Spring Valley arm wrestler has a grip on the sport

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

SPRING VALLEY – Harold Ryden of Spring Valley placed second in an arm-wrestling championship held last month in Atlantic, Iowa.

Wednesday, April 04, 2001

SPRING VALLEY – Harold Ryden of Spring Valley placed second in an arm-wrestling championship held last month in Atlantic, Iowa.

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Heartland Armwrestling Inc., headed by Mary McConnaughey, sponsored the event at the Fireside Lounge. McConnaughey is second in the world in women’s arm wrestling.

For 27 years, Ryden wanted to excel in a sport. He played softball and a was skateboarder. Last April a friend from Preston encouraged him to enter an arm-wrestling tournament. Ryden knew little about the sport and had no inkling it would change his life. He won the tournament in Preston and was encouraged to enter a tournament at the Fillmore County Fair. He won there, too.

"I got hooked and I started entering lots of championships," Ryden said. "I turned pro this past January when I kept winning at championships."

To prepare for competition, Ryder lifts weights, does calisthenics such as pushups and situps in his living room. He rides his bike outdoors in good weather. He eats a high-protein, low-fat diet. He trains with Jason Remer, a world champion arm wrestler from St. Paul, once a week.

"I came into this sport weighing 185 pounds," Ryden explained. "The best arm wrestlers stay lean. I work at keeping my weight at 165. I am in the smaller weight division of arm wrestling."

On March 24, Ryden traveled to St. Louis, Mo., for the World Championship Armwrestling Tournament. Arm wrestlers from all over the world attended the event, which carried a top prize of $1,000. Arm wrestlers are in the sport for self-fulfillment and the camaraderie of other wrestlers. Cash prizes aren’t offered often in competition, but rather trophies and medals are the winners’ awards.

"To be a champion arm wrestler you have to have endurance, strength and speed," Ryden said. "In a tournament, you may wrestle from 10 to 30 other competitors. In Atlantic, Iowa, I had to arm wrestle a guy they call ‘The Train.’ I found out why they called him that. It was like my arm was plowed down by a train."

The sport can be dangerous, too.

When Ryden competed in North Carolina, he saw an a opponent break another’s arm. It happened because the arm was positioned incorrectly.

The sport is regulated. The arm-wrestling tables are 40 inches high and 26 inches separates the opponents. The competitors’ elbows are on pads. To pin an opponent, the winner must get the opponent’s wrist, knuckle or the back of his hand 3 inches above the table.

"I had to ice my wrist in the last championship because my wrist popped," Ryden said. "It is the best sport for me. I have met so many great people. I believe I will be competing nationally and worldwide in the future."

Ryden is married to Melanie and they have a daughter, Tabitha, and they are expecting a second child in June. Ryden is an electrician.

To learn more about the sport, call Ryden at (507) 346-1722, or check the Web at http://www.armwrestle.com or http://www.armsport.com.

Call Sheila Donnelly at 434-2234 or e-mail her at sports@austindailyherald.com.