- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amid the sweaty palms, gritted teeth and clenched biceps of the Washington D.C. Lady Arm Wrestlers league, one rule ranks above all others: the one-butt-cheek rule.

A wrestler should keep her feet firmly planted on the floor and her elbow cannot leave the table, but it’s the space between the chair and one’s derriere that determines a fair fight.

“There’s even a butt ref. He’s got a tux and white gloves,” said Andrea Kavanagh, an international ocean-conservation employee by day, but a reigning champ in the ring.

“It’s all about getting out of the gate first — as soon as the ref blows his whistle,” she said. “That, and a twist of the wrist.”

The league is well into its second year and has a fluctuating number of wrestlers depending on the match night. The event schedule also is flexible, but there are usually at least two a year.

Susan Whitney, a founding member and College Park resident, said her husband showed her a newspaper article last February about a similar league in Charlottesville, Va., knowing full well where that would lead. Soon-to-be founders of DCLAW then began chatting on the Facebook page of the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers and discovered there was just as much interest in the Washington area for starting a league.

“The great thing is that all these women are housewives and regular people,” said Phil Yunger, the league’s referee and unofficial coach. “The key, though, is this group does it for charity.”

During the tournament-style matches, bets are made, and the money collected goes to a charity of the wrestling group’s choice, though Ms. Whitney said the goal is to help a nonprofit below the radar.

To date there have been four matches, and the women have raised more than $12,000.

To help entice the audience into parting with their money, the wrestlers adopt alter egos, complete with costumes.

Ms. Whitney, 40, will take the stage as “Nouveau Biche,” wearing a tennis skirt and driving a cardboard Hummer while talking on her cellphone.

“I love the showmanship of it,” she said. “It’s campy, but we’re trying to pull people out of their shells. People put on a costume and say ‘I can do this.’”

The wrestlers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and experience. And they pack a generous helping of creativity and competitive spirit.

On a recent Friday night, a handful of women rehearsed at the Hyattsville-area warehouse of Community Forklift, a consignment and environmentally friendly building-supply shop, for an upcoming match on Saturday.

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