CEDAR CITY – A Utah Summer Games event that almost became extinct due to lack of participation is now thriving in the second year since its return thanks to the help of a Cedar City family whose dedication brought it back from the grave. The Utah Summer Games Arm Wrestling Tournament begins Saturday at noon at 560 W. University Boulevard in Cedar City.
Arm wrestling is the name of the game, Summer and Jeff Kirby said, and they wouldn’t know what to do without it. It is not just something the two of them are passionate about; it is a family affair, which their children participate in as well.
When they learned in 2013 that the event was cancelled, Summer Kirby said, both of them were heartbroken. Contacting the Summer Games office to find out why, they found out participation was low and there was nobody to run the event.
Volunteering to take the reins, the couple steered the event in a powerful direction creating more interest in the event that Summer Games officials had seen in years.
“We had better numbers last year than they had even had for a long time,” Summer Kirby said. “And this year it’s almost doubled, or more than doubled, I don’t have the numbers in front of my, but they are high.”
This year, the couple anticipates about 180 to 200 individual matches, because there are entries for both left and right-handed events in multiple divisions, Jeff Kirby said.
“Generally people will be competing in both,” he said. “So there’s almost as many left handers as there are right.”
When competing on a national level, Jeff Kirby said, there is money to be won for both left and right handed competitions, so people tend to enter in both hoping to win.
Preparing for tournaments like the one on Saturday involves a lot of exercises that pertain to arm wrestling, Jeff Kirby said, which, contrary to popular belief, are completely different from body building exercises. Grip strength, wrist strength and forearm strength are just a few of the areas that an arm wrestler focuses on when training, he said.
“You’d be surprised,” Jeff Kirby said. “We’re not near as buff as people would think.”
A lot of times body builder types enter into competitions expecting to do well and are surprised when they are beat out by a smaller, less ripped competitor, Jeff Kirby said. The most successful arm wrestlers have mastered the various techniques and implemented them well, as opposed to coming through with strength only.
Both Summer and Jeff Kirby are national winners for 2015, they said. Summer Kirby won first place in two separate women’s weight divisions and Jeff Kirby won third place in his division.
Though Summer Kirby has the opportunity to go to Malaysia this year to compete on behalf of the United States, she said she would rather wait until their 1-year-old is just a little bit older before making that kind of journey.
The Kirbys have five children, Summer Kirby said. Two of them are older and preparing to leave the nest, but the younger children are at their side every step of that way as they organize and plan.
Arm wrestling has become a deep love for the entire family, Summer Kirby said, and both their 10-year-old and 7-year-old will be participating in youth events this year.
Registration is closed for those interested in competing, but spectators are welcome, the Kirbys said.
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