All-Time Top Female Puller from Each State
Who is the top female puller of all time from each U.S. state? I’ve analyzed results from the open divisions of most of the big events (national, world, professional, etc.) of the past 50 years, and considered several factors, with consistent success being my biggest consideration. I associated pullers with their home state or where they first started pulling (to my knowledge).
For some states, it was difficult to pick just one puller. For others, I wasn’t able to select any – there just haven’t been enough pullers from these states that have competed at the national or international level, preventing me from making informed conclusions. In these situations, you will see “Insufficient Data” listed. If you feel well-positioned to make a case for one of these states, I encourage you to contact me.
With this type of list there will always be some debate. As such, I hope you will take it for what it is: an attempt to recognize the achievements of some of the best pullers the country has produced.
Alabama - Rhonda Lindley
Typically pulling in the 140-lb class, Pinson’s Rhonda Lindley’s accomplishments between the mid 1980s and the early 1990s were amazing. With her right arm she won seven AAA national titles between 1985 and 1991 -- four in stand-up competition and three in sit-down. 1986 was a particularly good year for her: she won a AAA Stand-Up national title, a AAA Sit-Down national title, an AWI World Pro title, and took second at the Over the Top Championships!
Alaska - Shannon Storrs
Anchorage’s Shannon Storrs competed on and off for more than 25 years between the late 1980s and early 2010s. Her biggest open division success came in the early 1990s when she made it to the podium twice at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship, and in the early 2000s when she won USAF national titles with both arms, in addition to several national titles and two WAF world titles in the masters division.
Arizona - Angela Phillips
A lightweight puller from Chandler, Angela Phillips (née Miranda), experienced a high level of success at the AWI World Pro Championships in Las Vegas in the 1980s. She took the runner-up spot in 1984 and then the title in 1987 and 1988. She returned in 1999 after a long layoff and made it to the podium at the same tournament.
Arkansas - Tonya Todd
110-lb puller Tonya Todd from Cabot enjoyed a terrific decade of pulling. Between 2000 and 2009, not only did she win 11 national titles (9 USAF and 2 AAA), she also made it onto the podium with both arms at the 2007 ROTN Finals and took third at the 2009 Arnold Classic.
California - Dot Jones
The most dominant puller on this entire list, Hilmar’s Dot Jones had an almost perfect record between the time she entered the sport in 1983 and basically retired in 1996. During this span, she won the unlimited class world title at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship 11 years in a row and won the same class at the Yukon Jack Finals on six consecutive occasions! She also attended the 1991 Golden Bear International Tournament in Moscow, where she easily took first place. Just for fun, she came out of retirement ad attended the USAA Nationals in 2003, where she won once again.
Colorado - Kelli Holmes
Aurora native Kelli Holmes (née Green), got into the sport in 1977 when she was just 14 years old. Within a year, she was already a world champion, winning the lightweight class at the 1978 WPAA Worlds. While she seldom competed in the 1980s and 1990s, she reappeared in the early 2000s. 2002 was a banner year for her: she won USAF national titles with both arms, a WWC world title, and made it to the podium at the 2002 WAF World Championships in Illinois with her right arm.
Connecticut - Danya Baker
Danya Baker, youngest daughter of the great Moe Baker, took the sport seriously in the mid-1990s and it showed in her tournament results. The Bristol native made it to the podium at the 1994 WAF World Championships, finished second at the Yukon Jack Finals in 1995 (behind only Dot Jones), won the right hand unlimited class at the 1996 AAA Nationals with relative ease, and was runner-up at the 1996 WAF World Championships (behind only Russian legend Vika Gabakova).
Florida - Beth Westberry
Early on in her competitive career, Jacksonville’s Beth Westberry enjoyed some success reaching the podium at the 2002 GNC Pro Performance Championships. But it is during the second half of the decade that she had her biggest wins. Between 2006 and 2010, she won nine national titles (five AAA and four USAF) in the unlimited class, a PAC world title in 2007, and an ROTN title in 2009.
Georgia - Hazel Thomas
One of the first stars of the organized sport, Hazel Thomas of Norcross was a top lightweight puller in the late 1970s. In 1976 she won the WWC Nationals as well as the WAWF World Championships. She followed this up by successfully defending her title at the 1977 WAWF World Championships and in 1980 was the runner-up at the big-money AAA Stand-Up Nationals.
Idaho - eLAINE bLIK
Active primarily in the 1990s and 2000s, Aberdeen’s Elaine Blik attended nearly all of the major events of the period. Most often competing in the 154-lb class, she won seven open division national titles with her right arm between 1992 and 2006 (mix of AAA and USAF), and four open division world titles (WPAA, WWC, and WAF). She also had her share of success at the big pro tournaments: she finished in the runner-up spot at the 1998 Main Event (a tournament she organized), she won titles at the GNC Show of Strength in 2003 and the Ultimate Las Vegas tournament in 2004, and she made it to the podium at both the 2007 Arnolds and the ROTN Finals.
