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Flexing at the Fair


Strong arms J.D. Brittain and Bobby Chance dueling in the “men’s left hand middle” match at last year’s tournament.

Strong arms J.D. Brittain and Bobby Chance dueling in the “men’s left hand middle” match at last year’s tournament.

If the name Lincoln Hawk means anything to you, there is no doubt you’re familiar with the rules of arm wrestling. Two competitors face each other from across a table. Each person places one arm (both using right or left) on the table with his or her elbows bent and touching the surface. They grip hands, lock eyes and the battle ensues until the victor pins his or her opponent’s backhand to the surface of the table.

Arm wrestling has grown into an international sport. Organized matches first started in Petaluma, Calif., at a saloon by journalist Bill Soberanes in 1952, but the surge in interest was in large part to the “Peanuts” comic strips that depicted Snoopy preparing for the championship only to find out he can’t compete because the rules specifically state you must lock your thumbs with a your competitor. Sorry, Snoops. Opposable thumbs required.

Incidentally, although arm wrestling and wrist wrestling are commonly considered the same sport, there is one slight technical difference between them. In arm wrestling, opponents grip a peg with their free hand. And as for the idea that it’s a man’s sport, tell that to Lee Ann Krough (a.k.a. Mother Monster). Dare ya. Krough bought into Monster in June of 1980 and has been running the Monster Arm Wrestling Tournament (named after the machine they use) at the Iowa State Fair ever since. She was even a competitor in ’80 and ’81. Women, just as men, are encouraged to come out and give the tournament a go. And just as there are separate divisions for men and women, there are separate classes based on weight, from bantamweight (less than 130 pounds) to super heavyweight (236-plus pounds). But no matter what, everyone is out there to have a good time.

“It happens all the time — the more experienced wrestlers helping the new guys and gals get setup to have the best matches,” said Krough. “Then (the more experienced wrestlers) giving them pointers on how to beat them next time. The sportsmanship is great! There is nothing like it anywhere.”

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Starting back in 1978, the Monster Arm Wrestling Tournament has quickly become a fan favorite at the fairgrounds. For the past few years, the tournament has seen some impressive that participation averages around 65 competitors every year. The tournament is double elimination, so even a shaky start won’t send you to the sidelines.

Krough’s tricks of the trade are all about keeping your cool.

“Keep your calm, and don’t get so excited you do something to make yourself lose,” she said. “It is a one-on-one completion: just you, your strength and your will to win.”

A nasty stank eye doesn’t hurt either. CV               

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.


Monster Arm Wrestling Tournament (Sanctioned by World Monster Association)
When: Sunday, Aug. 11 at 1 p.m.; Weigh-ins 10 a.m. – noon.
Where: Penningroth Media Center (Cattle Barn), Iowa State Fair
Price: Entry fee is $20 per arm.
Prize: Trophies will be awarded to first, second and third places with a jacket for all first-place winners and bragging rights for next year.


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