What began as a hobby, grew into something more for Joel Hudik. Always having an interest in arm wrestling from afar, he got his first taste of actual competition at the Fayette Bull Thistle Arts Festival in Aug. 2013.
It was there that Hudik, 37, a resident of Berkey and Evergreen alum, met a team of professional arm wrestlers based out of Archbold.
“That’s where I met everybody and kind of got linked up with them,” said Hudik. “Started training with them, going to practice with them, and traveling with them.”
Among the group was Quinlan Mendez of neighboring Williams County. Mendez is currently eighth in the middleweight Division (166-195 pounds) according to the World Armwrestling League (WAL) rankings.
“So I went to that first tournament and I competed in the amateur class. And I won it,” noted Hudik. “Then I was messing around with some of the pros afterwards. Them guys were so good, and I had to figure out what are they doing that makes them so good. Then I started training with Quinlan and them guys. It wasn’t long after that I was winning pro tournaments.”
To his own admission, he soon got addicted to the sport.
He had high aspirations early on, as he recalls telling friends of his goals to win both a state and national championship. To date, Hudik has won 15 various state titles, two national titles, and placed fourth at the WAL finals in Las Vegas.
However, like any competitive sport, success in arm wrestling doesn’t just happen over night. It takes a lot of hard work.
“I put a lot into it,” admitted Hudik. “For something that people don’t even really know exists.”
For training, he estimates spending a total of 12 hours a week in the gym. Then, another 6 to 10 hours a week on his own time strictly focusing on arm wrestling. Included in that are various hand and wrist workouts, among other things.
“When you go into a gym and work out, the strengths you have, have nothing to do with arm wrestling,” explained Hudik. “It’s all angles and technique, a lot of little things that matter that help you win. It ain’t how much you bench press or how much you curl, or any of that kind of stuff.”
Arm wrestling is not his main source of income, but some of the tournaments do pay out. Most of them, however, are just there to prove who is the best.
“You are basically just going for bragging rights,” said Hudik. “Because you know that one of the guys ahead of you, one of the top guys is gonna be there.”
Arm wrestling competitions, like wrestling or boxing, go by weight class. In addition, a person can compete using whichever arm they choose.
Hudik competes at 200 pounds, and prefers using his right arm.
Although he would describe the tournaments themselves as ‘intense,’ they are not what some might think.
“I think a lot of people think it is a bunch of knuckleheads. And there is fighting and arguing. That’s not the case at all,” said Hudik. “It is kind of like a brotherhood. Most every match ends in like a handshake or a hug.
“These guys get on the table, and you think they just hate each other. But really they are just so competitive. And everybody is pretty good friends.”
Through arm wrestling, Hudik has made friends from all over the country, including Alabama, Lousiana and New York. When he is not seeing them at a competition, he stays in touch on Facebook and via text.
Hudik recently got invited to an event in Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 17. It features 10 of the best guys in the country at 200 pounds who will each arm wrestle each other. The person with the best record at the end of the day will be looked at as the best 200-pounder in the country.
He has events coming up in Erie, Pa. and Scottsdale, Ariz. as well.
Hudik is always welcoming of new and local sponsors. It is a great way to show off a company logo at the state, and sometimes, national level.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010