Stronger than oak

Professional arm wrestler Marcus Zerr opens up about the sport

Marcus Zerr (above) orgranized The Hope Game of Arms amateur competition in Hope at the rec centre on Sunday Apr. 3. Zerr is currently being followed by a film crew to document his 2016 journey on the arm wrestling circuit.

The Hope Standard met up with Marcus Zerr organizer/arm wrestler and member of the Vancouver Arm Wrestling Club at The Hope Game of Arms amateur competition in Hope a couple weeks back. The sport was sensationalized in the 80’s with none other than former Hope resident for a time Sylvester Stallone in the Menahem Golan film about arm wrestling “Over the top.”

The sport has gained in popularity over the past five decades according to an interview with Zerr that involved a documentary crew who filmed the entire session at the rec centre. (The crew is following Zerr on this year’s arm wrestling circuit to give people an exclusive inside look at the sport.)

Zerr is fit, enthusiastic and passionate about his craft as he spoke of the men and women waiting their turn to best each other during a match.

The competition was an opportunity for amateurs to wrestle with other amateurs. Traditionally they would have been paired with professionals, often leaving competitors discouraged following inevitable losses.

“The competition is special because it’s an amateur only competition,” he said. “When there was only professionals doing it, there was a large drop out rate, so top professionals won’t be competing.”

Competitors ranging in ages from 18 to 45 included walk-ins and three women and six men from Hope. People drove across B.C., coming from as far away as Kelowna and Penticton to compete in their first ever competition.

According to Zerr, 50 per cent of wrestling is strength and the other half is technique.

“That means knowing what to do and what not to do — if you don’t know technique, you’ll lose,” he said. “There’s a popular move that involves one hand over the top of another guy’s hand so the hand goes into the dominant position. Then there’s the body fall position, which gives the competitor an advantage by using the body weight much like when a tree moves. A tree moves a branch with strength behind it, but if you move the branch on its own it loses some of the strength from the tree.”

Defensive moves are also important for an arm wrestler to master to get out of difficult positions.

Other contributing factors to a wrestler’s success include the length of an arm wrestler’s arm, hand and grip size, muscle and arm mass/density, flexibility, wrist density, wrist endurance and reaction time. It’s these traits that can give one competitor an edge over the other.

The sport is performed with both competitors facing off with their arms on top of an arm wrestling table. Competitors are traditionally matched with others in their weight class, and left and right hand dominance is taken into consideration, further dividing arm wrestler’s into appropriate categories.

Penalties and fouls are taken into account during a match, potentially resulting in a loss if they are breached by either opponent.

Canada is one of the 85 countries that make up the World Armwrestling Federation (WAF.)

Zerr, at 50, got into wrestling a couple of years ago and after training for a year, competed at Nationals in P.E.I where he finished second in his division. He placed fourth overall in the total competition including the heavy weights. He is slated to go to this year’s Nationals and if he does well he will have the opportunity to attend the World competition in Bulgaria.

“Once you get into the sport it’s incredibly addictive, and it can be very intimidating as a contact sport.”