36th Anniversary World's Wristwrestling Championships
Petaluma, California - October 11, 1997
by Denise Wattles
"Over The Top". This is the only way to describe the 36th Anniversary of the World's Wristwrestling Championships held on October 11th in Petaluma, California. With coverage from the Associated Press, MILO Magazine and many newspapers, this had to have been the most exciting tournament in 1997. Competitors and spectators from many states and foreign countries attended this tournament where, 36 years ago, the first organized tournament for armwrestlers was held. It has been held every year since 1962 on the second Saturday in October and will again be presented on October 10, 1998. Engin Terzi from Turkey and Jason Vale from New York are names still being mentioned in awe by all that attended or participated. For the first time in the history of the World's Wristwrestling Championships ONE ARMWRESTLER took home HALF OF THE PRIZES offered at this tournament. Engin Terzi accomplished this even though all the weight classes he won (Rt. 0-135, Rt. 136-150, Left 0-135, Left 136-150 and Left 151-175) were packed with top armwrestlers from all over the United States and the World. In the right hand 0-135 he had to compete against 12 other athletes including Dobbs Pressle from Prineville, Oregon who gave him a superb match but had to settle for second place against this "machine" from Turkey. The left-handed 151-175 pound armwrestlers gave Engin all he could handle with 17 competitors all much heavier than himself. I don't imagine that these men underestimated Engin but I do know he surprised all of them. Others in this class included Kimon Schneider, from Switzerland, Emlyn Williams from Colorado and Eric Peterson from Oregon, all of whom were in contention for the title in this class, but it was Engins day. 16 year-old Kenny Hughes from Modesto, California surprised Engin with his talent in the Right hand 136-150 class but Engin was still too much for him. Kenny did place an astonishing second place to Engin in this tournament which draws the "cream of the crop" from all over the World with Doug Berry from Alaska, Don Spraggs from California and Jason Silver from Montana also in this class. Tom Wilson from Indiana met Engin in their second round match and was dropped to the "B-side" only to come back and wrestle Engin again in the effort to take first place in the Left 0-135 pro class. Tom won the second place custom medal and went home more determined than ever to win the title in 1998.
The amazing Engin Terzi
I had spoken to Jason Vale many times on the phone and had the opportunity to meet him in person at the Yukon Jack Finals in Orlando, Florida in September 1996. What an impressive armwrestler!!! To hear the stories of his life (he's only 29) and to know he is a survivor of deadly cancer 3 times over makes his extraordinary performances as an armwrestler even more amazing. I was most impressed by his ability and confidence in the Yukon Jack tournament in Orlando last year. At the table he stood up for himself to guarantee that he was given fair matches by the referees in a tournament that was marred by many inconsistencies in officiating. In the Yukon tournament he weighed in at 165 pounds. Now in attendance at the 36th Anniversary of the World's Wristwrestling Championships he was at 194# and again someone to take serious. Prior to the tournament he was trying to decide which weight class or classes in which he wanted to compete. Both classes, the right 176-200 and the 201+ were large classes with many top armwrestlers so he decided he wanted the challenge of the Big Boys" in the 201+ class which included several professional armwrestlers, including Joedee Asbury from Utah that tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds. Eric Woelfel did not expect to see Jason in this class and with the absence of John Brzenk had expected to regain the Heavyweight title in this tournament. At 6'5" and 260 pounds Eric is not one to take lightly but Eric also knew that Jason would not be in this heavyweight class if he did not have the thought he could win. From the very first "Ready...Go" the spectators were on their feet yelling, screaming and stomping in anticipation of who would finish in the top spot. Both armwrestlers hit the "go" exactly on cue and slipped out of their grip only to be strapped together. On the second "go" the action stopped in the middle of the table and it was apparent to everyone that the winner of this match was not going to be simple to call. Jason had stopped the much bigger man and was holding him in the center of the table. After a long battle Jason decisively won the Heavyweight title at 194#. The only other man in recent history to win this Heavyweight title at less than 200 pounds has been John Brzenk, someone that Jason is looking forward to meeting on the table.
