Growing up in his native Petal, Sean “Boom” Hancock excelled at arm wrestling but was unaware of professional tournaments, instead competing on the back of pickup trucks after his rodeo circuits or in bar rooms across Mississippi.
But 10 years after starting the sport, Hancock began competing with the International Federation of Armwrestling and reached his ultimate goal in September, winning the World Championship at the Disney Springs Hilton in Orlando, Florida. With the win, Hancock became the first Mississippian to ever win the arm wrestling world championship.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to do for the past 20 years; I’ve won six international championships and I go to the world championships every year,” Hancock said. “I’m the team captain for Team USA, so I take a team there every year.
“So just to be able to win it, that’s like a dream come true. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about for the past 20 years. I finally got it.”
The International Federation of Armwrestling is a non-profit sport organization registered in Zurich, Switzerland. The organization holds its world championship tournament each year at one of its 82 host countries; the event comes to the United States once every 15 or 20 years.
The tournament in September consisted of a double-elimination bracket. Participants compete to be in the event’s Top Four, followed by a break, the Top 3, another break and then the finals, which consists of the Top Two. In total, the tournament features four days of competition.
“I actually had a good day – I went undefeated the entire tournament,” said Hancock, who placed fourth in the last tournament in Rumia, Poland. “When you’re undefeated, you don’t have to go down to the loser’s bracket.
“I think we had about 1,200 competitors there. But I didn’t have to pull all of those because I stayed in the winner’s bracket the whole time.”
Although Hancock started arm wrestling in 1995, he didn’t start competing in tournaments until 2005.
“I was just always really good at it,” Hancock said. “I had somebody in 2005 that told me that if I would pursue professional arm wrestling, that they would sponsor me.
“That really got the wheels in my head turning, and I said, ‘Well, I must be good.’ So I went to my first national championship in 2006, and got my butt handed to me.”
That loss made Hancock realize that the sport of arm wrestling isn’t just about strength; much of it is technical. At that point, he started practicing with a team of approximately 40 competitors from across the state.
“We practice here at my house, and there’s several other places we practice in Mississippi,” Hancock said. “It’s a good group of guys; we’re all about teaching younger kids how to arm wrestle properly.
“We teach them to use all their body strength, and of course to not get hurt. There are a lot of injuries in the sport; especially if you do things in the wrong position, you’re liable to break an arm pretty easily.”
Now that Hancock’s children are grown, giving him the freedom to travel around the world, he plans to continue to attend each world championship, no matter where they may be held. In fact, he already has his sights set on the next event, which will be held in Kiev, Ukraine.
“I’ve had the question asked if I’m ready to go out on top, because now I’ve won everything that I can win,” Hancock said. “People ask me if I’m ready to retire, and I’m like ‘no,’ because everything is impossible until it’s done for the first time.
“Now I’ve done it for the first time, so my mind and body, everything, knows it’s possible. So I’m going to go back next year and do the same thing.”