Winter Festival tournament shows arm wrestling isn’t just a show of strength

High school students Michael Cariman (left) and Mason Purves (right) face off in the Prince Albert Winter Festival’s Arm Wrestling Competition at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse on Feb. 22, 2020. Saskatchewan Arm Wrestling Association Vice President Clayton Turcotte referees.

It’s lunchtime on the last Saturday of the 2020 Prince Albert Winter Festival. While many flooded the fish fry tent ready to scarf down a meal, some were only hungry for a big win.

Arm wrestling may not be the first sport the average person would roll off of their tongue, but for Saskatchewan Arm Wrestling Association (SAWA) Vice President Clayton Turcotte, it requires the same skill and athleticism.

“You’re seeing that, the professionalism and the experience of these arm wrestlers, what they bring to the table and it just opens everybody’s eyes,” he said.

Turcotte is referring to the Winter Festival’s Arm Wrestling Competition that took place on the second floor of the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse this weekend. It consisted of youth, women’s and men’s classes.

Advanced arm wrestlers from the SAWA, like Turcotte, were on hand to not just compete, but to coach people who aren’t familiar with serious matches.

“It’s not just strength that everybody thinks it is. Once you grow the tendons in your hands and your arms and everything, that’s what’s going to help you transition into different techniques,” he explained.

Experienced arm wrestlers like referee Clayton Turcotte taught newcomers the techniques. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

One of the most common moves in arm wrestling is hooking—when competitors bend their wrists, pushing the other’s arm down with their hand and body strength. Similarly, in the top roll, competitors will pull their hands closer to their bodies, giving the other competitor less control as their arm moves away from the body.

“Each one of them attacks the hand in a different away, but you could have somebody that does a hook that goes up against a guy that’s a top roller. Well now you have to be a little bit smarter or try to find a way to beat each other’s techniques, so it gets quite intense,” said Turcotte.

Many matches last merely seconds, but he’s seen some that last up to seven minutes.

Turcotte refereed the youth class, where participants were separated according to weight. However, Turcotte said he tries to make sure they’re also similar in age.

Mason Purves and his friend Michael Cariman were in the 60-kilogram category.

“We always do (arm wrestling), not competitively but at home and when we’re going out and stuff and we thought we’d take our skill to the table,” said Purves.

With even more practice after competing two years ago, he came in first place in his category.

As far as technique, Purves said he’s familiar with hooking, but usually it varies depending on his competitor.

“I just kind of grew up with (arm wrestling),” he said.

“Sometimes it’s a toss to see how big the tournament’s going to be. Today, this tournament, it might actually be bigger than the other years, especially the kids class,” said Turcotte.

Saskatchewan Arm Wrestling Association Vice Present Clayton Turcotte said this year’s youth class was larger than previous years. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“We get a great turnout and we love coming to Prince Albert and putting on this tournament—it’s great for the sport.”

The women’s class was open, but if enough participated, he said he’d start to break them up into different weight categories.

As for the men’s class, it’s broken up into three categories: under 177 pounds, between 177 and 209 pounds and over 209 pounds. Around seven men were registered in the heavy weight class just before the beginning of the tournament, which Turcotte said is a lot of competitors.

The tournament was a double elimination, meaning a participant is eliminated if they lose two matches.