Like any sport worth a sweat, armwrestling has its own vocabulary, with words like pull, grip, hit and hook top of mind among competitors.
Surrey resident Marlon Hicks began learning those words as soon as he was able to read and write, as a preschooler growing up in the Edmonton area.
His father, Dave Hicks, was an avid armwrestler who taught his son the finer points of a toproll pull, which Marlon, now 42, has used to become a champion many times, both provincially and nationally. In 2010, he reached a new personal height in the sport as bronze-medalist at the World Armwrestling Federation championships.
“I got a bit of a head-start in this, and it’s something I just loved from an early age,” Marlon says of armwrestling, which keeps him busy in his time away from responsibilities of raising his own children and running a landscaping company.
Over the May long weekend, he’ll be in Kelowna for the 43rd annual B.C. Armwrestling Championships along with dozens of other pullers, each with hopes of earning a berth at nationals this summer.
“There are several weight categories for men, and also competition for kids, women and masters, for competitors over the age of 40,” Marlon explained.
“I compete in the Open category and also Masters, because I can,” he added with a laugh.
A member of the Vancouver Armwrestling Club, Marlon has earned a reputation for his lightning-fast “hit,” and is one of the best 154-pound pullers Canada has seen, according to a bio posted to the club’s website (vancouverarmwrestling.com).
He’s competed across the province and country, in the U.S. and also overseas in England and Brazil.
“I’d say I’m one of the better ones in B.C., yeah, because I’ve won at least 10 national titles – actually close to a dozen,” Marlon said with a hint of modesty.
“I’m really just starting to get back into arm wrestling again,” he continued, “getting my bearings again, to get back to a level where I was at, after having a couple kids, back to back, and spending time with them while they’re growing up, so I have the time to get back into it now.”
An amateur in the sport, Marlon is aiming to go full-time pro with a new venture he calls Armwrestling Central, a website and gym for training and learning.
“It’s in the works,” he said of the business idea. “I’m developing the website and structuring the company, so that’s my future plan. The (Vancouver Armwrestling) club is a training facility that’s only really one day a week, but what I’m looking to do is an actual gym-type club that’ll be open every day of the week, probably in Cloverdale, and we’ll do seminars and things like that. With my dad, a lot of people around the world want him and I to train them, so we’ll do that.”
In Surrey, arm wrestlers Marlon Hicks (right, of Surrey) and Clayton Faulconer (North Van) demonstrate a match with commentary from referee Dave Hicks, who is Marlon’s father. pic.twitter.com/hBmHh6Mme4
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) May 15, 2019
On Wednesday morning (May 15), Dave, Marlon and fellow puller Clayton Faulconer set out for a school in Maple Ridge to hold an armwrestling workshop for students.
“That’ll be another aspect of what we’ll do, getting the youth involved and educate them about armwrestling. There’s a message about that as well, about sticking to it and becoming good at something.”
Marlon says armwrestling is “more of a fringe sport” in North America, but is relatively prominent in parts of Eastern Europe and elsewhere – “probably because it’s less expensive than most other sports,” he noted.
For training, Marlon hits the gym and also practices his technique.
Launched in the mid-1990s, Vancouver Armwrestling Club includes around 40 members who practice at a place in Burnaby.
“But sometimes we’ll bounce around and I’ll host here in Surrey, in my garage,” explained Marlon, who lives in the Cedar Hills area. “Another teammate of ours, we call him Butcher, he lives in Vancouver and he hosts some training there, too.
“We have sanctioned tables that have certain measurements, and then aside from the table, that’s really all you need.”
An armwrestling match typically lasts around 10 seconds, Marlon said.
“They’re generally over quick, but I’ve seen some matches last 12 or 15 minutes, even 20,” he recalled. “You talked to Anthony (Dall’Antonia), he won one of those long ones. It’s not often competitors are that evenly matched and have the stamina to last that long.”
At the event in Kelowna this weekend, competitors will be involved in multiple matches in a single day.
“And if you go into multiple classes to compete, it’s a lot of matches,” Marlon noted. “It’s double-elimination round-robin, and sometimes it’s triple-elimination. Sometimes you’ll get a rematch against someone you’ve beaten, or someone who beat you, earlier in the day. You gotta keep winning to stay on the ‘A’ side of the bracket…. You can have six or seven matches in a class, easily, in a day.”
A Vancouver resident, Dave Hicks no longer armwrestles competitively, and has turned his attention to refereeing the sport. In 2008, he was inducted into the Canadian Armwrestling Federation Hall of Fame.
“He’s still at it,” Marlon said, “but in a different way now. This is still fun for both of us.”
The B.C. Armwrestling Championships will be held at Kelowna’s Royal Anne Hotel on Sunday, May 19, with weigh-ins from 10 a.m. to noon and tournament starting at 1 p.m. Looking ahead, the Canadian National Championship will be held at West Edmonton Mall – in the middle of the hockey rink there – from July 12 to 14.