8 Feb 2014

Chronology of the Best Armwrestlers on the Planet (Left Hand)

After developing a chronology of the top right-handed armwrestlers in the world last year here’s my attempt to identify who would have potentially occupied the #1 world ranking (open weight) with the left arm, had an impartial ranking system been maintained since left-handed armwrestling divisions started to emerge in the 1970’s. 

The basic rules are simple: a puller gains the #1 spot by either beating the person who is currently #1 or by winning a class in which the top-ranked puller participated. Other factors can come into play - number of classes pulled, controversial situations, etc. - so the rules have some degree of flexibility. A puller can also lose his rank after a 12-month period of inactivity or absence from major competition. To develop this list, I used the same logic I applied when I managed the In the Hook North American rankings for over five years.

The chronology starts in 1977. Why 1977? This is when the first known “pro” tournament was held that featured a left handed division with cash prizes. This was the National Arm Wrestling Association (NAWA) National Championship held on the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California, circa September 1977. John Woolsey won this inaugural left-handed division. He was already the first person to win a right-handed professional national title (which he had done at the inaugural World Professional Armwrestling Association (WPAA) National Championships in 1974), and now he was also the first person to win a left-handed professional national title!

The chronology is based on my analysis of event results from the past 37 years. Historical tournament results are often incomplete, and so anything perceived as an error in this timeline may be due to incomplete knowledge. I welcome discussion pertaining to the list's accuracy, and I am willing to describe the thought process I used for any particular adjustments. I am certainly open to updating the list should new information arise.

Note that results from all types of armwrestling events were considered, including sit-down and stand-up wristwrestling as well as sit-down and stand-up armwrestling.

World Ranking Timeline

In bold is the date the #1 world ranking would have switched hands, as well as the person who gained the ranking.

Circa September 1977: John Woolsey wins the inaugural professional, open weight, left-handed division at the NAWA National Championships.

September 22nd, 1979: It in unknown if John competed in any other left-handed divisions between 1977 and 1979. However, it is known that Cleve Dean competed in and won the left-handed division of the World Wristwrestling Championship (WWC)-sanctioned Georgia State Wristwrestling Championship on this date. Though it is unclear if Cleve and John ever pulled left-handed, it is very likely Cleve would have won, given his track record. Mr. Dean would compete in a number of left-handed divisions at various WWC, International Wristwrestling Championship (IWC), and World Professional Wristwrestling Association (WPWA) events over the next 6 years, and it is believed that he did not lose a single match. 

October 12th, 1986: Following 12 months of inactivity from left-handed competition, Cleve loses his ranking and it is assigned to Canadian Gary Goodridge. Left-handed divisions were more common in Canadian events, and Gary had established himself as the man to beat by the mid-80s.

February 20th, 1988: Garvin Lewis, Gary Goodridge’s cousin, beats Gary to win the Ontario Provincial Championships, and in the process takes the #1 spot in the rankings.

October 20th, 1990: At the Canadian Stand-Up National Championships, Garvin loses to his cousin in the finals. Gary Goodridge takes back the ranking.

June 13th, 1992: Canadian Steve Morneau wins the Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship, ahead of both Gary and Garvin. He becomes the top ranked left-handed armwrestler in the world.

June 12th, 1993: One year later, once again at the Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship, Gary Goodridge defeats Steve Morneau to earn the #1 ranking for a third time. Later in the year, Gary wins a World Armwrestling Federation (WAF) left-hand world title. This is the first year left-hand divisions are offered at the WAF World Championships.

June 11th, 1994: A reversal from the previous year, Steve Morneau defeats Gary Goodridge to win the Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship along with the top ranking.

June 10th, 1995: On this date, again at the Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship, Garvin Lewis finishes at the top of the heavyweight class, ahead of both Steve and Gary. Garvin would beat Gary and Steve a year later at the same event.

