, to the "Gold Bear" International Armwrestling Championship in Moscow, Russia for teams that would number up to 50 members. It would be these trips that enticed Denise into taking Russian language courses. Russian would now be added to the Spanish language Denise has spoken since she was in Junior High School. From 1985 to 1988 the USWA held about 15 to 20 tournaments per year in the Montana/Wyoming/Idaho areas.
In 1989 the USWA expanded adding more tournaments to the schedule. Denise’s responsibilities also increased as she generates the posters, mails out the notices and does the promotion for every event. It was in 1991 when Denise designed the USWA/USAA logo, which was trademarked a few years later and appears in all USWA/USAA promotions. The USWA/USAA mailing list, which now has over 5400 athletes, also requires Denise’s time to keep all the addresses as current as possible. In addition to these duties, she also announces and brackets at more than 85% of all the USWA/USAA tournaments and has been used as staff at other association high-profile events. Since 1992 the USWA/USAA has arranged 40-50 tournaments annually in over 20 states, requiring extensive travel on Denise’s part, as an Executive Director, to insure "quality control" at each and every event. It is a duty she truly enjoys. The wrestlers and their families are important to her and she considers them an important part of her "extended family".
Beginning in 1991, Denise has been the Head Scorekeeper at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship in Petaluma, California. She has also been the announcer at each of these events for the past 13 years. She still finds it amazing at her progression from a spectator to being one of the managing elements in this awesome event. In 2002 Denise, and Leonard Harkless were given the honor and responsibility of continuing the tradition in the presentation of this prestigious Championship. This is a responsibility Denise takes very seriously as Petaluma is where Wristwrestling/Armwrestling was first presented as a legitimate sport. Petaluma is also where Bill Soberanes organized the first competition in 1952 and joined by Dave Devoto in 1962 at which time they formed the World’s Wristwrestling Championship. Denise realizes these are big shoes to fill and will do her best in the presentation of future tournaments.
Armwrestling has become a "family affair" for the Wattles. Denise’s husband, Gary, has been a referee and competitor since 1985 and a "Master Referee" since 1988. Their son, Jeremy at 23 has been a referee for the USWA/USAA and also refereed at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship in 2001. Kristine, 15, started training with Denise in the art of bracketing at tournaments almost 2 years ago. Denise really enjoys having her family travel with her to the larger tournaments making "mini-vacations" out of many of them.
1994 was the inception of the concept for forming an "umbrella association" which would be ultimately named United States ArmSports. In April 1996 David Devoto went online with his premier Website for the sport of armwrestling at www.armwrestling.com, which receives millions of hits each year. Denise has been of significant help in supplying articles, pictures and information for this top armwrestling Website. In early 1998 Denise took on the responsibility of writing a constitution for United States ArmSports. The draft of this constitution was then presented for consideration to the other founding members of USA, the International Armwrestling Federation (IAF) at the 1st Annual Unified National Championship in Taunton, Massachusetts. A few months later, at the WAF World Armwrestling Championship in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada during the USA Executive Board meeting Denise was elected secretary/treasurer of USA. After a few corrections the constitution was ratified and accepted by the Executive Board of United States ArmSports. This constitution is still the foundation for the day-to-day operation of the organization. It is a document that Denise is very proud of. Denise also has created all the necessary forms and documents for enrollment in the association and contributed her expertise in the generation of standards for the running of the Unified National events among other regulations deemed necessary in the operation of an association so important in the sport of Armwrestling.
Starting in 1998 Denise has been the Team Manager for the U.S. Team that participates in the annual WAF World Armwrestling Championship. This tournament was held in Canada in 1998, Japan in 1999, Finland in 2000, and Poland 2001. In 2002 the United States ArmSports along with the Illinois Armsport Association hosted the 24th Annual Championship in Springfield, Illinois at the Hilton Hotel. Her duties have included making travel arrangements, contacting team members and insuring that their matches during the tournaments are called impartially and fairly. Denise has always taken her job as Team Manager very seriously and has always defended the rights of her Team Members.
In February 1998 Denise purchased the newsletter
"ArmSport" from Jody Koschel. Denise had been a contributing author to
the newsletter from its inception in 1995 but now it would be her complete
responsibility. Jody had around 50 subscribers at the time Denise took over and
now the subscriber’s number over 300. Denise has a lot of fun doing research
in her monthly features, which include, the "Featured Armwrestler",
"Remember When?", "Vanity Plates" and "Tattoo Up
Close". Also included in ArmSport Newsletter are tournament results, many
photos and workout tips. There are also many serious articles about major
tournaments all over the U.S., and the World, including many about tournaments
held by other associations. Denise has always kept ArmSport Newsletter an
independent, non-biased publication and she also feels that it is the athlete,
and the tournaments that are most important, not the association.
Now as the new President of United States
ArmSports Denise will be even busier that she has in the past with her new
additional duties. Armwrestling in
the United States looks to her for leadership and creative direction in the
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