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Sabrina Folz leaves the diamond but shines even brighter
2024-02-12
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Through the better part of her teenage years, Sabrina Folz would spend summer after summer, her hand tightly gripped around a baseball, her sport of choice and one that would take her to four sets of nationals as a member of Team Ontario.

Never could she have foreseen the tangent her athletic career would take thanks to the build-up of extreme muscle tone in her forearms and tendon strength in her wrists. Unfortunately, that awareness would come only after she developed tendinitis and bursitis in her elbow, effectively shelving her diamond dreams.

The back-up plan could not have been more unexpected.

“I started to wander into armwrestling before I ended my baseball career – but I wasn’t serious about armwrestling at that time,” noted the 20 year-old graduate of St Charles College, currently in her third year of Biology studies at Laurentian University.

No, Sabrina Folz does not exactly look the part of an armwrestling champion.

Yet it was this solidly build young lady who would step up at Mississauga Square One in mid-January, her Super Match with Mady Gagnier part of a pay-per-view production of Armwrestling World Championship (AWC). A 3-1 win in the best of five affair now sets up the former pitcher/outfielder to move on to another televised competition, this one slated for Montreal in April.

“I knew a few people who had talked to me about an armwrestling team in Sudbury (Rock City Reapers),” said Folz. “They convinced me to go out to a practice. I tried it out and the atmosphere is so inclusive and so helpful, making sure that everything is safe and that I knew how to do everything properly.”

That was less than one year ago.

Safe to say that this rising star was building on a very solid athletic foundation to begin with.

“My upper body was always a lot more conditioned than other girls,” Folz acknowledged. “I thought about going into body building, but I just couldn’t commit to the time needed to prepare your body properly.”

“But I still train in the gym, six times a week, weighlifting.”

One look at her biceps makes that obvious.

Yet that is only half of the equation as Folz began to understand the finer nuances of a sport that remains, for the most part, a little bit off the grid – even for as much as a large percentage of high-schoolers across the country have played around with armwrestling within their circle of friends.

“Yes, strength does play a role, but technique is also extremly important,” she noted. “If you go up against someone who has much better technique than you, it’s like you have no strength. That’s a feeling I had never felt before. That was very intriguing to me.”

For as much as it was not the intended consequence, there was much carryover from baseball to armwrestling – even when it comes to general arm maintenance.

“Some of the training I did for baseball, like using a rice bucket, helps to get the blood flowing to your forearm – and you really utilize a lot of those muscles here,” she suggested. “When you’re constantly swinging the bat, you use those muscles to stabilize.”

“There is a lot of specialty equipment out there that people use for armwrestling specifically to train those muscles – but none of that really matters if you don’t have the stamina and endurance to stay in a long match.”

“That’s where the practices come in,” Folz continued. “You’re constantly pulling and you wear yourself out and that’s when you get to that point where your endurance gets better.”

The Folz-Gagnier match was tied at one thanks to a series of fouls (elbow lifts; referee warnings; etc..) when the northern Ontario woman pinned her opponent in back to back bouts, the second with the wrist straps applied.

“I knew that she was going to top roll, hit hard on my fingers and try and roll my wrist over,” said Folz. “My plan, from the beginning, was to try and get her into the straps. The way I pull my hand, it really pulls down on her wrist with the strap when she tries to top roll.”

For the young woman who spent years learning how to beat out a slow roller and countless other baseball intracacies, besting a top rolling armwrestling opponent has turned out to be quite the Plan B.

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