Fun Fact: Todd "Toddzilla" Hutchings was born in Minnesota in the 60's! He didn't start competing in Armwrestling though until later in life when he lived in Michigan. John Bergstrom also was born in MN, but moved to California in the last 70's and didn't start competing in arm wrestling until the 80's.
Armwrestling in Minnesota can be dated back to the 1970's when Richard Lupkes started competing in local armwrestling tournaments. Jerry Halverson started running wristwrestling tournemants (similar to armwrestling) in the 70's. Keith Halverson (relative of Jerry's?) also ran armwrestling tournaments in Minnesota around this time. Richard Lupkes started competing in 1976. In the late 70's, Jeff Dabe started competing in local tourneys and went undefeated, beating Scott Norton, right handed, in 1980 (Scott and Jeff were both 18 years old). In In 1981, David Bauer (2002 WAF World Armwrestling Champion at 121 lbs) won an armwrestling tournament that his school had. After that, he didn't think much about armwrestling but in 1984, Jerry Halverson held a wristwrestling tournament in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, which Dave went to. After that, he started competing in more of Jerry Halverson's wristwrestling tournaments. Jeff Dabe won many local tourneys, and he was invited to an Over the Top qualifier in 1986 but didn't attend because he was busy working and raising a family. Around that time his right arm popped during a 2-3 minute match and after that his right was never the same. He never had his arm checked out by a doctor but chose to hang up the belt and didn't start competing again until 2012, and now just competes left handed.
Meanwhile, in Worthington, MN, Richard Lupkes was destroying farm boys and guys at bars in local armwrestling tournaments. In 1986, he competed in his first large-scale tournament, one of the biggest tournament ever, the Over the Top tournament, where he took 3rd, losing to 22 year old John Brzenk. After that, Rich started training seriously and won back-to-back World Titles in 1988 and 1989 in the superheavyweight division.
In the late 80's, David Bauer saw an armwrestler named Rhett Houdek, from St. Paul, on Jerry Halverson's wristwrestling rankings. He had thought that he was the only one from Minnesota who armwrestled! He and Rhett hooked up and started training. Dave went to the World Championships in 1993 where he took 2nd place right handed and 3rd place left handed at 55 kilograms (110 lbs.). Meanwhile, several other armwrestlers, including Marty O'Neil and the fearsome Jason Remer, began armwrestling in the Twin Cities area. They met up with Dave and Rhett and started training. Imposing fear throughout the midwest, Jason, Rhett, Marty, and Dave would win almost any tournament they went to. Dave was a lighter man, only about 121 lbs., and at most tournaments the lowest weight class was 0-154 lbs. so Jason and Rhett were more successful at most tournaments. In 2000, Jason Remer placed 2nd at WAF Worlds at 187 lbs. David Bauer attended Worlds several times, and finally won in 2002 in the 55 kg (121 lbs) weight class. Jason's brother Jerry Remer also competed and was fairly decent, although not on the same pedestal as his brother. Both men made cameo's in the 2003 documentary "Livin' to Pull".
In 2000, Harold Ryden from Lanesborro, Minnesota, went to his first armwrestling tournament at the Fillmore County Fair in Preston, Minnesota. After that, he went to another tournament where he met Rhett Houdek. Rhett invited Harold to train with them and so Harold started training at Dave Bauer's house every week with all the other arwmrestlers. In 2001, Harold got his friend John Grant to start armwrestling. John's first tournament was at the Fillmore County Fair. In 2002, Harold was getting pretty good and was holding his own with some of the better armwrestlers in the midwest, but he moved to California. He still armwrestlers and he has had a successful armwrestling career so far. He trains with the legendary armwrestler Alen Fisher, World Champion Vazgen Soghoyan, and national champion Jake Smith. In recent times he is more known as one of the head referees of the Ultimate Armwrestling League and has not been competing much since about 2011.
Jason "The Mighty Oak" Remer had a very successful career, winning a couple national titles, and beating armwrestlers such as World Champion Michael Selearis and "Monster" Michael Todd. His most famous win, however, was when he beat John Brzenk one time with each arm. Shortly after that, he quit armwrestling. Why he quit is a mystery, some people say he was having problems with his family, others say after beating the best armwrestler in the World and only winning $1000, he said to himself "I'm the best armwrestler in the World and I won $1000. If I were the best basketball player, football player, or baseball player, I'd be making millions. This isn't worth it." Jason left the sport around 2005. After that, things started to fall apart. John Grant stopped armwrestling in 2006. Rhett Houdek had a successful career and even beat Allen Fisher once at 165 lbs. before moving up to 198. He stoped competing when he had to have surgery on his right shoulder after tearing some tendons (which didn't occur while armwrestling) in 2007. Marty O'neil had a successful career, being known as one of the best armwrestlers in the midwest. He competed at 176 lbs. and placed as high as 2nd at Unified Nationals. When everybody else quit, so did he. David Bauer kept on competing at somy of Jerry Halverson's wristwrestling tournaments but stopped traveling to big tournaments. From 2009-2011, Marty O'Neil came back to the sport for a few tournaments, including the 2009 Ruler of the Nation and 2010 and 2011 MN State Championships, but hasn't been seen much since. Rett and Jason still compete from time to time, mostly just for fun, but they don't train much at all - Jason still lifts weights not doesn't train armwrestling.
