Up in arms

Senior arm wrestles in local competitions


Jack Forrest

Senior Mason Matherly started arm wrestling competitively two years ago.

Munachi Johnson, Staff Writer

Shouts erupt from all sides of the room as senior Mason Matherly, clasped in a grip with his opponent, uses every muscle in his arm and shoulders to push his opponent’s fist onto the table. His senses became only the feel of his opponent’s fist clutching as hard as possible around his palm. With a final strained push, he firmly planted his opponent’s hand into the table as the cheers became deafening.

Matherly competes in arm wrestling tournaments. His interest was sparked by viewing videos on social media. Since starting two years ago, he has not stopped competing. 

“At first, I watched a few videos on YouTube that were interesting. I’m a fan of one-on one-sports, like UFC boxing, combat sports tournament style, and arm wrestling just really clicked with me,” Matherly said. “I like it and I decided to kind of look into it. I saw all the top guys and how to train and stuff, and I just wanted to get into it as soon as possible. I wanted to win against some of my friends and just wanted to show them little niche things that I think are interesting. I’ve been teaching them a little bit sometimes if I beat them and they’re like, ‘wait, how did you do this certain thing?’ And then I tell them why and how.”

At first glance, arm wrestling seems to be a simple test of strength between two opponents. However, Matherly has learned how in-depth the technicalities of the sport can go.

“Most people just think you take their elbow and you put it down that way, but it’s more of a pulling thing. It’s complex,” Matherly said. “You’re doing a lot with your wrist and your hand and it’s just a lot of little angles that you don’t really think about. You have to train these little weird movements, and it’s all for stability in your elbow so it doesn’t break.”

Because arm wrestling requires use of the biceps, shoulders and triceps, it is difficult to master.

“So you have to remember it’s also like in the moment, so it’s not like you can go into with a plan if someone’s way stronger than you and you have to be able to make a smart decision in the middle of it,” Matherly said. “Your set plan doesn’t always work. So there might even have to be a Plan B, a Plan C, just depending on what’s happened.”

Matherly has taken his skills to tournaments against other arm wrestlers. His father also helped push him to pursue arm wrestling more competitively. 

“For my father, It was a little weird at first because it’s such a niche thing. It was on ESPN for a few years, but besides that it’s not really that popular. My dad, though, just kind of popped it up one day that there’s this tournament in Ohio and he’s like ‘it’s only two hours away’ and he’ll take me to it,” Matherly said. “I went to one last year in Ohio and went down to Columbus. It’s great, especially watching the guys who’ve been doing it for a while. It’s really energetic. Everyone’s shouting at each other and the guys on the table are screaming because they’re all getting hyped up.” 

After the competition, Matherly was able to place and celebrate his accomplishment.

“For my age group, I got second in my weight class,” Matherly said. “I pushed for it, and I didn’t do too bad for my first tournament. You don’t have very high expectations going into it, especially for my weight. I’d say my first tournament was pretty cool because I just you know, you’re not expecting it.”

From the frequent tournament appearances and consistent practicing of his craft, Matherly has learned some valuable lessons to use as he moves forward in the sport.

“I learned that pointing things out if you notice a mistake is really important. Like, in a setup, they put you in the strap so you can’t slip out of their hands, so what people can do is they can slowly pull their hands up and they can get higher up on your hand and you essentially can’t win at that point because it’s like you’re holding on to your fingertips,” Matherly said. “And I was not pointing that out as a mistake. So I learned that you have to be confident and if you even have to get a little barky at the refs; it’s like ‘this guy’s cheating,’ and you have to be confident.” 

Matherly has been inspired by the best in the arm wrestling community and has learned essential skills to help in achieving success beyond the sport.

“Yeah, when you look at these guys that are just huge. It’s a little motivating and demotivating at the same time; they are a source of motivation. You’re like ‘wow,’ that a human can actually turn into that. So it’s one of those things,” Matherly said. “Lavon Second, the number one in the world, is probably just the main motivator for me because it’s just you look at that, and it’s just ridiculous. The fact that someone can look like that – it’s crazy to me. I just learned to set a schedule for myself because training something like that just takes time. You can’t rush it. So I was able to develop my own schedule, and I disciplined myself through not missing a day of training and anything like that.”