WEST POINT - At first glance, Paul Talbott seems like just a regular guy. The 27-year-old has a fiance, two daughters and works for Norfolk Southern railroad.
But, he is also a world title holding professional arm wrestler.
Professional arm wrestling is a much less well-known sport than say, football or baseball. The sport is often viewed as a game that children play in elementary school or older children play in college to prove who has superior strength.
West Point resident Paul Talbott (left) will be competing in Sao Vicente, Brazil this month. (Submitted photo)
However, there are many misconceptions about the sport. Professional arm wrestlers, such as Talbott, work extremely hard in training to compete across the globe.
So, how did he get started in arm wrestling?
According to Talbott, it was boredom.
"I was at my mother's house and I always wanted to go to a tournament," he said. "So, I looked it up on the Internet and found a competition in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania."
Having no prior experience, Talbot - who grew up in Highlandtown and now lives in West Point - traveled to his first tournament in January of 2010 and placed first in both the left- and right-handed amateur divisions.
The head referee at the competition recognized Talbott's natural talent for the sport and suggested he move to the professional ranks.
Talbott began training with two other arm wrestlers in Erie, Pa. and eventually entered his first professional tournament. In only his second competition, Talbott said he wasn't sure what to expect.
"I was pretty nervous because most arm wrestlers were in the amateur class for at least a couple of years," he said.
Despite his disadvantage in experience, Talbott placed first in the left-handed division.
"I ended up winning first left-handed, and I've been pro ever since," he said.
Talbott's transition from amateur to pro to champion took only three months. The vast majority of arm wrestlers spend two to three years at the amateur level before even thinking of going pro, and even then they usually don't place for professional titles from the start.
Talbott's progression is nearly unheard of in the sport.
His raw talent, and a body that is built for the sport, have allowed Talbott to break the mold. In fact, the arm wrestlers he trained with called him a "genetic freak."
There are an endless amount of different techniques and styles in the sport of arm wrestling.
"Every arm wrestler has their own unique style," Talbott said. "But all of the styles are based off of the same three basic moves: the hook, the press and the top roll."
The hook is the most common move, the one most commonly seen on television and in the movies. The press involves using brute strength to outmatch the opponent. The top roll is the most advanced move and involves using pressure to make the opponent lose their stance, putting the use at an advantage.
Talbott has perfected each move.
After winning his first two tournaments, Talbott has continued a successful professional career. In May, he traveled to Reno, Nevada to compete in the national championships. He placed first in both the right- and left-handed divisions, making him the national champion for his height and weight class.
Just as an athlete in any sport, Talbott must constantly train to keep his edge in the sport. However, his busy, and often unpredictable, work schedule on the railroad makes finding time for training difficult.
"I try to go to practice arm wrestling every other week, but sometimes it isn't possible," he said. "But, I train by myself every other day."
Talbott said he uses different training routines to work out all the muscles in his hands and arms that are crucial to the sport.
Winning the national title in Reno has allowed Talbott the opportunity to compete in the world championships in Sao Vicente, Brazil.
Many countries around the world, pay for their athletes to compete internationally. The United States, however, does not. Getting to the world championship this month has proven to be a difficult task for Talbott.
The trip will cost Talbott around $3,000, and he's been looking for local help by setting up donation cans in stores around the area.
"I want to thank the community for their support and generous donations in helping me pursue my dream of being a part of Team USA and going to the worlds," he said.
As for the future, Talbott said he hopes to win more national titles and eventually claim the coveted world title.
"My goals are to be a multiple national champion, and my all-time goal is to be a world champion and stay competitive on a world level," he said.
(Nicholas Massaro is a student at Beaver?Local High School and an intern with The Review sports department)