Above, Jesse Simko (right) squares off against Al Price (left) in the right novice 0-154 lb. division. Below, Leiraun ’‘Black Ice’ Baldwin (left) battles against Mike ’‘Flash’ Surplus in the left open division.
Imagine this scenario. You’re sitting at Diane’s Deli and Internet Café located on South Main Street in Pittston. You’ve had a few laughs and a few beers when all of a sudden one of your drinking buddies yells out, “Hey! “I bet I could beat you in an arm wrestling match.” Both of you battle on the table for what feels like an eternity until one of you caves and the winner goes home with bragging rights for the night.
Seventeen years ago, Tom “Nitro” Simko - local arm wrestling guru and Pennsylvania State Director - was watching this very scenario. Seeing the interest of others, Simko decided to create the Arms of Steel Arm Sport Tournament.
The tournament coincides with the Pittston Tomato Festival and since year one, has always managed to bring in large crowds, big prizes, and great fun. This past February Simko decided to create the first Icebreaker Arm Sport Tournament which brought in over 40 competitors old and new.
Now Simko has done it again, by creating the first annual Arm to Arm Combat Tournament which is a double elimination, stand up style arm wrestling tournament. It was held May 28.
The rules are simple. Both competitors have one minute to get their grip and one hand must be on the peg at all times. Once the match begins competitors must stay on the pad at all times. If a competitor slips off the pad more then three times then they automatically lose to their opponent. Your shoulder must not touch your opponent’s shoulder and you must stay behind your arm so you do not get in what’s known as the “break arm” position.
This sounds a lot different from messing around with your drinking buddies at the bar and if you’re walking into a tournament for the first time, these rules along with the huge “guns” around the bar may seem intimidating.
Don’t be intimidated.
“The reason for these tournaments is for competition and fun regardless of age or experience,” said Simko. “The Arm to Arm Combat tournament was basically a novice event with 23 novices in four classes.”
However, most of the novice competitors already have a lot of experience. Every Saturday night Simko holds free practices and demonstrations right at Diane’s Deli.
Competitors practiced and trained for months just for this very tournament. Matt Degilio of Exeter was one of those competitors. Degilio practiced every Saturday for at least two hours every night.
“The best way to practice is by trying to match the other guy’s power,” said Degilio.
Simko along with his training partners taught him techniques such as the hook, the slice, and the top roll. But how did Degilio get started?
One year ago Degilio walked into Diane’s Deli. He decided to watch a couple of Simko’s practices and walk over to the table one night.
Simko told Degilio, “To do what you normally do.”
Once Degilio demonstrated what he had Simko responded by saying “That’s your way, now I’ll show you the right way.”
Degilio placed second in his first Arms of Steel tournament in the right novice 0-154 pound division. In the Arm to Arm Combat Tournament, Degilio did not place in the right novice. “It’s a group effort,” said Degilio. “Nitro is an amazing coach and at the end of the day, we’re all friends.”
Simko’s tournaments are the only tournaments where a novice can win money and the huge double column trophies are the first thing that catches your eye.
“I give the people what I would want at tournaments and that’s why people come,” said Simko. “There is no other tournament that gives away prizes like we do.”
Simko continues to hold practices at Diane’s Deli and Internet Café every Saturday night at 9 p.m. His next plan is to take his team to the national tournament in Buffalo, NY next month.