Leander Bonnett has been arm wrestling since 1982.
The Sheboygan resident owns 24 national titles, even competed in a world championship in England and is the vice president and event coordinator of Wisconsin Arm Wrestling.
And he mostly owes it to one man.
“It all started at Plymouth, which was holding an arm wrestling event for homeroom competitions,” the 1985 PHS graduate said. “It was set up by our agriculture teacher at the time, Charlie Hansen. Actually, my freshman year I won the class. All four years I won our class.”
Hansen suggested Bonnett take his talents to the Sheboygan County Fair for its annual tournament, and he did his sophomore year.
“I don’t even think I won a match the very first time I went to an actual tournament,” he said. “But I fell in love with the sport and have been doing it ever since.”
Wisconsin Arm Wrestling is a league that travels around the state. Its season opened Saturday at Road America during the track’s MotoAmerica Superbike Series & Vintage MotoFest.
Anyone can show up at any of the remaining 16 events on the schedule, and you don’t have to look like Popeye after eating his cans of spinach to compete, either.
“You know what, I hear that so often,” Bonnett said. “It really surprises you. Some of the littlest guys have more arm strength, and it is truly technique over strength 90% of the time.”
There are professional, female and amateur divisions, as well as one just for children – including some as young as 3 or 4 years old.
Bonnett’s 9-year-old daughter, Austyn, is the reigning league champion in her division and says she enjoys arm wrestling because it makes her stronger and is ‘lots of fun.’
And when she wins?
“I get really excited,” she said.
For those interested in competing, contact Bonnett at 980-4109.
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