The largest class of the tournament was the right hand 151-175. Mark Pryor has won the title for the past 3 years and now was faced with even more armwrestlers than ever wanting to take the title home with them. Mark knew that Emlyn Williams from Aurora, Colorado would challenge him maybe even more than anyone else had yet. Emlyn placed 2nd behind John Brzenk in the Yukon Jack Denver qualifier in July 1996 at 198 lbs. and now was 25 pounds lighter and still as strong as he was at 198#. Mark has many of other contenders to worry about before he met Emlyn. Before wrestling Emlyn for the first time he had to defeat Eric Peterson and Terry Volkman both experienced armwrestlers. His first Match he beat Emlyn to put him on the loser side of the bracket but it wouldn't be the end of Emlyn. The final match in this class would be a "re-match" between Mark, the defending champion, and Emlyn. Mark had a decisive win in this class and took home the title, money and Champion Shirt. Finishing 2nd, 3rd and 4th were: Emlyn Williams, Kimon Schneider, and Eric Peterson respectively. The right hand 176-200 pound class did not have a defending champion in attendance so it was open for anyone to win. Brad Balderston from Colorado was favored to win according to those that had seen him wrestle in the Yukon qualifier in Denver in 1996, Jarrod Levulett from Klamath Falls, Oregon had competed at the World Championships in 1996 and looked promising to take the title home to Oregon. There was Konstantin from Moscow, Russia who was someone to keep an eye on. But unknown to us there was a new-comer to this tournament who has been training with Allen Fisher in San Diego. Scott Ciborowski was about to give all of them, literally, a run for the money. Scott had his work cut out for him but was unstoppable from the start, winning all his matches on the "A-side" and now waiting for all the others that had been defeated and dropped to the "B-side" to battle it out for the chance to meet him again and try to beat him the second time around. Konstantin had learned from his first loss to Scott when he was dropped to the loser bracket which was apparent in the final match for 1st and 2nd place as he defeated Scott. This left both armwrestlers with one loss so there had to be a deciding match. After a long battle Scott was the victor with Konstantin placing 2nd, Jarrod 3rd, and Brad a respectable 4th place in a large class with many great armwrestlers.
Also in attendance was a team from Russia that had exceptionally talented armwrestlers who, in the past, have won the majority of the classes in this tournament, but not today. They were no match for the Americans or Engin. The team was led by the Russian Armwrestling President and European Armwresting Federation President, Igor Ahkmedshin and Gold Bear Director, Boris Barulin. These men are leaders in the sport of armwrestling and very good friends to the Americans that have attended the "Gold Bear" International ArmSports Championships in Moscow each year. The World's Wristwrestling Championship is the last qualifier for the Team that will attend the tournament in Moscow in April 1998. In the last 8 years Dave Devoto, Leonard Harkless, and Denise Wattles have taken over 200 armwrestlers to compete in this very prestigious event. With the addition of Masters and beginner/novice classes in the past couple years the World's Wristwrestling Championships has something for armwrestlers of every age and caliber. The Masters classes brought us back to the champions of the 80's with the return of Allen Crowder, Bill Rhodes, Merle Meeter and Chuck Kendricks. Chuck is from Nevada but strangely enough was a graduate of Petaluma High. These men are still dominate armwrestlers in the Masters classes and, I have no doubt, could hold their own in the Professional ranks of today. There were 50 competitors in the beginner/novice classes this year and these men will be the Champions of tomorrow. The novice classes left nothing out as far as talent and excitement for the huge crowd in attendance. As they have for the last 35 years Dave Devoto and Bill Soberanes have again put on an event that will resound around the World. Without their dedication to the sport we as promoters and armwrestlers would not be where we are today. Their 16 years on ABC's Wide World of Sports and the award winning Internet website, www.armwrestling.com, have brought our sport to many millions of people. Tens of thousands are now involved in the sport, knowing our sport can finally be taken seriously. I am proud to be a part of the continuing tradition, the World's Wristwrestling Championships. For the second year the Mystic Theater in downtown Petaluma has provided an exceptional arena for the World's Wristwrestling Championships. The atmosphere and the arrangement of the theater make it possible for everyone to see, hear and enjoy every aspect of this extraordinary event. Armwrestlers from all over the U.S. and the World sit shoulder to shoulder and relate to each other in a fashion unlike any other sport. Language barriers do not exist here, they all speak the same language, Armwrestling.
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