Renee Layher

Renee Layher locks up with her son, Garret, at the College Inn Jan. 8, while her arm wrestling trophies twinkle in the background.

Bathed in the warm glow of the College Inn lights, the six-foot trophies twinkle gold.

Renee Layher sits at a table across from her son, Garret and the two lock hands, poised to arm wrestle.

Renee counts to three. Garret lurches into the table with a strong tug. Within seconds, Renee demonstrates how she won her trophies. Her son’s hand slams to the table.


She may be retired, but after a nearly 30-year career in arm wrestling, Renee’s still got it.

Renee became the first woman to be inducted into the Wyoming Armwrestling Hall of Fame last year to commemorate her success in the sport.

Renee’s career, which she stockpiled with dozens of wins all over the state and country, began in 1994 in Douglas.

Renee would constantly arm wrestle her husband, Eric’s brothers. Eventually, Eric talked his wife into competing at a tournament at the Best Western. She won easily.

Renee’s arm wrestling prowess continued to grow as she competed more and more around town. Soon, she began learning technique from her coach, Gaylon Russell, who was inducted into the Wyoming Armwrestling Hall of Fame in 2015.

In 1996, Renee qualified for the U.S team, and was invited to a tournament in Russia. However, she couldn’t afford the expensive plane ticket.

Eager to help, friends of Renee organized various fund raisers around town to help her raise the money.

“This town got together and within a month, I had the money,” Renee said.

And the trip paid off, as Renee placed second in the 1996 Golden Bear International, losing to a Russian.

From there, Renee’s career kept sky-rocketing as she won state title after state title, national title after national title.

Renee guessed that she had competed in about a hundred arm wrestling tournaments.

Despite her long list of achievements, Renee always stuck to unconventional training.

“I cut wood,” she said. “I worked construction. I never worked out in a gym. I just did whatever we had.”

While she’s always been strong, Renee said strength isn’t the most important aspect to arm wrestling. Instead, it’s all in the curve of the wrist and keeping the hand lock in tact.

“If you’re arm wrestling some one that’s pretty much the same strength as you,” Renee said, “just sit patiently and watch them. The second someone takes a deep inhale, that’s when you get them.”

Renee said her family members are her biggest fans.

“I have such good family support. If I tell my son and his wife and my daughter and her husband (about a tournament), everyone says ‘okay, this weekend we’re going to the tournament’.”

Garret even has an arm wrestling tattoo on his back with the word ‘mom’ stenciled under it.

Renee retired a couple years ago after the annual state fair arm wrestling tournament.

“I got arthritis in my hand so bad now that they hurt and I just don’t want to arm wrestle anymore,” she said.

However, Renee isn’t completely done with the sport, and offers tips to up and coming local competitors.

Also, Renee said with a chuckle, she’ll sometimes arm wrestle men at bars when they ‘want to show how tough they are’.

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