Will Sarty hopes to get other university students interested in arm wrestling. Photo: Miles Kenyon

SMU student strong-arms the competition

Local arm wrestler flexes his skills

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Will Sarty was in high school the first time he ever sat in front of the table that would change his life. But it wasn't a poker table or periodic table - it was an arm wrestling table.

"I was probably the smallest kid there but could beat everyone in the school," he says.

At that time he probably didn't realize the path he as setting out on, or that arm wrestling would become a lifelong passion. But that was more than 15 years ago and he's come a long way. He's now an 11-time national arm wrestling champion.  And on Saturday at Porter's Lake Pub, he added one more award to his collection: championship belt in the left-hand division in Nova Scotia.

The Saint Mary's University business student is part of an active community of arm wrestlers across Canada. Eight provinces, including Nova Scotia, have regional associations for the advancement of arm wrestling and those who practise it.

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Arm wrestling involves a lot of mental preparation. Photo: Miles Kenyon

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Rejean Allain and Will Sarty compete for a Nova Scotia championship. Video: Miles Kenyon

While the community may be small, it is supportive. The audience of the pub was filled with children, parents and grandparents.

Sarty also has the support of influential members of the club.

"Pound for pound, he's probably one of the best guys in Canada," says Rick Pinkney, president of the Nova Scotia Arm Wrestling Association and a national referee.

"He's come a long way. He's trained his ass off to get to where he's at," says Pinkney.

And Sarty readily admits that he relies on his family to make it through his tough training regiments.

"I wouldn't be allowed to arm wrestle without them," he says while laughing.

Sarty trains six days a week, which includes gym regiments and rock climbing. But he also has to spend time "on the table" arm wrestling and studying video-replay of his competitors to learn their strengths and weaknesses.

Pinkney says this strategic part of the sport is just as important as the physical training.

"When you're setting up at the table, when I'm gripping up with my opponent, I have to feel out all his strengths and weaknesses right there as we're hooking up," he says.

Active duty

Sarty isn't just an arm wrestler and student - he's also a father, husband and member of the Canadian Armed Forces.

He credits his years of army training in being able to balance all aspects of his life.

"When you're in the military you're gone. And you're home so infrequently, you're in and out all the time that you have to learn how to juggle your schedule. So I have 10 years of learning to juggle that schedule perfectly."

Taking Aim

Sarty is currently the only university student in the arm wrestling circuit but he'd like that to change.

"I think it's absolutely perfect at the university level because you have a lot of...macho-ness there; you have a lot of rivalries already built up between the universities," says Sarty.

Sarty thinks the biggest hurdle is publicity.

"It's just hard to get into that niche because not a lot of people know about arm wrestling."

Sarty also says people often have the wrong perception of what the sport is and blames movies such as Over the Top which perpetuates stereotypes of jacked guys looking to practise in bar brawls.

He also says it's the reason why the Olympics won't recognize arm wrestling as an official sport, but that doesn't upset him much.

"I don't feel that's the right direction for arm wrestling. It's not a very watchable sport. Matches on average last 10 seconds," he says.

Different strokes

Allison Ross is a beginner arm wrestler and thinks it's a shame more women aren't involved.

"I think there's still a stigma attached to women in it," she says.

Ross has tried to get her female friends involved but they just aren't interested and she worries about the future of the sport.

"People are getting older, people are getting out of it. You need new people to replace them and they're just not there."

One way to inject new life into arm wrestling is by involving children, which is what Mark Crouse did. He's been competing for a decade and made it a family affair by getting his son and daughter involved.

"My daughter started when she was seven," says Crouse. "In school, she had no self-confidence...she arm wrestled and started getting more self-confidence. Now she's a seven-time National champion."

Sarty agrees that getting more people involved is necessary and is happy to share his knowledge.

"I'm training people and coaching people...and I love that part just as much as the competing," he says

Comments on this story are now closed

Your the best will you have more heart then any man in armwrestling proud of you bro

Posted by Patrick sarty | Jan 24, 2022

I really enjoyed reading about the topic SMU student strong-arms the competition. I think that Will Sarty really did a great job doing Arm. I think that he really did his best to beat all his competitors.

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