I love hearing stories about Jewish athletes that aren't in the four major sports. I have covered Jewish pro wrestlers, swimmers and others, but never have I interviewed an arm wrestler.
Meet Ed Grossman, an arm wrestler from Chicago in his 60s who is just getting started in competition.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 60 years of age. I am married to Lydia for over 35 years and have one daughter, Iris, who just started law school at DePaul (where I also went). I was born in St. Louis but my family moved to Chicago when I was very young. I grew up on the far north side and in Niles. I went to Niles North High School, the University of Iowa for one year and then Indiana University in Bloomington. I now live in Palos Heights. I co-founded the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc., a not-for-profit provider of legal services to those who cannot afford a private attorney. The organization has served over 450,000 people since its founding in 1981.
2. How did you get involved in arm wrestling?
I was always pretty good at arm wrestling. I was relatively small but always had good upper-body strength. I was a gymnast in high school and did the rings, which is conducive to good arm strength.
3. Did you play high school sports?
I followed in the footsteps of my two older brothers and was on the gymnastic team at Niles North, doing the rings. I was on teams that were very accomplished but by no means was I the star of the team. We had some excellent gymnasts.
4. How do you think you will fair in the competition?
The competition will be very tough and I probably will not fare very well. The sport of arm-wrestling is pretty big in Eastern Europe and they have some amazing arm wrestlers there. I am a little banged up left handed, but hope to be pretty competitive with my right hand.
5. How can others get involved?
Anyone who wishes to get involved in a formal way with arm-wrestling can come to practices that occur in several locations in the Chicago area. The team I am on is called "Armed and Dangerous" and we usually work out on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. at the Brauerhouse in Lombard, Illinois. A couple of my teammates are amazing, but since I am over 60, there is a bit less competition. But some of them have won national championships. Anyone can join, as there is no fee, but you might have to buy the guys a pizza!
6. Is this your first experience? If not, what is it like?
In 1980 I entered an arm-wrestling competition that was world class, but just with my left hand, as my right arm was injured. I took in the top nine in my weight class. After a 35-year hiatus, I was watching TV and ESPN had on world championship arm-wrestling matches. One of the competitors was Allen Fisher, who is a few months older than me. He was highly competitive, even at his age, against much younger guys. So I figured I would give it a try. That was about two years ago. So after training with my teammates since then, I guess I am as ready as I can be.
7. Anything else we should know?
A couple of years ago I played in the World Series of Poker and that was an amazing experience. I am a licensed pilot and somewhat of an amateur magician. However, I believe I am much better at arm-wrestling than those other vocations. I guess now is my chance to see if that is true. I am very proud that I will be representing the United States of America in this competition and I feel extra motivation to do well.