Wrist-wrestler uses his head, too

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
— For Rick White of Janesville, success is all in the wrist and the head.

White, the reigning masters world wrist-wrestling champion, says winning in his sport is about technique and not brute force.

This is wrist-wrestling—not arm-wrestling. And there is a difference.

In arm-wrestling, competitors lock hands and grab pegs on the table with their off hands. In wrist-wrestling, those off hands are also engaged in a grip underneath the main arms.

“I have a few different techniques I use,” White said. “I watch people (compete), and learn different things for myself and perfect them.’’

Experience has been a good teacher for the 50-year-old White.

“I’ve been (wrist-wrestling) for 20 years,” said White, who started competing in 1990. “Sometimes I’m going against guys 20 years younger.’’

White uses his head first, whether his opponent is a young kid or a grizzled veteran.

“Whenever I compete, I work to maintain a mental state about it,” White said. “I usually have the mentality that I’m going to win.’’

White rattled off a few techniques, even one used in an old Hollywood movie.

“There is a quick-snap technique,” White said. “And the over-the-top technique. It was used by Sylvester Stallone in that movie (Over the Top). It works.’’

White usually competes in the 175- to 185-pound weight class, but he’s not afraid to move up or switch hands.

“I can go up three or four classes,” White said. “I’ve done that quite a bit.’’

A match lasts for two, three-minute periods. Rarely do White’s matches go the distance.

“Sometimes they go two (periods),” White said. “But most go two seconds.’’

While White believes mental approach and technique are the keys to success, he does maintain good physical health.

“I lift weights, and I have an arm blaster that works the wrist and forearm,” White said. “I try to stay in good shape.’’

Broken arms are part of the sport, but White has never suffered a break and has not seen many, either.

“In all my years, I’ve seen five (broken arms),” White said. “I just watch what I do. Usually, on the table, guys are just in a bad position.’’

White enters tournaments sponsored by the World National Wristwrestling Association. White enters matches mostly in Wisconsin, but he also travels to Illinois and Iowa.

Wrist-wrestling has grown in popularity, but White remains one of the stalwarts in the sport. The faces of the competitors are younger and getting more unfamiliar to White.

“I see a lot more people than when I first started,” he said. “I don’t see many people I faced in the last 10 or 15 years.’’

Jerry Halverson, the president and founder of the WNWWA, is a big fan of White.

“(Rick) is just like gold,” Halverson said. “Whatever he is doing seems to work for him. I get people that come to just watch him.’’

To Halverson, White is somewhat of a wrist-wrestling phenomenon.

“The average wrist-wrestler is 22 to 24, but at 50, Rick is hard to beat,” Halverson said. “He can really put the hurt on these (younger) guys.’’

Halverson said the Janesville-Edgerton-Beloit-Orfordville area is a sweet spot for his tournaments, and White is one of the stars. He said White respects the sport and remains a gentleman, win or lose.

“Rick always shakes hands,” Halverson said. “He is good for the sport.’’

Last updated: 4:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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