Austin Jaggers Wins Amateur National Arm-Wrestling Tournament

Writer / Gavin LaPaille
Photography Provided

arm-wrestlingAustin Jaggers has always been an intimidating force. On the playground growing up, other kids were scared to challenge him in any type of physical contest.

“I was always the big, strong kid no one ever wanted to touch,” Jaggers says. “I never got to have any fun.”

Jaggers is making up for lost time now. A friend entered Jaggers into a local arm-wrestling tournament in 2016, and he quickly took to the sport, finishing second.

“The first tournament I ever went to I didn’t even enter myself into it,” Jaggers says. “My friend signed me up and I had no idea he put me in an arm-wrestling contest. The guy who beat me called me a liar, saying that I had arm wrestled before. I got a lot more interested after that.”

Now, Jaggers is well-known in the arm-wrestling community. In just his second year in the sport, he won a national amateur tournament and turned professional soon after. Recently, he had perhaps his biggest tournament win to date, winning the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH. Jaggers said he was surprised to come out victorious as the competition was with his right-hand, when he is generally stronger with his left.

“The Arnold is one of the biggest international competitions in the world,” Jaggers says. “There were 16 countries there and it was an incredible experience. I wasn’t expecting to win it at all, and I didn’t lose one match. There were people there I thought I would lose to. People said don’t think that way, but I was trying to be realistic. But I won and it was awesome. I worked my butt off for it.”

The Arnold title shows Jaggers fast progress through the sport. After winning the amateur tournament, Jaggers was forced to turn professional in order to continue competing and struggled facing off against much more experienced arm wrestlers initially.

“When you win nationals in amateurs, you can never enter that again,” he says. “I couldn’t enter another amateur tournament, so I had to go pro. My whole third and fourth year I just got destroyed because I wasn’t on that level. I won the nationals because I was on a good level against other guys just getting into the sport, but when I locked up with pros, I was getting slammed. After about two years, I started slowing people down and having good matches. It was a lot of hard work and consistency.”

Jaggers journey with arm wrestling continues a long-standing relationship with competing and athletics. Raised in Louisville, Jaggers attended Holy Cross High School where he played both offensive and defensive line on the football team and was an all-conference selection his senior year while earning a spot in the Kentucky East-West All-Star Game. He was also a member of the wrestling team for four years and owns one of the quickest pins in state history at six seconds.

arm-wrestlingAfter college, Jaggers initially played football at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati before transferring to Eastern Kentucky University, playing three years for the Colonels. He finished his career at EKU as the starting center and was one of the strongest players on the team.

It was at EKU where Jaggers became a fan of “Game of Arms,” a reality-television show that explored the world of arm-wrestling. The show inspired Jaggers, and he wanted to one day compete with those he was watching on television.

“It’s been such an exciting adventure,” Jaggers says. “More people are getting into it. When I first got into arm-wrestling, it wasn’t so big. Back in the day, when you saw an arm-wrestling tournament, it was word of mouth. Now everyone gets messages on Facebook and whatever else. It’s evolved. You’ve seen a transition in the popularity with the sport.”

Jaggers is currently working with coach Mike West, a multiple time World Arm-Wrestling Federation champion, and trains in West’s gym that is dedicated to arm-wrestling while competing with others who are interested in the sport. Jaggers said some of the workouts he does might look a bit strange, but all are done with a purpose of improving his strength and technique.

“In arm wrestling there is a lot of technique, there is a lot of strength, a lot of certain hand movements and forearm workouts,” he says. “Some of the workouts look silly at the gym. They look at me like what is this guy doing. It’s nice to lift with other arm wrestlers so I’m not the only one at the gym looking insane doing weird movements.”

Jaggers is a bit of a rarity in arm-wrestling, as he competes in tournaments both right-handed and left-handed. Naturally ambidextrous, Jaggers thinks of his left hand as being the stronger of the two, with his right being more coordinated. More tournaments are geared towards right-handed competition, but he enjoys competing with both. His goal is to be ranked in the top five nationally with each hand.

arm-wrestling“A lot of people are dedicated to right,” Jaggers says. “The left hand is like the red headed stepchild. No one arm wrestles left. There’s no money in it. Some major tournaments will have right and left contests, but not all. You just get so many more competitors right-handed. It’s uncommon to compete in both.”

The internet has become a tool Jaggers uses to his advantage when preparing for arm-wrestling tournaments. He will often scout opponents beforehand, finding past matches on YouTube and studying their tendencies. It’s a luxury that was not afforded to previous generations of arm-wrestlers. Watching film during his football career has helped him study tape better as an arm-wrestler.

“I’ve really studied film on people I go against over and over again just to see what they do or what they struggle with,” Jaggers says. “It’s like watching film for football or anything else, you must study to understand what they’re going to do. Same concept, you have a gameplan so you can be prepared and do your homework. My football career helped train my mind to pay attention to what is important and not studying the wrong things. Over time you learn what to look for. YouTube is a great weapon because I can type in someone’s name and find a video to see how they arm wrestle.”

Jaggers said when he talks about his arm-wrestling career, people have mixed reactions– but it’s done great things for him personally.

“Some people think it’s so cool,” he says. “Some people laugh and ask if it’s serious. It goes both ways. Some people want to hear all about it, some think it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard. I’ve heard it all. Some people really enjoy it and find it interesting and want to become part of it. I’ll talk to people and then they show up regularly and they get bit by the bug. It’s a healthy environment and I have good people in my circle. Something to focus on and stay out of trouble. We hold each other accountable if someone is sliding, we talk to each other and get them back in. It’s been an exciting journey. I’ve met some incredible people I never would have met.”

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