Utah mom of 9 a formidable foe in arm wrestling

By Mark Johnston

Daily Herald

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 9:09 p.m. MDT

West Mountain's Wendie Edwards, right, faces off against Cedar City's Janet Israel during the women's arm wrestling event at the Utah Summer Games.

Mark Johnston, Daily Herald

WEST MOUNTAIN, Utah — Approaching her competitor at the table, Wendie Edwards of West Mountain looks like she's in the wrong place. In a dress shirt, waist jacket, high heels and a long, summer skirt that blows in the wind along with her long hair, she looks more ready for church than an arm wrestling competition at the Utah Summer Games. Upon joining hands, though, Edwards' opponent quickly realizes that this mother of nine is no newcomer to the sport.

Arm wrestling may seem like a strange sport to many — a novelty sport, as Edwards calls it.

"Someone asked me, 'Where do you compete in arm wrestling, in bars?' " she said, laughing.

But for Edwards it's just one of a few different events she actively competes in to demonstrate her gifted strength, something she's been doing from an early age.

Raised in an athletic family, Edwards began jumping on a trampoline soon after she could walk. At age 9 she began performing on trampolines with her family as part of a sponsored, nationwide tour.

"We were putting on trampoline shows three times a day, five days a week," her father, Albert Carter of Provo, said. "By the end of the year she was doing 49 back somersaults in a row, and that's amazing for a young girl."

Shortly thereafter, Edwards surprised her parents once again.

"One day she came home and told us that she had beat all the sixth-grade boys in arm wrestling. In the seventh grade she came home and informed us that she'd beat all the ninth-grade boys in arm wrestling," Carter said.

That trend continued all the way through high school.

When recounted by Edwards and members of her family, it sounds like the introduction to a superhero movie — Edwards, the petite head cheerleader and homecoming queen, a talented athlete and musician, beating her male classmates in bench press and arm wrestling contests.

"Periodically (classmates) would put someone else up to it saying, 'You couldn't even beat our cheerleader,' and she'd put them down, embarrassing the boys," her father said.

At age 14, before high school, Edwards had competed in an open arm wrestling competition. There she had faced off against women more than twice her own age and beat all but one nearly double her size.

"You had some ladies there that were pretty strong, that used to do their wrestling in bars for drinks," Carter said.

It was no surprise that Edwards competed in power lifting throughout college while studying nursing at Brigham Young University then continued a regular exercise routine after settling down to have a family and throughout her first eight pregnancies.

"I worked out throughout all my pregnancies except this last child. I was tired," Edwards said.

That change in routine ended up having greater repercussions than expected.

"The moment I stopped living the laws of health I stopped enjoying good health. Like when Superman discovers he had a weakness to kryptonite, it was a wake-up call," she said.

Edwards suffered her first complications throughout the pregnancy and, having gained a lot of weight, was devastated at how different her body was afterward.

"If I wanted to age with any style and grace, there was a price to be paid," she said.

In 2004 Edwards jumped back into a regular workout schedule and by 2006 felt strong and confident enough to consider competing, using it as a motivator to maintain the healthful lifestyle she had missed so much.

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