Mayors compete for arm wrestling title


It’s going to be a rumble in the Rio Abajo come next Saturday.

For the third year in a row, local mayors will step up to the table and see who’s the best, pitting their arm strength against one another at the annual Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival.

News-Bulletin file photo: Peralta Mayor Bryan Olguin, left, and Bosque Farms Mayor Bob Knowlton, right, arm wrestle for the title at last year’s event.

The mayors’ arm wrestling competition may well be the only one of its kind, said arm wrestling competition organizer Paul Risso.

“I’ve never heard of another competition between mayors,” Risso said. “It may be the only one of its kind.”

The title event of the festival will start at 5 p.m. at Harla Mays on Didier Street.

This year, three mayors from the county’s five municipalities are battling it out for the title.

Representing Belen is Mayor Rudy “The Rock” Jaramillo, Peralta is sending Mayor Bryan “The Machine” Olguin and the county’s newest city comes with unknown Rio Communities Mayor Mark “I’ll Win” Gwinn.

Two-time winner, Olguin, said he hasn’t had a chance to size up the new guy, Gwinn.

“I have someone checking him out,” Olguin said, laughing. “I’ve met him, but the first time you meet a person, you don’t think, ‘Can I take him at arm wrestling?’”

After his first year of competition, Olguin said he planned to train and practice diligently before entering the next contest.

“I didn’t do any of that,” he said. “The next thing I know, it’s here.”

During last year’s competition, Olguin said he was a little surprised to have a full house watching.

“Rudy had the crowd. It was a little intimidating,” he said. “I wondered, ‘Do I go down so I don’t get beat up after?’ But seriously, the crowd supported their mayor and that was great.”

Olguin said he still needed to round up his own supporters for this year. Coming to the festival is always good fun, he said, with lots of good food.

“This event is a lot of fun,” Olguin said. “It’s a great way to spend a little money and have a good time.”

“The Machine” commented that for anyone watching, the arm wrestling isn’t as easy as it looks.

“The first time, I was hurting for about six months; the second time, about two,” he said. “So when it came around the third time, I decided to do it again.

“But you know, it only hurts for a little while. Rub some dirt on it.”

Rudy “The Rock” Jaramillo is hoping this third time will be the charm and improve on his third place out of three finish from last year and his fourth of four in the inaugural year.

“This is all in good fun. And I did take third last year,” Jaramillo said. “This really builds good rapport with the mayors and the rest of the county.”

“The Rock,” along with the other two mayors, will have the first and only training session next Wednesday with Risso.

“He gives us all the techniques so as not to get injured,” he said. “We’ll just go out there and see how we do.”

Newcomer Mark “I’ll Win” Gwinn said word on the street was his competitors were “pretty scrappy.”

“I’ve never done this before, so I’m not sure how I’ll do,” Gwinn said. “Could I take them on the golf course? Yeah, I could take them, but this, I don’t know.”

Gwinn said he was looking forward to the arm wrestling as well as the festival as a whole.

“I look forward to this maybe pulling our communities together and being active with one another,” he said. “As we develop, I hope they come enjoy some our stuff, too.

“Win, lose, draw I just want people to know Rio Communities is a community within Valencia County and be a good neighbor.”

When asked how he thought he would match up against the two seasoned competitors, Gwinn said he really couldn’t make a call.

“If people have money riding on this, boy howdy, I think they should be looking for a better investment,” Gwinn said, laughing. “We’re just the comical side of the whole thing. After we’re done, the professionals will definitely get out there and show people what it’s all about.”

Of the training, Risso said the way arm wrestlers get hurt is by having their arm and body out of position.

“The tip I give them is to keep your nose in line with your hand so you bring your body with your hand,” Risso said. “This is where your referees come in. With the novices, the refs are really active.

“If they see someone getting in a position where they can get hurt, they will grab them and turn their shoulders. If they get in a really harmful position, they will stop the match.”

Risso said with proper instruction, the worst thing novice arm wrestlers should experience after a match is sore arms and tendons.

“We haven’t had anything serious since we’ve been doing the mayors competition,” he said. “Mike Apodaca, who was the No. 1-ranked arm wrestler in New Mexico for 12 years straight, will show them the basic moves, the positions and techniques, so they are safe and can compete at their best.

“It’s fun, but it’s still a competition. You can see it in their eyes when they come up.”

Bosque Farms Mayor Bob Knowlton and Los Lunas Mayor Robert Vialpando will not be competing in this year’s tournament.

-- Email the author at