CKHS Welcomes Arm-Wrestling

An inside look and in-depth feature on a new club at Central Kitsap High School, arm-wrestling club. Learn about the activities and culture of arm-wrestling.


Josh Jimenez

Jack Gaebler and Michael Vlach go hand to hand on a training match. Provided by Josh Jimenez.

by Kylie G. Martin, Reporter

Arm wrestling is about more than strength, it is technique; a lesson Jack Gaebler and Lyric Smelser are teaching every newcomer to the arm-wrestling club. They meet every Friday afterschool around 3 p.m. Anyone is welcome to join in any shape, way, and form. Individuals who are interested can contact the instagram, @ckhs_armwrestling_, to directly speak to AWC (arm-wrestling club) members themselves with any questions or show up on any Friday during the school year. 

Jack Gaebler and Lyric Smelser mid-match

As a senior, Gaebler started the AWC under the advisory of Michael Brenner, roughly around November, and it kicked off in January 2023. Gaebler is the main instructor and president of the club, due to his experience and being among the strongest, this entails spending time with new members, going over safety and skills. Brenner allowed a door to open for this competitive non-academic club where you can learn to push past your boundaries in strength and create deep bonds with people alike. 

“We arm wrestled a lot…in middle school.” said Brenner. “And then Jack got real good at it. I want to say ninth grade, we’re thinking about taking this to another level, which is starting a club.”

Brenner paused to reminisce on the days that led up to the start and creation of the AWC. 

“I want to say Josh Jimenez and Greyson Morley, along with Jack. Those are the three that wanted to start an arm wrestling club,” said Brenner. “Then COVID-19 hit, and stuff, and then we came back with masks and you can’t touch each other, so fast forward. He’s a senior and you’ve been dreaming about this since eighth grade. And I’m like, let’s do it.” 

Gaeblers’ passion began to bloom in middle school when he came across professional arm wrestling on YouTube and from arm-wrestling his brother when he was home from marine basics. His eighth grade year, in Brenners’ shop class, he arm-wrestled Kainoa Bonsell and lost, so Gaebler went home to study techniques and forms to beat Bonsell in a match. About a week later, he went to class and won; this is where the idea of the club all started.

In order to make this club a reality there were quite a few things that needed to be planned out. First and foremost, it was the armbet table to be able to hold matches. This was achieved in January, when the club officially started, with donations from club members, family, friends, and teachers. 

A fair amount of time, work, and persistence has gone into the start of this club. Despite the efforts, the club is not highly advertised around the school, keeping in mind that there is only one table currently and only two people can battle at once. This is not necessarily something holding back the club’s popularity, but something that creates a compact group of friends. 

Smelser is a junior and plans to continue at AWC after Gaebler graduates. He originally heard about the club from Gaebler himself, and that goes for quite a few of the original members. Smelser is one of the top ranked in the club and is passionate about seeing it live on.

“He’s (Gaebler) teaching people and I’m teaching people how to arm-wrestle correctly because if you don’t know how to do it, you will likely injure yourself, but it’s not just teaching, we have fun here too,” Smelser said on his contribution to the club.

“Arm-wrestling isn’t really a thing that people know, they know it is just two people trying not to let the other push their arm down, but I would recommend it to people, like tell them to get in here… if you want to try something new,” said Smelser. 

Another club member that frequents the armbet table is Christian Phipps. He is also a junior and began arm-wrestling with Gaebler quite a few months before the club started. Phipps also recommends this club to people who want to try something new competitively.

Jacob Shaw and Christian Cartagena battling for higher ranking left-handed

Gaebler keeps track of stats through a ranking system, tournament style, that lists each person’s level of strength against others in their weight class, also similar to wrestling. This rank system helps keep competitiveness alive, pushs individuals to learn new skills, and shows improvement of members for personal growth. 

“Technique matters. Eme (Emeranzia Robinson) was able to pin Chris (Christian Cartagena) left-handed when he first started learning a couple of months ago,” said Gaebler. “Now Chris is ranked seventh left handed behind his recent opponent Jacob (Shaw).”

Any improvement is congratulated immensely by the group. Every accomplishment is never overlooked. The club is all for refining individual physical and mental strengths in new ways. 

“It’s about being friendly, said Brenner. “It’s about being accommodating and you can come in with any sort of skill set and not worry that somebody with bigger muscles or bigger testosterone levels, or whatever, are going to come and just dominate you. It’s all about trying to just get people to be comfortable with the sport as opposed to coming in and getting sore arms.” 

Anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend AWC meetings. Out of boredom, out of curiosity, or for self-improvement, this club is something to keep in mind. There is always time to take a chance and try something new.