The New Era: Josh Handeland and Yosef Chalbi were armwrestling each other in 1st Grade (1996) on the lunchroom table. Josh always liked to armwrestle, as did Yosef. In 2007, Josh found out that there were competitions, but couldn't find any armwrestlers from Minnesota to train with or go to tournaments with. Josh, 17 years old, didn't want to drive to Missouri and South Dakota all by himself just to compete. Looking for Minnesota armwrestlers online, he got in touch with Harold Ryden, who hooked him up with David Bauer, who hooked him up with Jerry Halverson. On May 10th, 2008, Josh and Yosed went to their very first wristwrestling tournament in Cresco, Iowa, and were hooked ever since. After that, they hooked up with John Grant, who, after a 2 year break from armwrestling, was trying to get back into the sport and start training. Josh, Yosef, and John started training together and going to tournaments.
Andrew Bieganski from Grand Rapids, MN, started armwrestling in 2006, and has attended several tournaments from 2006-2009, mostly in the North Dakota and Montana area. His cousin Jeremy Emery started shortly after he did and sometimes went to tourneys with him. Andrew didn't meet up with Handeland's crew until 2010. Brandon Hareldson started pulling out of Preston, MN, with his buddy Pete Reck, around 2005. They attended a few tourneys in South Dakota, and in 2007 Brandon competed in the National Championships in Kansas City. Since then Brandon has just competed locally, he doesn't go to very many tournaments lately, usually only the Fillmore County Fair, but could be competitive at just about any tourney in the country at 165 lbs. Erin Meyer also started competing in 05, and has been regarded as the best female armwrestler in the State for several years - she won National's in 2013 at 132 lbs. and has several state and local tourney titles. Johns wife Ashley Grant also started competing around 06, but doesn't compete very often.
Richard Lupkes came back to armwrestling in August 2007 when he attended the Unified National Armwrmestling Championships in Kansas City, Missouri. He won the Grand Masters Heavyweight Division there and took 3rd in the open division. In October, he took 3rd at the ROTN, beating Travis Bagent one time. In 2008 he won the Arnold Classic, beating Tim Bresnan and John Brzenk, and took 2nd at Unified's Nationals in Salt Lake City after tearing his bicep while pulling Tim Bresnan on the A Side in the finals. Early 2009 saw Mr. Lupkes in a head-on car crash with a semi. Thankfully he was okay, and 2 months later he beat Nick Zinna 3-0 for the Heavyweight Toproll Title, then won Unified Nationals in June in the Open, Masters, and Grand Masters Heavyweight Divisions!!! He tore a disc in his back a month after that and had to have surgery, but came back in full force in 2010, where he was undefeated at every tournament he attended (right handed) including Nationals and Worlds! His only loss was at the end of the year in a supermatch with Devon Larratt (ranked #1 in the World) who was able to beat Richard 6-0! In 2011 Richard attended the Arnold Classic yet again and had a historical match with the beast from Russia, Denis Cyplenkov!!! Although Richard lost the match, it goes down as one of the most famous matches of all time, 2 of the largest and most powerful super heavyweights of all time going at it in an epic battle. Denis was definitely surprised at how strong Lupkes was. The match can be seen here Since then Lupkes has been competing both Nationally and Internationally, he won the National Championships in the open division in 2013, and beat Don Underwood in a supermatch 3-0 in August 2012, but he has taken some loses as well. He's still going strong as of June 2014.
2008 and most of 2009 saw John Grant, Josh Handeland, and Yosef Chalbi representing Minnesota (apart from Lupkes) but near the end of 2009, things began to change. The trio saw a big farmboy named Adam Kruger at 3 different local tourneys in a one month time span, and he won 2 of them, beating John Grant with both arms. Josh asked him if he'd be interested in attending some bigger tournaments and he said yes, so he started training but only every now and then. Marty O'Neil also came back for 6 months in 2009, training hard for the ROTN, where he ended up one win away from making top 6 (right handed). In December, Adam King started coming to practice, not every weekend but most weekends. Josh found Adam, a former amateur strongman, on the Arizona Armwrestling Website looking for MN armwrestlers. Dave Bauer, his son Jason, and Carl Brandl-Salutz trained with Josh, Yosef, and John Grant from time to time, but they haven't been around since 2010.