Illinois - fRAN Brzenk
Another member of the Brzenk dynasty, McHenry’s Fran Brzenk (John Brzenk’s aunt) was a very dominant puller in the 140-lb class in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was equally adept at armwrestling and wristwrestling, and was competitive with both arms. After enjoying early success in USWM (United States Wristwrestling Matches) events between 1977 and 1979, she turned her attention to the big prize money tournaments, which also happened to attract the toughest competition. In 1980 alone she won four world titles: one with the WPWA, one with the WPAA, and two with the IWC!
Indiana - Ev Wroblewski
The mid 1990s are when Williams’ Ev Wroblewski enjoyed her greatest successes at the table. Usually competing in the 132-lb class with both arms, she won an AAA national title in 1996 and made it onto the podium at this event four other times between 1994 and 1998. She finished in the top three in the open division at the 1996 WAF World Championships, and also won the world title in the masters division. A few years later, she would add another couple of open division USAF national titles to her résumé.
Iowa - Mildred Choplick
Mildred Choplick’s time in the sport was relatively brief, but she made a big impact. Between 1976 and 1978, the Cedar Rapids native won three WWC national titles in a row, three WWC world titles in a row, and two WPAA world titles. These victories led to her being recognized as the overall best female puller on the planet during this period.
Kansas - Jennifer Flynn
Salina’s Jennifer Flynn (née Bonilla) was a 154-lb puller who was active in the 1990s and early 2000s. Her biggest achievements in the sport include a second-place finish at the 1992 WPAA Worlds, a world title at the 1997 WPAA Worlds, and runner-up finishes at the 2000 USAF Nationals and the 2001 AWI World Pro Championships.
Kentucky - Debbie Belliveau
Active in the late 1970s, Debbie Belliveau was the unlimited class champion of the 1976 World Arm Wrestling Federation (WAWF) Championship, the first world championship officially held under this banner. She took the runner-up spot at the 1977 WAWF Worlds and did the same at the 1978 AAA Sit-Down Nationals.
Maryland - Kathy New
Silver Spring’s Kathy New (née Hill), was one of the top pullers in the unlimited class during the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1996, she won six AAA Stand-Up national titles, and made it onto the podium at the WAF Worlds on five occasions!
Massachusetts - Grace-Ann Swift
Between the mid 1980s and the mid 1990s, Plymouth’s Grace-Ann Swift used her right arm to secure several major victories in the 154-lb class. Winner of 10 open division national titles (five AAA Sit-Down, four AAA Stand-Up, and one USAF), she also won titles at both the Yukon Jack Finals and the AWI World Pro Championships in 1989 and 1990. She also proved her dominance over international competition by winning world titles at the 1990 and 1994 WAF World Championships.
Michigan - Cheri Fiebig
Cheri Fiebig could be considered the Dave Patton of women’s armwrestling. Despite her limited size, she seemingly attended all the big events of her era, typically pulled multiple classes, and usually won all of them! Hailing from Madison Heights, her original time in the sport was brief, but did she ever win a lot! Between 1979 and 1982, with her right arm she won a AAA Sit-Down national title, three AAA Stand-Up national titles (including both weight classes in 1981), an IWC national title, two WPWA national titles, two WWC world titles, two WPWA world titles, an IWC world title, and a WAWF world title! She briefly resurfaced in the early 2000s to win a USAF open division title in 2001 and a masters division world title at the 2003 WAF World championships in Canada.
Minnesota - Carol Molnau
Chaska’s Carol Molnau was active in the early 1980s and competed in the unlimited class. She competed regionally for the most part but did venture down to Memphis in 1982 and 1983 for the WPAA World Championships and won titles both times.
Missouri - Penny Ford
At 132 lbs, few could match Penny Ford’s strength during the first half of the 1990s. The St. Joseph native won five right hand national titles between 1991 and 1994 (mix of AAA Stand-Up and Sit-Down) and was runner-up at the 1993 WAF World Championships and the 1996 AWI World Pro Championships.
Montana - Ruth Purdy
Billings’ Ruth Purdy was a continually active puller between the mid 1980s and mid 1990s. She won at least two Canadian national titles (at a time when American competitors were invited to compete), a USWA national title in 1994 and had several podium finishes at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship. Her biggest achievement in the sport was likely her second place finish at the 1992 Golden Bear International Tournament in Moscow.