June 8th, 1997: Following 12 months of inactivity, Garvin loses his rank. As Gary and Steve were also inactive, the ranking is assumed by Eric Woelfel, who has been experiencing tremendous success in left-hand competition, having won the Golden Bear International Tournament in Russia, the World Wristwrestling Championship in Petaluma, and the WAF World Championships in Virginia Beach in 1996. 

December 5th, 1997: Alan Karaev, a huge Russian, beats Eric Woelfel and earns a gold medal in the WAF World Championships in India. He becomes the first puller from outside North America to hold the #1 left-hand ranking.

November 7th, 1998: Georgian puller Vakhtang Javakhadze beats Alan Karaev to win the WAF (World Armsport Federation) World Championship in Egypt and establishes himself as the man to beat.

July 29th, 1999: Vakhtang loses the ranking to fellow Georgian Erekle Gurchiani at the European Armwrestling Championships. 

July 29th, 2000: Following 12 months of no known activity, Erekle loses the ranking and it is assigned to Alan Karaev, who had won the 1999 World Armsport Championship over Vakhtang Javakhadze.

October 2nd, 2000: After 12 months of no known activity (following his win at the 1999 World Championships), Alan loses the top spot in the rankings. The #1 ranking is assigned to Canadian Len Houghton.  Len had beaten fellow Canadian Earl Wilson at the Canadian Nationals in September, and Earl had beaten Mike Gould (the reigning World Armwrestling Federation world champion) at the Central Ontario Championships in March.

September 3rd, 2001: Following 12 months of inactivity, Len loses the ranking and it is assigned to Dan Victor. Dan had won the Harley Pull in April, finishing ahead of Earl Wilson (the 2000 World Armwrestling Federation World Champion), Travis Bagent, Christian Binnie, John Brzenk, and Marcio Barboza.

April 21st, 2002: After 12 months of no known activity, Dan loses the ranking. It is once again assigned to Alan Karaev. Alan had won the 2001 World Armsport Federation World Championship, beating Cleve Dean in the finals. 

October 3rd, 2002: After 12 months of no known activity (following his win at the 2001 World Championships), Alan loses the ranking. It is assigned to Christian Binnie, who had been having a great year. In 2002 he won the Harley Pull, the AAA Nationals, and the Unified Nationals. 

December 7th, 2002: Travis Bagent ascends to the top spot, after he beats Christian Binnie in the finals of the All-Niagara Armwrestling Championships.

January 11th, 2003: Christian Binnie takes the #1 ranking back from Travis after he beats him at the Reno Reunion Armwrestling Championship.

May 31st, 2003: Travis Bagent reclaims top spot when he beats Christian at the AAA Nationals. 

March 26th, 2005: After nearly two consecutive years in the #1 spot, Travis loses the ranking at the Mike Gould Classic, where he takes losses from Sylvain Perron and Devon Larratt. Earl Wilson wins the class and claims the #1 ranking.

March 25th, 2006: Travis Bagent takes the top spot for the third time, after he beats Earl Wilson at the Mike Gould Classic. Travis would go on to maintain the ranking for the remainder of the decade.

December 13th, 2010: Canadian Devon Larratt beats Travis Bagent in a squeaker of a supermatch at Arm Wars “Sin City” in Las Vegas and becomes to #1 ranked armwrestler (both arms).

February 14th, 2011: Travis Bagent beats Devon in a short-notice supermatch at the UAL Backyard Brawl and reclaims the left arm #1 ranking.

October 14th, 2011: Andrey Pushkar beats Travis Bagent at the Nemiroff World Cup and wins the OPEN category. By doing so, he earns the #1 ranking.

June 28th, 2012: Devon Larratt beats Andrey Pushkar 5-1 in a supermatch at PAL Armfight 42 in Las Vegas and reclaims the spot at the top of the world.

Researched and Written by Eric Roussin

Copyright Eric Roussin, AHC, Armwrestlers ONLY - No part of this text may be reproduced without written consent from the author.

Read other articles written by Eric Roussin in section: Articles related to the history of armwrestling by Eric Roussin