The crowd enjoyed it. The competitors got pumped up too. The North Dakota State Arm Wrestling Championship was held Saturday during the final day of the State Fair. Champions were crowned in several divisions.
Two tables were atop the stage near Commercial Building III. It was there that a large field of competitors, men and women, locked wrists and pulled and tugged until a winner was declared. Several of the matches were "gun show" tussles that strained the veins of competitors and whipped up enthusiasm in the crowd.
Mark Davies of Valley City has been competing in State Fair arm wrestling since 2002, winning seven titles right-handed and four more from the left. His 11th state championship came Saturday, right-handed in the 154-176 pound weight class.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • James Findley, Winnipeg, Man., left, locks up with Mark Davies, Valley City, for the 176-pound State Arm Wrestling Championship at the North Dakota State Fair Saturday. Davies won the match. Findley later avenged the defeat with a left-handed victory.
"It's a lot of fun. As soon as that feeling goes away, I guess I'll quit arm wrestling," said Davies shortly after his title win. "It's tough to touch it with anything. It's such a great hobby."
Davies says he has competed at arm wrestling events in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck in addition to the State Fair. However, he adds, he finds it difficult to keep up with training for every event.
"I just work hard on the farm. That's about all I've got time to do now. I train a little bit, but not like I should," said Davies.
Davies took down James Findley of Winnipeg, Man., for the right-handed title at 176 pounds and was matched with the Canadian a second time for the left-handed title. From that side it was Findley who prevailed in a loud and boisterous match that delighted the crowd.
"I love it! We're definitely coming back again," said Findley. "We came down here because we heard it was a really good tournament to experience. A couple of my friends have come here and won before and told me I had to come here and try it out."
After winning with his powerful left arm Findley raised both arms in the air and let out a victory yell. The crowd showed their appreciation with a loud shout and brief applause. A moment later Findley was hoisting his young son into the air, a move that once again prompted a favorable reaction from the crowd.
"I'm a little tired, been cutting weight. A little drained after going with both arms, but feel pretty good," remarked Findley.
The professional division was dominated by a South Dakota arm breaker Trapper Saltzman. He easily captured the both the right and left arm titles in the heavyweight division, barely breaking a sweat. It was a very impressive performance.
"I'm a professional arm wrestler. I'm the South Dakota state director too," said Saltzman. "I wanted this North Dakota title because I have the South Dakota and Minnesota titles. I'm going after all the titles in the Midwest. I'm going to hit them all."
Saltzman operates Saltzman AthleteX in Viborg, S.D. His strength is well known throughout arm wrestling circles. With his size and background, he stands out as the man to beat.
"This competition is fun, a fun tournament," said Saltzman after capturing the heavyweight crown. "The crowd is really cool here. Nice people."
When asked if he struggled or broke a sweat on his way to two state titles, Saltzman smiled and replied, "Not today."