Personal best: reaping the rewards of sport — local wrestlers head to national championships

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On a lush, green evening in Sudbury, the Rock City Reapers have a lot on their minds.

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First is the desire to celebrate and grow their sport, to bring the 2024 Provincial Arm Wrestling Championships to Sudbury. They know what type of venue they need and the style of trophies they want.

They also know how much a tournament like this would go a long way in building this particular sporting enterprise in the North.

But first they have other awards and championships in mind as the team prepares for 2022 Canadian Arm Wrestling ChampionshipsJuly 1-3 in Winnipeg.

Rock City is based in a dedicated training space in the lowlands en route to the LaCloche Mountains west of Sudbury. The club is a revamped version of a team founded in 2008. There are 21 members with 15 competitors.

Among the competitors heading to the national championships are Brad Wade, John Therrien, Luc Millette, Jocelyn Brisson, Rachel Russell, Venessa Eldridge. The club has also participated in recent provincial competitions with its members Jeff Rochon, Scott and Emmit Deforge, Luc Pilon, Tom Palmer and Don Paquette.

“People think it’s an aggressive sport, but it’s all on the table,” says Brad Ward.

He likes to be strong.

“I like the feeling of combat. It’s like going into battle, but you don’t get hurt. I also like the adrenaline rush. It’s like going to wonderland in a crazy race.

Brad Wade, left, and Emmit Deforge review technique during a Rock City Reapers arm wrestling practice.  The team is preparing for the Canadiens July 1-3 in Winnipeg.
Brad Wade, left, and Emmit Deforge review technique during a Rock City Reapers arm wrestling practice. The team is preparing for the Canadiens July 1-3 in Winnipeg. Photo by Laura Young/For the Sudbury Star

“I like the atmosphere, the people, adds Luc Millette, who has been competing for four years.

“They are all super nice. They will (even) show you how to beat them after you lose. Everyone wants you to get better.

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Ashton and Brian Desormeaux are also competing from Sudbury.

“It’s always interested me,” says Ashton, 16, who has been interested in it since the age of four.

He also participated in tournaments in the United States

“It’s a good sport. It’s good to travel the world.

COVID-19 helped arm wrestling?

The club had barely revived in 2018 before the global pandemic emerged, effectively legislating physical distancing of at least six feet of personal space.

The showdown is obviously a close encounter. The shooters, as they are called, compete in events where they use each arm, not just leaning on one. They compete in classes based on their weight.

As COVID-19 kept people indoors, many turned to YouTube, looking for things to watch. Eventually people found the tussle, says Rachel Russell, a recreational shooter and one of the club’s support team.

She’s been competing since 2008 in part to get more women in the sport, but she enjoys the organizational and fundraising side of being with Rock City.

“I like it. I like the team feeling.

“There is something in arm wrestling. Everyone has tried it in their life,” adds Brad Ward. “I think everyone knows what arm wrestling is.”

Locally, the team has suspended group training and complied with pandemic protocols and restrictions, they say.

“Now it’s just full fledged.”

Like everyone else, the pandemic has slowed them down a bit, says Ward.

“It’s like any sport, you have to do it. It’s in your blood.

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Jeff came to arm wrestling after playing sports ranging from javelin throwing to football. He was always competitive, he says. He remembers watching Devon Larratte, a professional shooter from Canada, on YouTube and getting carried away with Canadian pride.

“I went to a local tournament and have been shooting ever since.”

New Rock City member Emmit Deforge, 10, started arm wrestling about six weeks ago. He joined his father, Scott, who has been involved for 18 months. Emmit, who has played hockey, football and lacrosse, helps direct the videos that add to Rock City’s social media presence.

“It gets me out of the house,” he adds.

Provincials 2024? Rock town?

While the club’s current focus is on the Canadiens and the road west to Winnipeg, the members are also arranging a bid to host provincial championships in Sudbury.

The event hasn’t been in the North for a long time, Wade said.

They have a lot of other clubs that would come, and they list teams from North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sturgeon Falls, Hearst and Timmins.

“We have a dedicated team and we are all willing to put in the time. We all want to work as a team. Profits would be reinvested in (organizing) more Northern tournaments.

“Traditionally, Sudbury has been known for hosting great events,” adds Rachel Russell.

The club can be seen on Facebook at Rock City Reapers AWC and on YouTube at Rock City Reapers Arm Wrestling Club.

Laura Young’s Personal Best column is a regular feature in the Sudbury Star.

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