Nebraska - Margie Ciaccio
In a roughly 25-year pulling career, you could say Bellevue native Margie Ciaccio won a few titles. How many? Well, to start, 33 open division national titles between 1992 and 2010 (mix of AAA, USAF, and USAA -- 43 if you count titles won in the masters division). Most often competing at around 132 lbs, she was more than capable with both arms. She won three open division WAF world titles in 1994 and 1995 and didn’t shy away from professional events. She won a title at the 1998 Main Event, a title at the 2007 ROTN Finals, and won the Arnold Classic six times between 2000 and 2012. In 2014 she won a title at UAL8 as well as at the WAL Las Vegas tournament. She capped off her incredible career by winning her class at the 2015 WAL Championships.
Nevada - Jackie Allard
A lightweight puller from Reno, Jackie Allard enjoyed success at many of the biggest pro tournaments of the late 1970s and early 1980s. She won a WPAA World title in 1977, a U.S. Open title in 1979, titles at the Sands International tournament in 1980 and 1981, made it onto the podium at the IWC International tournament in 1981, was runner-up at the 1982 AWI World Pro Championships and won the event the following year.
New Hampshire - Cathy Merrill
Sunapee’s Cathy Merrill discovered the sport when already in her late 40s, but this didn’t prevent her from successfully competing against open division pullers. In fact, she won 15 open division national titles in the unlimited class between 2013 and 2018 (mix of AAA, USAA, and USAF), plus many more if masters and grand masters titles are counted! At the world level, she won five masters and grand masters division titles at the WAF World Championships between 2015 and 2018.
New Jersey - Chrissy Baliko
Linden’s Chrissy Baliko was one of the top pullers in the world under 120 lbs with both arms in the 1990s. Between 1993 and 2000, she won five AAA Stand-Up national titles and an incredible six WAF world titles!
New Mexico - Tyler Hernandez
Tyler Hernandez was just a girl when she started competing in the sport, and it wasn’t long before she began experiencing significant success. In 2010 the Rio Rancho native took silver with both arms at the USAF Nationals in the 121-lb class. She attended the WAF World Championships that year where she managed a top four finish in the girls’ division. In 2011 she won an open division title at the USAA Nationals, and was New Mexico’s overall women’s champion seven years in a row between 2010 and 2016.
New York - Mirline Berrouet
South Ozone Park’s Mirline Berrouet connected with the New York Arm Wrestling Association around 2005 and quickly climbed the ranks. Weighing about 140 lbs, she was competitive with both arms, but her right arm was particularly strong. In 2006 she won an IAF Can-Am title and titles at all three NEAC events that year – the biggest tournaments in New England. The following year she won another Can-Am title, an AAA national title, and the New York City Queen of Arms title for winning the Big Apple Grapple, the NYAWA’s most prestigious tournament. She won her last major title in 2008 at the Harley Pull before retiring from the sport a year later.
North Carolina - Taylor Johnson
While still in high school, Conover’s Taylor Johnson did quite a bit of travelling and winning. Between 2011 and 2015, she won five open division national titles (AAA and USAF). She also won lightweight titles with both arms at the 2014 WAL Chicago event, and a lightweight title at the 2016 WAL Southern Regionals.
Ohio - Nicole Cisco
Though more associated with Georgia, Nicole Cisco got her start in the sport in Ohio. She competed in local and regional events in the early 1990s and was runner-up at the AAA Sit-Down Nationals. But it is during the mid-2000s that she enjoyed her highest level of success. Typically competing at a weight of 176 lbs, between 2003 and 2005 she was runner-up twice at the GNC Show of Strength, runner-up twice at the Ultimate Armwrestling Las Vegas events, she won nine national titles (AAA and USAF), and a WAF World title in Russia. She competed less actively after 2005, but she did win her tenth USAF national title in 2011 as well as titles with both arms at the 2016 WAL Southern Regionals.
Oklahoma - Cynthia Yerby
Cynthia Yerby didn’t wait long after entering the sport before travelling from Wolf to Petaluma to compete in the World’s Wristwrestling Championship. She attended the tournament several times between 1992 and 2004, winning the unlimited class title twice and finishing on the podium 10 times in all. She also made a point to attend the Big Apple Grapple in New York and won the New York City Queen of Arms title an impressive seven years in a row between 2000 and 2006. She won many other open division titles between 2002 and 2005, including six at the USAF Nationals, at back-to-back West Coast Pro-Ams, at the 2003 WAF Worlds in Canada (she also won two additional titles in the masters division that year) and at the 2005 PAC World Championships.
