In the quarterfinals of the World Armwrestling League championship in 2016, Red Deer’s Matt Mask dislocated his middle finger.
“I dislocated it when I went to pull during the match, I ended up losing it,” said Mask. “I straightened my finger back out and went to pull again and it dislocated again. I snapped it back in and went to grip up and the referee said ‘Matt, are you serious?’”
He forfeited the right-handed match, but was still alive in the left-handed competition.
In the left-handed final, he fought through the pain with his middle finger taped to his index finger. In between contests with opponent Devon Larratt he asks for someone to help re-set his finger.
He lost the match and came in second in the 2016 heavyweight left-handed WAL championships. In 2017, he came in second in the WAL championships for both right and left hands.
“I just hung on to the peg with my right hand and my finger kept popping out of place,” said Mask. “I’m screaming and yelling at Larratt and smacking my hand on the table trying to put my finger back into place while I’m arm wrestling.
“It was pretty intense, but it looked pretty good for ESPN.”
The finger has since healed.
Mask, who lives in Red Deer and works in the oil and gas sector, is in the thick of a season of the WAL, which just signed a three-year broadcasting deal with Bleacher Report Live, a web-based streaming service, to air six episodes of WAL competitions.
Mask will compete in four of the episodes, including the finals in Atlanta in September. He recently competed in Baltimore on May 17 and is headed to Cleveland for the June 14 Supermatch Showdown Series.
But before Cleveland, Mask and the Red Deer Arm Wrestling Club are hosting their own competition at the Zoo in Innisfail, 5120 49th St.
“They’re using that as a scouting tool to find more talent for the upcoming TV series,” said Mask, who was asked to put the Innisfail tournament together.
On June 2, at 1 p.m. the Zoo will host a competition. Mask said it is open to anyone who wants to give it a shot, for the $50 U.S. entry fee. Weigh ins are from 6 to 9 p.m. on June 1 and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on June 2.
Mask has been competing off and on for the last 18 years in arm wrestling. He entered a small tournament and did “not bad.” Over the last 16 years, he’s been Alberta’s top arm wrestler. Five years ago he decided he wanted to see how far he could go and started competing in the U.S.
“For me, it’s about the competition,” said Mask. “Not knowing if you’re going to win or lose. It’s that split second where they say go and there’s nobody else to rely on but yourself.
“I’m a nice guy, but once I get on that table I have no control.”