28 Dec 2013

Richard Lupkes - The Pride of Minnesota

Richard Lupkes was born on October 5th, 1956. He grew up on a family farm. When he was 20 years old he started competing in local armwrestling tournaments, destroying farm boys and guys at bars. One  of his first serious armwrestling tests was at the WPAA World Championships in Kansas City in 1978, where he came second to Al Turner. That time he weighed 210 lbs. “I had the honor of pulling Mr. Turner at the '78 World finals in Kansas City at Worlds of Fun. Mr. Turner just pulled my arm right out of the cup with his amazing strength. If I would sweet talk my wife I could have her find a copy of a Sports Illustrated magazine with a picture of Al and myself in the finals. I also had the chance of talking to this great puller and greater gentleman at an east coast tourney years later somewhere around 1987 to 1989.” – said Lupkes.

Al Turner vs Richard Lupkes - WPAA 1978

In 1986 Richard Lupkes competed in the biggest tournament ever, the Over the Top tournament, where he took 3rd place, losing to 22 year old John Brzenk. After that, Rich started training rigorously and won a World Title in 1988 in the superheavyweight division. In the late 80’s Rich was destroying most of his opponents, and only John Brzenk and Gary Goodridge were the only armwrestlers who could even slow him down! Richard Lupkes: - “The two people that were my greatest threat were John and Gary. I would have to give Gary the edge for raw horsepower. But John was always the smartest and would figure out what he needed to do to win.”

Standing near 6'3” and weighing over 300 lbs, Rich would put on a weight belt with 300 lbs of weights and do dips (that's over 600 lbs total being pushed up).

After Worlds in 1989 he accepted an offer to train in a professional wrestling school in Chicago where he wrestled for WCW for a few years. - "They wanted me to go over to Japan for months at a time, but I had a wife and family and I didn't want to be away from them for so long. So I gave it up and came back to Rushmore. It was interesting while it lasted" - Lupkes said.

In 1991, at the top of his game, Lupkes retired because of an injury. He returned to the life of a corn and soybean farmer.


Richard Lupkes came back to armwrestling in August 2007 when he attended the Unified National Armwrestling Championships in Kansas City, Missouri. He won the Grand Masters Heavyweight Division there and took 3rd place in the open division. In October, he took 3rd at the ROTN, beating Travis Bagent one time.

In 2008 he won the Arnold Classic, beating Tim Bresnan and John Brzenk, and took 2nd place at Unified Nationals in Salt Lake City after tearing his bicep while pulling Tim Bresnan on the A Side in the finals.

In early 2009 Mr. Lupkes had a car crash with a semi. Thankfully he was okay, and two months later he beat Nick Zinna 3-0 for the Toproll Heavyweight Title, then won Unified Nationals in June in the Open, Masters, and Grand Masters Heavyweight Division. He tore a disc in his back a month after that and had to have surgery, but he was back in full force in 2010!!! Rich was undefeated at every tournament he attended (right handed) including Nationals and Worlds!

His only loss was at the end of 2010 in Las Vegas at ARM WARS in a Supermatch with Devon Larratt (ranked #1 in the World) who was able to beat Richard 6-0! “I have met a lot of armwrestlers in my 30 plus years of pulling, but I can  onestly tell you that I have never felt the kind of power that Devon has. Not even John (no disrespect Fintended). Devon has my vote for #1 hands down until someone proves me wrong. This is just my experience and do not mean to disrespect any puller.” – said Lupkes.

At the beginning of 2011 Rich won The UAL Super Heavy Waight title beating Travis Bagent in the final.

During his career Richard Lupkes has won 3 World and 10 National Titles, and he is the only competitor over the age of 50 years old to win the Arnold Classic Heavyweight division.

Richard Lupkes is credited as a founding father of armwrestling in Minnesota. He is globally recognized as one of the very best armwrestlers of all time. In the opinion of John Brzenk he is one of the 6 Strongest Super Heavyweights Ever. For many, the 315 lbs farmer from Rushmore, Minnesota, with 23-inch biceps and 20-inch forearms at his peak (late ‘80s), was the strongest armwestler who's ever pulled on this planet.

John has said this about Richard Lupkes: "Your explosive power was the most incredible and sometimes scary example of pure power I have ever felt. Your size and strength to say the least always made me a little nervous."

When you look at his picture, you can tell he has plenty of power. In answer to the question - Is that from the gym, or are you just naturally strong? - he says: "Well, I was born on a farm and I've always worked hard. I've always tried to train each muscle group twice a week. I'm in the gym a minimum of two hours a day. Between two and three hours. I'm not in there just going crazy. I'll do a set and then rest, take a break. That's how I've always done it. I do legs, too. I've found over the years that when you work your legs it helps your whole body get stronger."

“Richard is a genetic freak of nature,” said Bob Brown of Riverton, Utah, a fellow Masters division competitor and a renowned trainer of champion armwrestlers. “In terms of raw strength, he is the strongest person I’ve ever known. Let me put it this way — if 20 years ago Richard would have gotten involved in the World’s Strongest Man competition, there is no doubt in my mind he would have won it multiple times.”

Richard Lupkes of Rushmore - located in southwest Minnesota near the Iowa and South Dakota borders – grows corn and soybeans in the summer and during the winter months he is a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Worthington. But for the armwrestling world, he is a puller with huge power and a magnetic name.

Author: Tomasz Wiśniowski

Copyright Tomasz Wiśniowski / Armwrestlers ONLY - No part of this text may be reproduced without written consent from the author.  

Richard Lupkes & Arsen Liliev - Armfight 40, 2012

Richard Lupkes - Winner of UAL II 

Richard Lupkes vs Devon Larratt - Arm Wars in Las Vegas 2010

Richard Lupkes - World's 2010

Richard Lupkes with the trophies - 2010

Ryan Epsey, Tim Bresnan and Richard Lupkes - Arnold Classic 2008

Richard Lupkes vs Travis Bagent - ROTN 2007

Richard Lupkes

Richard Lupkes vs John Brzenk - Yukon Jack 1990

Richard Lupkes

Richard Lupkes in 80's

Richard Lupkes -  WAF Worlds 1988