Jeff Dabe of Stacy, Minn., is a professional arm wrestler. Anyone who would like to challenge the assertion that arm wrestling is a sport will have to answer to Dabe and a bunch of other competitors who are doing battle in Las Vegas this weekend in the World Armwrestling League’s championship. (More info, including TV times, can be found at walunderground.com). Dabe competes in the lefthanded heavyweight division Sunday. In advance of that, he chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q Your day job is loading up recycled concrete and asphalt. I imagine that’s pretty good training?
A Yeah, that’s what I do all day. And there’s some shoveling involved, too. It keeps you active.
Q So how did you get involved in professional arm wrestling?
A I used to do it when I was right out of high school, back in 1981. I did it for a few years and it faded off. I got back into it in 2012 when they had a little tournament in a local bar in town. … I thought maybe I was too old to get back into it. I’m 52 now. But I ended up winning it.
Q What do you do to train?
A Um, I don’t do much. I have a little hobby farm at home so I’m always doing some chores. I do some pushups. I also have one of those fitness bands. I just sit in my chair, watch TV and pull on the band, which I have hooked onto a door. And that’s about my regimen. I don’t like going to the gym.
Q So what’s the secret of being good at arm wrestling?
A Strength helps, but a big key is the mind, too. You have to stay focused on what you need to do. If you think a guy is better than you, he’s going to beat you even if he isn’t better than you.
Q You’re in the lefthanded class. Are you lefthanded naturally?
A No, I’m righthanded normally. … I used to do both hands back in the day, but I blew my elbow out arm wrestling back in the 1980s, so I can’t do it anymore righthanded.
Q What does a big arm wrestling tournament look like? Can you set the scene for me?
A There are big bleachers set up, and there will be four tables set up in an area called “the pit.” Then you go by weight class, and you go up and if you win you go to the winner’s bracket and if you lose you have to work your way back up.
Q The prize money looks pretty nice — $500,000 total for this tournament. Do you have a chance to finish in the money?
A Yeah, I’m hoping. If I can take top six, I’ll be up in the decent money. And they paid good money out in the region tournament, too.
Q And it’s televised on ESPN2, which must be pretty cool, right?
A Yeah, ever since the WAL took over they’ve really stepped up.
Q It sounds like the kind of thing that fits pretty naturally into your lifestyle. You have a wife and three kids. Do they ever come and watch you compete?
A The kids are all out of the house. They come watch if it’s close by, but with Vegas it’s just me.