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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Spokane arm wrestler wins two silvers, considers retirement from sport

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 21, 2015

Mike Beggs can add these two silver medals to his collection after he won the pair at the World Amateur Arm Wrestling championships, Oct.18, 2015, in Buena Park, California. He now has a total of 177 medals and trophies. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Mike Beggs can add these two silver medals to his collection after he won the pair at the World Amateur Arm Wrestling championships, Oct.18, 2015, in Buena Park, California. He now has a total of 177 medals and trophies. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

In a Hollywood movie, the aging fighter who makes one last stab at glory usually winds up with his arms raised and a victorious smile on his face.

Cue the music. Roll credits …

Reality, as Spokane’s Mike Beggs knows, is rarely so scripted.

Beggs admitted to feeling somewhat “hollow” about his return to the world of big-time arm wrestling last weekend because he only won silver, not gold.

Make that two silvers: A shiny medal for each of his Popeye-like arms.

The 57-year-old grandfather of three competed as a lefty and a righty in the 221-242 pound category at the 38th annual Amateur World Arm Wrestling Championships.

The event was part of Silverado Days, a popular festival held in Southern California’s Buena Park.

“This has been the ending chapter to a long story,” Beggs said in a subdued tone.

“If they (his medals) would have been gold, I might have ended this. What I’m faced with now is writing another chapter.”

I don’t know. To me, Beggs succeeded in what he set out to prove, that after a 9-year layoff he’s still one of the planet’s strongest dudes.

Considering his past, however, Beggs’ disappointment is understandable.

Back in the day, Beggs was an arm-wrestling force of nature. He won three world titles, five national titles and a room full of state awards and other trophies.

That was then. Making a comeback at his age took a “tremendous amount of hours,” he said. “I worked out every day. It’s such a force of habit.”

I wrote about Beggs and his unusual training method last spring.

He and wife Tammy, a four-time world arm wrestling champ, own Spokane Traffic Control. The company’s 50 employees furnish flaggers and other safety measures for lane closures and street projects.

Having to drive a lot on the job, Beggs realized he could work on his grip strength by rolling his hands repeatedly over the steering wheel.

When I rode along with him he was nearing the 1 million repetition mark and had stripped the poor steering wheel all the way down to bare polished metal.

All those isometric movements, he claimed, helped jump-start his return.

And that was only part of a strength-conditioning regimen that included weights, diet and pulling over and over against his basement arm-wrestling simulator.

This is a weird and lonely sport, to be sure.

There’s no money in it. There are few endorsements. Shiny hardware and bragging rights are about the most someone can hope for.

Which was what Beggs was after at Buena Park until he ran into Mark Prickett, a power lifter from Oregon who is in his mid-30s.

“The guy was thick,” Beggs said. “He’s gotta be one of the strongest people around.”

Arm wrestlers face off over a table. After establishing a grip, which can take minutes and involve a lot of whining, a ref will say go and it’s brute force against brute force.

One trick is to turn your opponent’s wrist so you can drive into him with your shoulder behind your arm.

Most contests end within seconds.

Beggs said he won four matches in each arm but couldn’t get past the Oregonian in the double-elimination tournament.

Youth and strength prevailed – this time.

“I was feeling it before the end,” Beggs said. “I burned out my left arm so much pushing against that monster that I got a cramp.”

Beggs said he checked out Prickett’s Facebook page and was amazed.

“This guy trains like a freaking animal. He’s like a bigger, stronger version of me, but not by much.”

So where does Beggs go from here?

Good question.

Half of the aging athlete obviously wants to keep going. Then there’s the other half that knows how much time, pain and sacrifice that will cost.

“I want to continue, to add more to my arsenal,” said Beggs, adding that his best shot may be to drop enough pounds so he can compete in a lower weight class.

“But I’m gonna have to keep that flame going for the next year.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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