Mr. Excitement: The Irresistible Force of John Brzenk

July 29th 2015

At first glance, some might think John Brzenk does not cast the shadow of a man who has dominated arm-wrestling for decades.
 
But any competitor who discounts the mild mannered 51-year-old does so at their peril. Because Brzenk comes to the table as the nicest guy who will ever smash your arm to the pad with power few can match... or explain how it comes out of the soft-spoken competitor.
 
“John Brzenk's status in arm wrestling cannot be higher,” said WAL 225-lb left hand champion Devon Larratt – a potential contender for Brzenk in the league. “He's like Obi-wan Kenobe - even death would likely make him more powerful.”
 
Brzenk, a married father and airline mechanic out of Mesa, AZ, has too many titles to list, a bevy of national and international accolades, and is considered the greatest in the game.
 
Like many competitors, he found the sport as a teen. Then, at 22, he won the Over the Top tournament in 1986. Tied to the classic Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie, Brzenk won the massive red truck that Stallone drove in the film.
 
“There have been hundreds of tournaments between then and now,” he said. “That was probably the point I realized I was, if not the best, then the elite.”
 
Brzenk has over the years sworn by a training method as simple as gripping up with some other athletes a couple times a week. While he has recently started dabbling with weights, there is no substitute for hands-on experience, he said.
 
Training with different athletes shows you different things, Brzenk said.
 
“The secret exercise is just getting on the arm-wrestling table and repetitions, just keep going and going and going,” he said. “You start to realize what works and what doesn’t, based on different body types and strengths. There’s not just one way to win, there’s thousands of ways, depending on who’s across from you.”
 
Brzenk said he hopes to see heavyweight Larratt at some point in the WAL’s 2015 season on ESPN. (Click here for the TV schedule.) The two have only pulled a couple times, including a stint about six years ago in London.
 
“He pretty much dominated me for six matches,” Brzenk recalled. “Which was pretty hard to swallow.”
 
Brzenk said he still enjoys pulling different guys, practicing with buddies and taking his share of prize money. And despite his age, Brzenk is proof that arm-wrestling is a sport where someone can stay competitive over decades.
 
“Arm-wrestling skill takes some time to develop,” he said. “It takes a three or four or five-year period to get your bones and tendons hardened up to a different level. But once you’ve achieved that, as long as you continue and don’t injure yourself, it stays with you for a lifetime.”
 
Brzenk said anyone interested in the sport should train to begin their own journey to the top.
 
“The most fun I’ve had with the sport was when I was climbing the ladder,” he said. “It’s been great to be on top, but having those goals, beating so and so, and seeing how much better you can get was the highlight of my career.”
 
The WAL is offering both established names and up-and-comers a chance to make some real cash and get some real exposure doing what they love, he said.
 
“The best guys in the sport are now participating in the WAL,” Brzenk said, “and the money doesn’t hurt either.”