DOVER – Matt Dougherty got bit by the arm wrestling bug when he was in his elementary school’s cafeteria as a fourth-grader, taking on all challengers.
That thrill of arm-to-arm combat never left Mr. Dougherty, as he is now an organizer of arm wrestling tournaments for the World Armwrestling League (WAL).
Mr. Dougherty will be bringing WAL’s Delaware State Arm Wrestling Championships to the Cowboy Up Saloon at 1036 Lafferty Lane in Dover Saturday afternoon from 1 to 6 p.m.
Interested participants can register to compete the day of the event. Tickets for spectators will be $5 at the door. Professional arm wrestlers will be on hand to offer tips and techniques.
To Mr. Dougherty, the thrill of arm wrestling comes from the euphoria of planting the back side of an opponents’ hand on a table.
It is a lightning-quick sport, as even matches that are considered long usually last from 20 to 30 seconds.
“I look at arm wrestling just like I do any competitive sport,” Mr. Dougherty said. “Obviously, though, it’s more male-driven. I don’t want to sound sexist, but that’s just a fact.
“I started out arm wrestling in the fourth grade on the cafeteria table. Arm wrestling is great because it’s a form of combat where you’re not actually punching somebody.”
One of the neat things about arm wrestling is just about everybody has tried their hand at it at least once — either with a friend or a rival.
WAL’s website described arm wrestling as “The world’s most popular method of score-settling and a universal test of strength used around the globe. Arm wrestling combines grit, tactics and mettle in a highly accessible format that draws competitors from all walks of life, from school teachers to oil rig workers.”
The Delaware State Arm Wrestling Championships on Saturday will feature several categories of competition.
There will be men’s and women’s brackets (right and left-handed) for Pro, Amateur and First Timers. Each bracket will consist of up to four different weight classes. The winners will advance on to WAL Regional Championships.
The participants competing for state championships are required to live in Delaware, though Mr. Dougherty said that since Dover Air Force Base is located so close to Cowboy Up that it would allow airmen and airwomen stationed there to compete, regardless of their home state.
“You never know until the day of the event how many participants you are going to have because arm wrestlers can actually register the day of the event,” said Mr. Dougherty.
“A lot of people don’t like to commit, but for this particular tournament, there’s been a lot of local interest in helping the local guys.”
Mr. Dougherty recently started the first arm wrestling team from Delaware.
However, he said that when it comes to the sport, the First State is lagging far behind.
“I’d say Delaware is about two decades behind several other states when it comes to arm wrestling,” said Mr. Dougherty. “Every other state has had teams since the 1970s. They have a pedigree in arm wrestling. Compared to them, Delaware is just getting started.”
Events like the Delaware State Arm Wrestling Championships can help spur interest and growth in the sport.
The WAL tournaments have competitors lining up and facing off on a table known as “The Pit.”
There’s strength, there’s strategy and there’s technique. All of these factors come into play when arm wrestling is involved.
“Being strong obviously helps, but leverage and technique have a lot to do with it also,” Mr. Dougherty said. “It just depends on who you match up with and how used they are to using a pro table. There’s a whole different set of rules on how you set up in a WAL event.”
At Cowboy Up on Saturday, the strongest arms will survive.
Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.