Oregon - Billie Jo Winfield
Relatively few women from Oregon are known to have travelled and competed at a high level in the sport. Billie Jo Winfield has and may be the most successful among them. In 2003 she attended the USAA Nationals as well as the World’s Wristwrestling Championship and had podium finishes in the unlimited class at both. In 2007 she won her first national title (USAA) and won a second one at the 2012 USAF Nationals.
Pennsylvania - Bonnie Dohm
At 120 lbs, Wrightsville’s Bonnie Dohm experienced consistent success with her right arm in the 1980s. She won an amazing seven AAA Sit-Down national titles in a row between 1984 and 1990! In addition, she won AAA Stand-Up national titles in 1986 and 1988 and WAF world titles in 1986, 1987, and 1990!
South Dakota - Joette Peterson
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tyndall’s Joette Peterson was a fierce lightweight competitor. Her best performances in major contests consisted of six podium finishes at the AAA Nationals between 1998 and 2004, including wins with both arms in 2000. She also took third at the 1999 Arnold Classic and was runner-up at the 2000 WAF World Championships in Virginia Beach.
Texas - Carolyn Liebel
If you competed in the unlimited weight class in the 1980s and your goal was to win a right-hand AAA national title, you would have had a major obstacle to overcome. This was Rusk’s Carolyn Liebel’s class, and she liked to win. She won an astonishing six AAA Stand-Up national titles in a row between 1984 and 1989, as well as AAA Sit-Down national titles in 1987, 1989, and 1990. In 1990 she went all the way to the top, winning the right had unlimited class at the WAF World Championships.
Utah - Lisa Wolfley
Lisa Wolfley first competed in the late 1980s, but soon after took an extended break from the sport. The Kearns native returned around 2007 and experienced success almost right away in the middleweight class. She won seven open division national titles between 2007 and 2015 (mix of USAA and USAF), in addition to several titles in the masters division (which included two WAF world titles). She also figured well in many major pro tournaments: she made it onto the podium at the Arnold Classic in 2008, was runner-up at UAL8 in 2014, finished in the top three at the WAL Regionals and Finals in 2015 and 2016, and won the WAL Los Angeles Major event in 2017.
Vermont - Karen Brisson
Karen Brisson entered the sport at just 15 years of age in 1978. By 1984, she had won two AAA national titles (one stand-up and one sit-down) and three WAWF World titles! After taking an extended break, she returned in the late 1990s and enjoyed considerable success over the following decade. She won an additional four open division national titles (AAA and USAF), made it onto the podium twice at the Arnold Classic, was a runner-up at both the Harley Pull and the AWI World Pro Championships in 2001, and was a runner-up at back-to-back PAC World Championships in 2006 and 2007. A strong competitor with both arms, she’s been competitive in virtually every weight class over the years.
Virginia - Deb McNeil
Winchester’s Deb McNeil didn’t compete in major tournaments as regularly as some of the other pullers featured on this list, but when she did, she was usually ready. In 1992 she won the unlimited class at the AAA Stand-Up Nationals and was runner-up at the Yukon Jack Finals (behind only Dot Jones). In 1996 she again competed in and took second at the Yukon Jack Finals (again behind only Dot Jones). Six years later, she won her class at the big-money GNC Pro Performance Championships.
Washington - Nora Huffman
Nora Huffman’s biggest title came early on in her career when she won the unlimited class at the NAWA Worlds in 1978. The Hoquiam native was a regular attendee at the World’s Wristwrestling Championship in Petaluma over the next dozen years and finished in the runner-up spot six times -- initially being bested by Pam Carter and later by Dot Jones. Nevertheless, she was able to win at least four titles at the prestigious Can-Am series of events of that era.
West Virginia - Christina Casto
In a career spanning more than 20 years, Parkersburg’s Christina Casto finished on the podium at the AAA Nationals 15 times in open division competition. On five of these occasions she secured the top spot. The first part of the 2010s was a particularly fruitful time for her. She had top three finishes four times at the Arnold Classic between 2010 and 2017, she won a USAF national title in 2011, and she won the WAL Atlantic City event in 2014.
Wisconsin - Joan Schanke
Theresa’s Joan Schanke (née Schoebel) entered the sport in 1979 and over the next three years amassed quite an impressive list of wins in the unlimited division. Excellent at both armwrestling and wristwrestling, she won three national titles (WPWA and IWC) and three world titles (IWC and WPAA) between 1980 and 1982.
Wyoming - Renee Layher
Renee Layher’s has been in the sport for more than 25 years, but she was most active on the national and international stage in the late 1990s. In those years, the Douglas native won nine national titles in the unlimited class (mix of USAA and USWA), two WWC world titles, and was runner-up at the 1996 Golden Bear International tournament. Since then she has remained active at the state level, going undefeated during most years.
Researched and Written by Eric Roussin
Published in August 2020