WINTHROP — The big guns were out Saturday night in Winthrop, both left and right.

The second annual Maine State Arm Wrestling Championships packed about 60 people — including arm wrestlers, their families and fans – into Pond Town Tavern.

Many of the arm wrestlers compete regularly. Some came from great distances away, including a group of six from Aroostook County, wearing bright red “Aroostook County Pullers” T-shirts.

Jeremy Meservey came to compete from Greene. It was the 32-year-old’s second time arm wrestling competitively.

The first time, he was just 16.

“But I never ran a chain saw when I was 16, so I should have a better chance now,” Meservey said, noting he stays in shape by cutting wood to heat his home, and for friends, and doesn’t train specifically for arm wrestling.

He came to the competition by himself, “to get some testosterone out.”

He competed in the lowest weight class, 154 pounds and lower, right-handed.

Arm wrestlers competed in both left- and right-hand categories in five weight classes. Most were men, but a few women took to the table to test their strength and technique.

Ashley Mason, of Litchfield, said she first arm wrestled about two years ago, when her mother signed her up to wrestle at an open house at L-A Harley Davidson in Lewiston.

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

Their prize for the $20 entry fee and their sweat and toil was trophies for first, second and third place in each class.

Mike Verdecchia, of Caribou, one of the barrel-chested Aroostook County Pullers, competed in the 242-pound and unlimited classes. He said a wrestler can be sore for up to two weeks after a tough competition.

While bulging biceps were common among the competitors, Verdecchia said “there is more to it than brute strength. There is definitely some skill to it.”

Competitors face off standing at specially-made arm wrestling tables, which have sturdy grips for competitors to hold on to with their nonwrestling hands.

Pullers put their all into the matches, straining and sweating, working to get leverage over their competitor. Matt Bouchard, of Caribou, leaned so far over that his head was below the table in one of his later matches.

“I was just tired. I didn’t have any arm strength left,” he said of why he leaned so far into his pull.

He said the Aroostook County group gets together every week to arm wrestle. He said while they do lift weights and conduct other forms of training, the best training for the sport is doing it.

A production crew from Trail Blazer Studios recorded video and audio of the matches, but a crew member said she could not discuss details of how or where the footage would be used.

While arm wrestlers packed the small bar, few appeared to be drinking alcohol.

“A beer or two might be OK, but it wouldn’t be good to be drunk and sloppy. Someone could get hurt,” said Aaron Hawkins, 22, who came to compete in the 198-pound class, left- and right-handed, from Berlin, N.H. “Maybe after would be OK, sort of like a natural Ibuprofen.”

Hawkins said he does lots of wrist work when he trains, lifting weights by pulling his wrists up.

Kevin Berry, of Greene, just watched as he sipped a beer, but said he plans to compete next year. He last competed some 20 years ago, in a Monster Arm Wrestling competition run by his uncle.

“I wasn’t bad at it, won a couple of trophies,” he said. “I’m definitely signing up for their next tournament. It seems like a really professionally run organization.”

Terry Dostie, of Fairfield, was one of three referees who watched over the event. He said he’s been at it for 35 years. In a voice that boomed above the jukebox and other din of the bar, Dostie laid out the rules for the event. He warned that anyone committing two fouls would lose the match.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

 


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