The fiesta favorite attracted more than 90 entries Saturday, June 1, in front of an audience of locals, tourists and curiosity seekers spanning four levels of bleachers.
For fiesta newcomers, the sight of two people with arms bent and fists clenched over a table, testing their strength against each other amid shouts of “take him down!” likely seems more apropos to an elementary school playground than to a celebration of fruits. But in Patterson, the competition has become more than just a battle of might.
The popular arm wrestling championship is a staple on the fiesta’s schedule and a perennial hit that continues to draw spectators by the dozen.
“Once an arm wrestler puts his arm down on the table, it’s like flipping a switch,” tournament chairman Bill Collins said. “That’s when the adrenaline and the competitiveness take over.”
Fiesta-goers watched as combatants — sometimes called pullers — positioned themselves as they bent over opposite sides of the small table, hands locked, each trying to forcibly drag the other’s arm to the tabletop.
A bucket of chalk was off to one side for drying sweaty hands and providing a stronger grip.
Once at the table, competitors shook hands — opposite to the side they would be wrestling with — and locked up with the help of two referees. If their grips slipped, the pair was strapped together to finish the match. The competition included double elimination in each category.
Some of Saturday’s matches were quick, with one man’s arm slamming to the padded table within seconds.
Others lasted almost a minute, with each contender yelling as forearms popped and rippled.
“When you are on that table, it’s like a chess match. So you are thinking two, three moves in advance,” said Tom Nelson, a competitor from Turlock.
Contestants — some from the West Side and others from as far as Southern California — competed in open, amateur, right-left and five weight divisions.
Luke Kindt, a Napa resident, was the big winner Saturday, placing first in three weight classes. He took the men’s right-handed open competition for competitors weighing 155 to 176 pounds; the men’s right-handed open competition for pullers weighing 177 to 198 pounds; and also the men’s left-handed open competition for contestants weighing no more than 175 pounds.
Other men’s open winners were Nelson (176-and-over, left-handed and 233-and-heavier, right-handed), John Dabo of Hollister (zero-to-154, right handed) and Herman Stevens of Bakersfield (199-to-232, right handed).
Tournament chairwoman Judy Dodd, a local favorite, claimed the women’s open title.
Amateur competitors garnering first-place victories included Alex Coleman of Oakdale, right-handed, zero-to-154 pounds; Robert Bravo of Modesto, right-handed, 155-to-176; Kyle Fitzpatrick of San Luis Obispo, right-handed, 177-to-198; and Josh Saso of Bakersfield, right-handed, 199-to-232.
Free shirts were available to all participants, and cash prizes were awarded to the top-three finishers in the tournament’s open competition.
The top finishers in the amateur battles received trophies.
“The guys that are able to combine technique with power are the ones that finish at the top,” Collins said.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.