Student competes at World Armwrestling Championship

By Jalyn Bolyard, Online Editor
Roger “Tom” Wells is not your average exercise physiology student. He is married, has a full time job and three young children. He is also a member of Team USA for arm wrestling and competed in the 2016 World Armwrestling Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria from Oct. 1 through Oct. 10. 

The tournament was a double elimination. One of Wells’ losses came from the guy who came in first, Sasho Andreev from Bulgaria. His second loss came from his elbow fouling out. This, according to Wells, is when the elbow even slightly loses contact from the elbow pad. After two fouls, it is a loss. During the longer matches, it can be difficult to keep the elbow down on the pad. 
ArmWrestling1Wells placed 15th and 18th respectively. However, official rankings won’t come out for a few weeks until the doping tests come back. According to Wells, many of the top competitors sadly test positive every year. To make it on Team USA, one has to place in the top two at the national championship. 
“My neighbor introduced me to the sport,” Wells said. “At first I would just armwrestle with the guys on the team that my neighbor coaches on weekends. But, after I went to my first tournament, I was hooked. It’s a very aggressive and competitive sport.” 
“It’s a great way to challenge yourself mentally and physically while getting a chance experience new places all over the world,” Wells said. “My favorite part, I think, is just the entire experience. (Making) several new friends from all over the world, learning different techniques that we don’t use in the states, getting to compete with the top competitors in the world, to name a few.” 
Being in Bulgaria was an awesome experience, according to Wells. Some aspects were different than the U.S. A large meal with drinks and dessert only cost six U.S. dollars, while over here Wells estimated it would’ve cost at least 45 U.S. dollars. There were also several large shopping malls that were seven or eight stories tall. 
“The city center in Blagoevgrad was nice,” Wells said. “It encompassed roughly a 3-mile radius. It had many shops, eateries, restaurants, clubs, and several large shopping malls,” Wells said. “None of the taxi drivers spoke English, so in order to get where we needed to go we had to learn its name in Bulgarian. To get to the city center we would say ‘maliskie dom’ (младежки дом).” 
ArmWrestling2“The people were very friendly and would ask us many questions about the United States. The younger crowd spoke pretty good English,” Wells said, “overall, it was a great experience, but after ten days I was ready to come back.” 
One of the most challenging aspects of the sport is nerves and injury management. During the tournament, there can be twenty minutes in-between matches, letting nerves run high. Without getting calmed down, the adrenaline can wear one out quickly. Also, since armwrestling puts a lot of extra stress on the arm and shoulder, injuries can be frequent. 
“You’re never 100% when you compete” Wells said, “I can’t remember the last time my arms and shoulders were ache-free.”
The next big Armwrestling tournament Wells is training for is the nationals at Lake Tahoe, N.V. in April. He is also planning on attending the World Championship at the end of 2017
 “Armwrestling is starting to grow in this country,” Wells said. “It has been airing on ESPN now for two years and we just picked up Monster Energy as a sponsor. I believe it’s going to explode in popularity within the next couple years here in the United States.”
Wells is married to WLU alumna Michelle Helmic Wells and they have three kids: daughter, Jocelynne, 12, and twin boys, Zakk and Xavier, 8. 
After graduation, Wells plans on attending graduate school for physical therapy and eventually open a sports rehab, testing and training facility. If anyone is interested into getting into the Armwrestling sport, feel free to contact Wells at [email protected]
Photos provided by Tom Wells and Maureen Zambito.