Arm wrestling champion from Omaha determined to win world title

Posted at 10:52 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 23:52:23-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On a 90 degree day, an apartment garage in Northwest Omaha doesn't exactly seem like the best place to cool off. But for 69 year old Lee Freeman, he's always willing to brave the elements for the sport he loves.

"I eat, sleep and drink it from morning to evening," said Freeman. "I train in the heat, train in the cold. You train when you don't feel good. Because if you don't, somebody else is and when you meet them they're going to beat you."

"For him to get up every morning and still come to this garage no matter whether it's 110 in here or 45 in here and get stuff done, it's amazing," said Lee's training partner, Ira George.

Freeman, a retired Marine Corps vet has arm wrestled for 44 years. And it all started on a dare from his friends at the gym.

"They were having a tournament at Peony Park," Freeman said. "They said 'You think you're the strongest guy in here. Why don't you go get in that tournament and see if you can win it?'
Unfortunately, a tall skinny guy beat me from Minnesota."

Once Freeman decided to get serious about the sport, success eventually followed. In 1984, the Vietnam vet won his first national title. And while Freeman has won five more, the one championship that's alluded him has been the world title. However, five-foot-nine 344 pounder can fulfill that dream this September at the world championships in Orlando, Florida. He'll also celebrate his 70th birthday that weekend.

"It's an honor to compete for Team USA," said Freeman. "To win a gold medal there, I don't know how I'm going to react. I suppose I'll be in shock."

According to Freeman, the sport of arm wrestling isn't mostly about brute strength but more about speed & technique.

"Strength alone will not win you a national or world championship," Freeman said. "I've witnessed probably 38 broken arms. And I popped a guy's tendon and ligament off his elbow. I've never been hurt in 44 years. Never. I've been sore but never hurt."

Despite overcoming colon cancer six years ago and a knee replacement three years ago, Freeman isn't about to step away from the sport.

"I've got three more months to reach the top of the mountain and hopefully I can get there," said Freeman.