Mesalands student heads to Italy for arm wrestling championship

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

When Ashley Romero was young, her father told her never to date a guy she could beat at arm wrestling.

That didn’t leave many prospects for dating, so she had to break the rule.

She’s 18 now, attending Tucumcari’s Mesalands Community College, and preparing for a trip to Italy with her new husband, Pete.

“I have beat Pete in arm wrestling,” she laughed.

But Pete Romero is not ashamed. The trip to Italy is for the 31st annual World Arm Wrestling Championships. Ashley is a member of the United States team.

“It is a part of her life and I support her,” said Pete, also a Mesalands student. “This is a chance for me to be a part of an important piece of her life.”

The couple, married on June 6, fly Saturday to Porto Viro, Italy. The competition begins Sunday and continues through Sept. 13.

Ashley Romero’s story begins about 13 years ago at the Idaho state fair. She was 5 when she first entered an arm-wrestling competition with other family members.

“At first I was just doing it because it was fun,” she said. “I heard a lady talking to my dad (Don Stokes) after that event about getting me into the world finals. But I was so young I did not give it a second thought.”

Ashley said she competed despite serious health issues that have left her even today with a noticeable limp. She said an injury paralyzed her from her waist down when she was less than a year old. She said some doctors feared she would not walk. They were wrong.

Ashley said she was a high school freshman living in Estancia when she won an arm-wrestling championship at the New Mexico state fair.

“After that I was told about Team USA and I joined them and began to practice with them and competing in events.”

Leonard Harkless, president and founder of U.S. Arm Wrestling Association, said he is amazed at Ashley’s abilities.

“In arm wrestling a lot of power comes from the athlete’s legs,” Harkless said in a telephone interview from the AWA in Billings, Mont. “She has been wrestling on the national scene only for a few years and she is beating women that have been competing in top levels for the past 10-12 years.”

This won’t be her first time on the world stage.

“This will be my second year to compete in the world championships,” Ashley said. “Last year I competed in Canada. I broke my left arm in the championship round of the 55-kilogram division (121 pounds).”

“I was competing against this girl from Sweden,” she said. “As the match went on I heard a loud pop. I just thought the referee hit the table. It was not until I saw my opponent gasp that I knew something was wrong.”

Ashley said she tried to lift her arm but could only feel the bone in her upper arm move around.

She qualified as a left-hander and right-hander last year. She will compete as a right-hander this time, she said.