North Dakota held its first wrist wrestling championship in Minot on this date in 1976. When people think of arm wrestling, they often imagine burly men gathered around and yelling. Or maybe they remember days of their youth as they recall trying to prove each other’s toughness to their friends.
However, what most people won’t think of is an organized tournament, and yet, these types of gatherings have been going on in America country for over 60 years. Some of the first tournaments were in Petaluma, California in the back of a bar in the 50s. A type of arm wrestling was even named for the town. In Petaluma wrist wrestling, the competitors lock their idle hands in the middle of the table.
By the 1960s, the small bar in Petaluma found that the tournaments were becoming too big to handle. So, in 1962, the organizers created the World’s Wristwrestling Championship. Television coverage helped spread the sport to other states. By 1980 almost all states had held a tournament, and many continued to do so on an annual basis.
It eventually became a fixture each summer at the State Fair, an event open to professionals and beginners in several classes based on weight. While it is mostly men, the sport also includes women. In 2019 the event was a fundraiser, and it took place on the Dakota Talent Stage at the fair. The double elimination tournament had awards for first, second and third place in each class. 60 people competed in 2019.
And for the first time in over a decade, the International Federation of Armwrestling, which is based in Zurich, will hold its World Championship in the United States. Several North Dakotans are meeting weekly for practice, hoping to compete in that event.
Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas