portraits of Eugene OR's armwrestling team - the Willamette Valley High Rollers
Bert Carrillo, a Springfield local working towards his CDL to drive a log truck, has been armwrestling for about seven years. He hails from a family of armwrestlers and, along with his brother Brandon, pulls in memory of his father, a longtime state champion who passed away when Bert was 16.
A "top-roller," Bert enjoys the challenge and competitiveness of the sport. He joined the Willamette Valley High Rollers last summer and immediately felt at home.
"They're almost like a second family to me," he says. "They're my team."
Brandon Carrillo, a new addition to the Willamette Valley High Rollers, joined the team after much coercing from his brother, Bert. He's now "hooked."
Along with the personal, one-on-one aspect of armwrestling, Brandon appreciates the sport's general vibe of good sportsmanship.
"Even though they're competitive at the table," he says. "As soon as it's over, somebody's shaking your hand."
Isaac Saeidi, a transplant from Louisiana who works as a cook at Elkhorn Brewery, started armwrestling when he was 16. After attending an armwrestling camp near his home town of Baton Rouge, he began reguarly practicing with coaches on Mondays and Thursdays.
Isaac moved to Eugene last August and discovered the Willamette Valley High Rollers on Craigslist. He's noticed that, though Oregon's pullers aren't as established as Louisiana's, they tend to be friendlier.
"Everyone is super welcoming," he says. "I feel the brotherhood feeling of armwrestling that's been described so much here in Eugene more than I've ever felt in Louisiana."
Mike Barrett found armwrestling in the early '90s while he was living in Salt Lake City. After playing college football, he realized that his natural strength would be best put to use in the armwrestling world. He discovered the Willamette Valley High Rollers last summer and began practicing with them.
For the past six months, he's been perfecting his signature move: an inside hook. This is when the participant puts cupping pressure into their opponent's hand while curling their own hand towards their opposite arm pit.
A healthy lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with armwrestling, according to Mike, who has Multiple Sclerosis. Practicing with the team and competing in tournaments keep him "moving and motivated" to fight his disease.
Mike Limoges, a longtime armwrestler, joined the Willamette Valley High Rollers two years ago. After a 25-year break from competing, he fell back into the sport after meeting the team at a tournament held at Epic Fitness Solutions.
When he's not armwrestling, Mike works with people with disabilities, taking them out into the community to do things like go to the movies, grocery stop, or spend a day at the coast. One client goes rock climbing with him twice a week.
A signature top-roller, he enjoys the challenge that armwrestling brings to the body and mind.
"I like the part of me it brings out," he says. "The real aggressive part. It gives me a lot of focus and keeps me motivated to want to continue to work out, stay strong."
Will Dinwiddie, owner of Epic Fitness Solutions - where the Willamette Valley High Rollers practice every Wednesday evening, got into armwrestling through personal training. Before acquiring the gym almost three years ago, he worked with clients at other gyms, in his home, and out of the back of his car.
The high level of training that goes along with armwrestling is one of Will's favorite aspects of the sport. "It keeps me in my best shape, so I'm always looking the best I've ever looked and being the strongest I've ever been," he says.
He's devised a goal to "go pro" in five different strength-related sports: armwrestling (which he's achieved,) powerlifting (which he will achieve this month at his first pro tournament,) strongman, MMA fighting, and body building.
"I may or may not be able to do it," he says. "But those are the goals I've set for myself for the next, hopefully, 10 to 15 years."