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The Minnesota league was started by Hershberger, Elton and Christina “Miss Claws” Igoe. Igoe and Elton were trying to put together a league when they heard that Hershberger was doing the same thing, so they decided to join forces.
“We heard about how big — huge, really — it was in Charlottesville,” Igoe said. “I figured that it was something I could do for a good cause, and Liz was looking for something to empower women.”
The league’s reception has exceeded all expectations, Hershberger said.
“I was expecting family and friends and a handful of strangers,” she said of the inaugural match, which was held at the Hexagon Bar in Minneapolis. “But we packed the Hexagon. And, hopefully, it will keep getting bigger.”
Serious about safety
The only person not indulging her silly side during MAWLL matches is Hally Turner, the referee. While she watches to make sure that standard arm-wrestling rules are followed — “elbows on the table, knuckles up, feet on the floor, butt on the chair” — her primary focus is safety.
“I have the only serious role,” she said, although she does sport a nickname: Hawkeye Hally. “People have broken their arms doing this. [To learn to be a ref] I had to watch some disturbing videos.”
To avoid injury, the wrestler’s body should lean the same way as her arm. If she sees anyone varying from that, she stops the match and makes the wrestler correct her form.
The other thing the wrestlers take seriously is the fundraising.
Nonprofit organizations can contact the league to ask to become a partner for an event, but there are three requirements: The charity should either serve women or have been started by women, it must be based in Minnesota and it has to be small. “If you host fund-raising galas, you are too big,” the guidelines warn.
New wrestlers are welcome. They’re told to come up with a character name, a back story for the character, costume, entourage, theme song and signature move. The more fanciful, the better. Helga Hammerfist was born in Norway more than 3,000 years ago. When she died she was “bjorn again” and became an emissary of Valhalla. Her theme song is Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and her signature move is the “Ruinstone.”
Although they occasionally do exercises to strengthen their forearms, most of the wrestlers confessed that they don’t spend much time training. They’re more focused on having fun and raising money for charity.
“This isn’t about strength,” Igoe said. “This is about strength of the heart.”
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392