Arm Wrestling My Way to the Top

I have been an adapted athlete since the age of 6 when I joined a fantastic baseball program called the Challenger Little League which was designed to provide athletic opportunities for children with disabilities.

Wheelchair Basketball, Sled Hockey, and Grappling

I later discovered the Syracuse Flyers wheelchair basketball team at the age of 15, and I still occasionally play basketball with them on a recreational basis. Some of my most exciting memories of playing wheelchair basketball were playing a short game duing a Syracuse vs. University of Connecticut women's basketball team in Manley Field House and then playing a short game in the Carrier Dome during the Midnight Madness pep rally at the beginning of the Syracuse Orange men's basketball season.

Eric playing wheelchair basketball

The Syracuse Flyers became part of an organization called Move Along Inc. in 2009. Move Along Inc. established other various athletic opportunities in the Syracuse area included wheelchair tennis, kayaking, and sled hockey. Around that time, I began playing sled hockey for the CNY Move Along Flyers sled hockey team. Along with being a great time, sled hockey has provided me with opportunities to travel to Lake Placid and visit the Olympic Village where the miracle on ice occurred. I've also visited Marlboro, Massachusetts and Detroit, Michigan for national-level competition. An even more exciting opportunity was having the privilege to play at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena during the intermissions of a few Syracuse Crunch games.

Eric playing sled hockey

Along with my love of these sports, I have a love of martial arts. I work with adults with developmental disabilities as my occupation and around 2012, I worked with a young man who wanted to participate in martial arts. We were introduced to a martial arts instructor named Michael Walter who was happy to train both of us despite our disabilities. I worked with my client in learning skills and eventually began to seek lessons from the instructor independently, which led me to participating in four grappling tournaments around New York state. While I didn't win a match or score a single point, I'm proud to say that I went the distance and never lost a match due to submission.

Getting Into Arm Wrestling

One day while browsing Facebook I saw that a martial arts coach who worked with Michael named James Reid had posted an advertisement for an arm wrestling tournament in Syracuse. Due to years of using crutches and various Quickie wheelchairs throughout the years, I have always had very strong arms and felt that I would excel in arm wrestling. There was a training seminar a few days prior to the 2014 tournament at a Gold's Gym. It was there that I met the man who would become my arm wrestling coach, Christopher Myers. I participated in the tournament in June of 2014 in Syracuse and was soundly defeated. But I began to train with Christopher Myers every week and gradually improved to the point where I can place in the top 3 while standing and holding on to the arm wrestling table and competing with arm wrestlers without disabilities.

Eric arm wrestling

In February 2017, Christopher and I decided to travel to a tournament in Philadelphia. I competed and met a gentleman in the audience named Jamie Pagliei. Jamie was impressed with my ability and wanted to stay connected via social media. Weeks later, I was pursuing sponsorship for a national championship in Tahoe, Nevada. Jamie contacted me and offered to sponsor my travel to the tournament.

Arm Wrestling Champion

I won the national championship in April 2017 and qualified for the world championships in Budapest, Hungary that September. Jamie contacted me and further extended his generosity by offering me his sponsorship to go to Budapest. He would be bringing along a friend named Christopher Bruce, a film producer.

Eric arm wrestling

Jamie, Christopher Bruce, and Christopher Myers joined me on the trip to Budapest and the entire journey was filmed, capturing many of the accessibility issues that I encountered, including narrow doorways, inaccessible restrooms, and hard-to-traverse cobblestone. Despite the barriers, we all enjoyed the journey and I finished the tournament in second place with my left hand and fourth place with my right hand.

While in Budapest we met a woman who is the promoter of another tournament called the World Cup for Disabled Arm Wrestlers taking place in Rumia, Poland. She invited me to her tournament, to be held that November. Chris, Jamie, Christopher Myers, and I went to Poland and had a fantastic time regardless of similar accessibility issues we faced in Budapest, although not nearly as prevalent. I placed first with both arms in my weight class!

In 2018 I enjoyed much of the same success with a slight decrease in my performance with my right arm, falling to third in my weight class.

Eric arm wrestling

In January 2019 I have enjoyed some of the media attention that comes along with athletic success, including being featured in a podcast called Life of a Bellionaire with local stand-up comedian and podcast network creator John Bellavia. I am also eagerly awaiting the release of Hands Down - An Arm Wrestling Docujourney. In the near future, fundraising will occur on the Facebook page to raise funds for the post-production of the film.

Adapted sports have been a true gift in my life and I encourage anyone with a disability and an interest in sport to pursue whatever it is that will bring them personal fulfillment and help them reach their full physical potential.

About the Author

Eric Komar, 34, works for Liberty Resources as a direct support professional helping people who have developmental disabilities. He's an adaptive athlete who plays multiple sports and uses forearm crutches and a Quickie QRi to get around. Eric is from Bridgeport, NY and was born with spina bifida.

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Date: 2/5/2019 12:00:00 AM

Latest Comments

2/18/2024 | Jamie Elliott
I played in a wc hybrid tournament, Mid South, last yr. He is an amazing player and I’m sure he i...

2/8/2024 | Elaine Cook
Great article written by a wonderful Christain man. You're such an inspiration!!!

2/7/2024 | Diana Weaver
I enjoyed reading your article. I'm thankful I had the opportunity to play with you as my pi...

1/10/2024 | Mary Goldberg
Thanks to Tyler for sharing the awesome opportunities! As the MRT Program Director, I'm always ha...

11/5/2023 | Dan Giannattasio
I just read the article and I have to say that you are an inspiration not only to caregivers but ...

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