The sport of arm wrestling doesn't get the attention it deserves.
Competitors at the elite level work just as hard as any other professional athlete.
JJ Talton, a Tecumseh resident, started arm wrestling in 2004 and competed as an amateur. He turned pro in 2006 after finding success in the amateur ranks.
“My uncle used to work at a bar in Maud,” Talton said. “He told me to come out and there were some people that did some arm wrestling. I went in and was a little intimidated at first. There were some huge farmers in there playing pool. My gut told me to walk out, but he put a $50 bet on me and I ended up winning. At that time I was all strength and no technique.”
As an inexperienced arm wrestler, Talton turned to an Oklahoma-based champion, Cynthia Yerby, for guidance.
“She keeps track of me on Facebook,” Talton said. “But more importantly, she really introduced me to the sport of arm wrestling. She pointed me in the right direction as far as how to be a pro and where the tournaments were.”
After seeing JJ's success, his brother, Bryce Talton, and father, RC, joined him in the sport.
“I had been in the game for a few years when I started working with my brother,” Talton said. “Now our dad is involved too. Really, [Bryce] is a beast and can beat me. I kid you not, he's strong as they come. Starting out, his goal was to beat me and now he does it no problem.”
Occasionally Talton will run into people who want to challenge him. Talton has to tread lightly due to the fact the average person is nowhere near ready to arm wrestle for real.
“There was a guy from Oklahoma City who challenged me,” Talton said. “He came out to one of our practices and I had to maintain my emotions and professionalism to not hurt the guy. I let him hit first and waited until he got tired. The guy didn't know how much pressure he was putting on his hand and his tendon popped. It didn't tear, but needless to say after that day, he called me and he hasn't arm wrestled since.”
When stepping up to the table, the Taltons' key to success is remaining focused and ready to handle business.
“You have to have pride, be focused and always know what you are going to do,” he said. “When you here 'go,' you blast them. They say when you are at the table don't look away and stay focused, because when you lose focus that's when accidents and injuries can happen. Another important tool is to control your breathing.”
With all the success of the family, Talton formed a team, The Oklahoma Top Roll Bulldogs. The team, includes the Talton family and another father-son combo of Jarrett and Mike Marks. As a group they travel to various competitions and support each other during competition.
As a coach, Talton uses what he's learned over the years to benefit the team.
“You want to get your tendons strong so they can take the pressure,” he said. “There is a lot of dumbbell work. The stronger your hands are the better. Cardio is also a very important part of training.”
Talton is really impressed with how much his brother Bryce has improved in the short time he's been arm wrestling.
“Recently, he beat a guy who won the national championship four times. Bryce is a top prospect in the game right now,” he said.
Another bright spot on team Top Roll is 16-year-old Jarrett Marks.
“This kid comes to practice every time and works his tail off,” Talton said. “I can't wait until he turns 18 then we can really take his game to the next level.”
One of the most important things for Talton is always showing respect for his competitors, he said.
“We were brought up the right way so I always show my opponents respect,” Talton said. “I'm friends with a lot of the arm wrestling community on social media. I always try and be positive and show respect to the other competitors. There are a lot of kids on my page so I don't want to say anything that they shouldn't see.”
At a recent tournament at the Skiatook Lakeside Grill, JJ Talton placed first in the heavyweight class with his left arm and third with his right. Bryce Talton came in first in the super heavyweight division and won the overall class with his left arm. Their father, RC, came in first place in the master class.
Mike Marks placed second in the master class and Jarrett took third place with his right arm in the amateur class.
On Aug. 4-5, JJ and Bryce will compete at the United States Armwrestling Association National Championship at the Sugar Creek Casino in Hinton.