By Bailey Herndon
“Wrestles with Bears” and “Fat Jesus” made a feisty final bout Thursday night at a raucous 10th Annual WOVV Women’s Arm Wrestling Tournament.
Islander Kim Hansen, whose moniker is “Wrestles with Bears,” took the title for the third consecutive year and hoisted the championship belt inside the Berkley Barn. This was the third consecutive championship match between Hansen and runner-up Melessa Owsley, “Fat Jesus,” of Rittman, Ohio, who won the contest in 2014 and 2015.
The victory wasn’t so easy for Hansen this year. Owsley certainly put Hansen to the test as the final round went back and forth. Each wrestler committed a foul each during the final bout.
“One more foul and the other automatically wins,” referee Giles Russell announced.
The contenders took a break to rest their arms. Then the crowd roared as Hansen ultimately laid Owsley’s arm down on the table.
“The rocky song was playing and all of the other ladies were cheering right at the stage,” Owsley said. “That was really cool.”
“That was honestly the hardest competition I’ve ever had,” Hansen said after her victory. “Fat Jesus is tough, and she deserves major props.”
“I put everything I had into this competition,” Owsley said. “All of my techniques and all of my strength.”
Hansen, whose costume honors native peoples, and Owsley, whose character is from the movie “The Hangover,” have faced off in the championship round the last three consecutive years. However, their rivalry is very friendly. The opponents laughed and hugged after the match.
This annual fundraiser for Ocracoke’s community radio 90.1 FM brings locals and visitors alike in humorous and irreverent costumes.
Among the contenders were Chrisi Gaskill as “June Cleavage,” Teresa Ray as “Sista with Bad Habit” and Callie Davisson as “the Bearded Lady”
But the hit costume of the night was Katy Mitchell, owner of the Magic Bean Coffee Bazaar,
as “Cheeto in Chief,” trailed by Brandon Bundy as “Melania.”
Under a wig, make-up and swagger, Mitchell tossed Cheeto snacks around and occasionally whipped out a hamburger phone, even during her match with “Stormy Daniels.” Mitchell was a crowd favorite and handily won the costume contest.
Youthful visitors Olivia Thorn, 13, and her friend Sadie Smith, 12, waited months to be in the contest and made sure their Ocracoke vacation coincided with the event, according to Olivia’s mother Leanna.
The two youngsters made it into the semi-finals in this double-elimination tournament.
Attendees whooped and hollered throughout the three-hour event.
“This is amazing,” said Robin and Chad Macek, new owners of Oscar’s House Bed & Breakfast. “This is so much fun.”
Jonny Turner of Garner, Wake County, was amazed at the arm wrestlers’ strength.
“I’ve never been able to come to one of these events before so I’m excited to be here,” he said. “These ladies would kick my ass.”
WOVV President Tommy Hutcherson spun the tunes at the event held this year in the newly built barn, which held more people than the Community Center where the event had been held for the last two years.
“This event is always a good time and we are very happy with this year’s turnout,” he said. “This was the best turnout we’ve ever had.”
Hutcherson said the event raised a little over $5,000, double the amount this event raised in previous years.
WOVV Vice Chairman Daphne Bennink said that this arm wrestling event was the most profitable ever and that the venue was ideal.
“The event exceeded all expectations,” she said. “We count on these events to keep the station going.”
Bennink was grateful to sponsors 1718 Brewing Ocracoke, which supplied beer for purchase, and Dajio Restaurant where the party continued with more arm wrestling.
“It was insane,” said Nathan Modlin, who works at WOVV and helped fill beer cups. “I didn’t shut off the taps the entire time.”
He noted the 50-50 ratio of islanders and visitors, both competing and in the audience.
“It was awesome,” he said.
Referee Giles Russell, a nationally-ranked arm wrestler, returned to Ocracoke to ref this year’s tournament.
“Ocracoke is very unique,” Russell said. “It is very rare for people to not care about size and weight but just come out, have fun and see who the toughest woman in the room is.”
Bill Cole, who as emcee was dressed in a colorful costume and wild wig, entertained the crowd all night–tossing out WOVV T-shirts, giving away raffle prizes and making silly jokes.
The finalists were still feeling a little arm soreness several days after the event.
“I look forward to it every year,” Owsley said about the tournament. “It’s the highlight of my summer.”
Owsley, who in the last year entered arm wrestling tournaments up north as “Mel O” and won a second-place medal in the West Virginia Classic in Parkersburg, said she tried all of her newly learned tricks on Hansen.
“I was putting everything I had into it—all my techniques and all of my strength,” she said.
She will continue to perfect those techniques for next year’s event and maybe capture back that championship belt.
“Everyone has been so lovely,” Owsley said about Ocracoke. “Locals, tourists, everyone.”
Bailey Herndon, a sophomore studying communications at UNC Chapel Hill, is a summer intern for the Ocracoke Observer.