Here is the Minnesota Muscle team at the 2008 World Wristwrestling Championships. (From left to right, Handeland, Jason Bauer, Dave Bauer, and Yosef)
2010 was a big year for adding members to the team. John Grant, with a baby in the family and building his own house, was around a lot less this year, and most of the year saw Josh and Yosef going to tourneys together and doing quite well in the open classes. Josh put on 2 novice-only tourneys this year and also organized the Minnesota State Armwrestling Championships! Many people contacted Josh about getting involved in armwrestling this year, but only a few have showed any amount of dedication; Paul Buchanan (a U of M student who Josh knew, but he didn't know Paul had natural talent in AW until the first novice-tourney), Jacob Baker (long time friend of Josh and Yosef who practiced with Yosef on a rare occasion but didn't get serious until 2010), and Jack Weber (who Josh and Yosef met at the Fillmore County Fair, Jack had competed in 2 tourneys in Iowa in 2003 and wanted to get serious now). Andrew Bieganski from Grand Rapids also met the team at MN States and went to Kentucky Muscle with Josh, Adam Kruger, and Yosef. The end of 2010 also saw Matt Brouse join the team. Matt was born in MN, but moved to Michigan for college, where he competed in strongman and did armwrestling for a short time period. Matt had moved back to MN in the summer of 2010. Jordan Dick began armwrestling at the end of 2010 as well.
2011 saw 5 tourneys in Minnesota, including the State Championships at the Sauerkraut Days, which more than doubled in size this year, the Como Cookout, and the birth of the famous Fatboys tourneys. In December 2012, the second Fatboys Armwrestling Challenge took place and goes down as one of the most historical Minnesota tourneys of the 21st century. It was at this tourney where a 4-way supermatch took place between Mike Barrett, Jason Remer, Chase Stratton, and Scott Ballinger. Chase ended up winning the supermatch right handed, while Mike Barrett won lefty! Pretty much every puller in the State showed up to this tourney, including Marty O'Neil, Adam Kruger, Yosef, Jeff Ahmann, Rett Houdek, Matt Brouse, and many others. Tony Villa also was in attendance and won the 210 and 210+ classes left handed. Yosef also won his first National Title left handed in 2011, and Handeland took 2nd right handed at Nationals (his left was injured) and attended the World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he took 8th left handed and 16th right handed in the 70kg weight class (154 lbs)! Jordan Dick also moved to Florida in the fall of 2011. Jon Thompson started up at the end of 2011 - his first tourney was Fatboys 2 - and Mike Gritti started up in September right after Fatboys 1. Jake Wessel also made his first appearances in 2011, and won his first novice titles (2 right and 2 left at the same tourney!). Josh Kor's first tourney was in 2011 as well, where he won the novice class at MN States. A solid group had formed in Grand Rapids by 2011, with Andrew Bieganski at it's head, it included the Emery clan - Steven, Scotty, and Jeremy Emery - Danielle Radtke, Joe Trebil, and a couple others. Another famous Minnesota event this year was the Olmsted County Fair, where Mike Hann from Texas entered the super heavyweights, which was absolutely stacked, and tangled with some of the best in the State. He ended up taking a bronze right handed. He also won the 160 class right and left over Handeland.
2012 didn't see any of Jacob Baker, and Paul Buchanan herinated a disk in his back and hung up the belt, but many others started up including Mark Cichy, Arian Tavakolian, John Kuhlman, and Matt Tucker. Jon Thompson and Mike Gritti made huge strides this year and hit up many tourneys - Jon won the 221+ novice class at MN States, and Mike won the 198 left handed pro class over Corey Miller!!! He also took 2nd right handed. Josh Kor returned to States to take 2nd to Corey Miller in right hand 220's. MN States was huge this year, with Corey Miller entering 8 classes and winning all 4 that he entered right handed, and 1 class left handed. A few famous showdowns that occurred this year in Minnesota include Tony Kitowski vs. Corey Miller lefty, Gritti vs. Miller, Cichy vs. Miller and Kitowski, Handeland vs. Ahmann, Kor vs. Kruger, Remer vs. Kitowski, and the first meeting of Cichy and Bieganski. This year saw 4 tournaments in Minnesota (also the Fillmore County Fair). Yosef also won his second National Title at the AAA Nationals in Indianapolis, again left handed, 165 lbs. weight class. By the end of the year, Mark Cichy had solidified himself as one of the top pullers in the State both arms, with wins over Handeland, Yosef, Bieganski, Grant, Kor, and both Krugers, as well as Corey Miller left handed and Jason Cunningham both arms. This years Rustic Inn Armwrestling Championships also saw the "rebirth" of Jeff Dabe as he entered the tourney left handed and won decisively over Cichy, Krugers, and Thompson.