Meet John Wilson


Hi John,

Q) How long have you been armwrestling?

A) I have been pulling actively since 1998, although I really didn't begin to get serious with it until about 3 years ago.

Q) How did you get started?

A) I had seen a few competitions when I was a teenager. At the time I was competing in bodybuilding and bench pressing. The gym I trained in was in the back of a bar in Petersburg, Va. Called "Joe's Place." Joe held several events a year there. I never really got involved with it because I was preoccupied with my other sports, but I always enjoyed watching people armwrestle. The intensity was unreal! I did enter two events. The first one was the Virginia Classic. I'll never forget it. I was sixteen years old and thought I'd give it a shot. I remember thinking, "Hey, I'm pretty strong. I should do good at this stuff." My first match was Leslie Whims. I don't think he even knew I was on the table. He certainly never felt anything from me as he proceeded to flash me without effort. Learning my lesson, I entered one more event (a novice event) and placed second.  I realized that this sport was immensely more technical than I had imagined. I left for the Navy soon after. What tiny bit I had learned about armwrestling served me well for those six years. Nobody ever beat me during my time in the service, regardless of size. It's funny now looking back on it. I honestly thought I was pretty good!

When I got out of the service I decided to give armwrestling a go, but had no idea where and how to find it. I came across "" and that is what got me involved. I began training with Al Gross in St. Petersburg, FL and entered my first event not long after. It was the Southeast Open event put on by Greg Helm in Jacksonville. I still suffered from grandiose notions about my armwrestling ability held over from my Navy days. That tournament showed me the reality of the situation. I stunk! I had never imagined armwrestling of the caliber I saw at that event. It was there that I was hooked for life.

Q) What have you done since then?

A) It wasn't long after my first tournament in Jacksonville that I moved to St. Louis. I went to a tournament held by Wayne Burns and it was there that I met the guys from the St. Louis area and I began to train with them. It was then that I began to really take this sport seriously and get down to business. The first two years were typical. I still stunk, but I was learning. Slowly but surely I got better and learned more. I was fortunate enough to meet several Turkish pullers who really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what an armwrestler could do. Engin Terzi, Omer Bennurkan, Durson Ondar, and Kazim Asliyuksek were phenomenal. They taught me things I had never even heard of before. We all became great friends and I owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude for all they taught me. The real turning point for me personally was the day Jeremy Plaster began training with us. Jeremy was just as hungry as I was and together we traveled the country hitting every big event we could make it to. We traveled, trained, and competed at every opportunity. We were somewhere in the United States almost every other weekend. We did that for two years. It is this period of time that I credit with the vast majority of my armwrestling success. It was like Armwrestling University for me.

This is the real gift of armwrestling. Because of this sport, I have seen a tremendous amount of the country and met the greatest people of my lifetime. I have been to two World Championships: Finland and Poland with the US Team. I met wonderful people from all over the globe who I consider to be some of my best friends and teachers.

Q) Well, what exactly have you won all over the world?

A) My best years are still ahead of me.

2nd: 90kg (left) at Petaluma
3rd: 90 kg (right) USA Nationals
3rd: 90 kg (right and left) Lake Tahoe Nationals
1st: many times and weights Missouri State Championships
1st: many regional and local events
1st: 90 kg (Amateur) Harley Pull

Q) Armwrestling Workouts?

A) Working out is a luxury for me due to my job. I travel non-stop. The most I've been able to do is to contact pullers in the area that I am working and try to set something up. While it is very tough, I have had some of the best training sessions with some of the World's best pullers by doing this. I cherish these training sessions.

When I am able to get into the gym, I focus on my tendons separately from my muscles. I still do a lot of the same exercises, but they have all been modified to make sure that my fingers and hands do the bulk of the work. By separating the tendons from the muscles, what I mean is doing the same exercises but doing it as a static contraction for time with as much weight as possible as opposed to doing a full range of motion for the muscles. I do not mix tendon work with muscle work. Since I am always working I try to turn the work into a workout. People who see me think I'm nuts, but I don't care. You do what you can when you can!

I believe that table time is many times more important than lifting weights, especially in the beginning. I believe that until you are on a very high level competitively, how much you can lift is basically irrelevant. An accomplished armwrestler is never going to allow you to use your big muscles. You will be outmaneuvered to the point where you are pulling from your weak point anyway. Once you have developed your skills enough to be on that puller's level, then your abilities will be fairly matched. I have found that on the National and World level, the difference between the pullers is measured in bare inches. It is then, and only then, where being stronger will make the difference between two evenly skilled opponents.

Q) Recommendations For New Armwrestlers?

A) Armwrestle, armwrestle, armwrestle! Go to every tournament you can. Get over your ego. If you are going to do this sport, you WILL LOSE. I have learned more from losing than I ever did by winning. Use these losses as learning experiences. You will lose for a while until you master the basics. As you get better and begin to win, go find harder competition. Then you'll be losing again, but learning at a higher level. Keep doing this until you've run out of levels! Find out where the champs are pulling and go there. Learn everything you can. Learn where your weaknesses are and address them one at a time, eliminating each and every one.

Do not fall into the trap of emulating another puller. You won't have the slightest clue where your talents lie until you have tried everything many, many times. This is a game of long-term improvement.

Have fun with it! This is by far the greatest sport I have ever been involved with. It only gets more fun with time.

Thanks John!



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