Get Into the Game: A Hug of War With Hogs in Wisconsin


By Kristy Barry

All photos by Kristy Barry.

Wrestling a pig seems easy at first, like you’re just jumping into soft, squishy mud to tackle a fat, plushy stuffed animal with easy-to-grip love handles. All we have to do at the Hog Wrestling Championships is lift the hog onto a barrel in the center of the mud pit, in the fastest time, and we win.

I somewhat expect the pig to be buoying in mud, defenseless, and figure my only deterrent will be slippery mud. The animal’s weight is heavy, but the pig comes with love handles so with the four of us, it’ll be like lifting a mattress with a snout, or a table that squeals. If everyone on my four-person team grabs a quarter of the hog—we have a chance to win.

My twin sister Katie, my brother Zack, and our friend Chelsea traveled from New York to Crivitz, Wis. for the event. We are a rowdy, athletic wrecking crew with backwoods upbringings in Ohio and Alabama–and we are all dressed up like Hulk Hogan doppelgangers.

Our team name is Hulk Hogin’s [sic] and we don blonde handlebar mustaches with our yellow shirts tucked into red granny panties. We cut off the sleeves to our t-shirts in the parking lot of the Dollar General (which seemed like an appropriate backdrop)—a place where we stopped in to grab bandanas and where Zack tried convincing an 80-year-old woman chilling in a mini-van to come wrassle pigs with us. She seems enamored by him pulling this choppy, bleach blonde mullet over his dark brown hair and flexing for photos in the parking lot.

We also wore kneepads, wrist guards, and pulled black socks over our shoes and duct taped our socks to our legs because the event organizers told us we may lose our shoes in the mud otherwise.

Our biggest problem isn’t protecting our knees, wrists, or losing our shoes.

When we arrive, the sharp squeals of the swine feels like the pig is actually shanking me in the eardrums. I can’t blame the animal–I would squeal too. We register for a time slot and get chosen as number 63, so we’ll compete later in the day, but it’s just temporary relief before we bare witness to an orgy of pigs peeing and pooping in the mud pit. Equally as terrifying as the squeals is the stench of wet swine fecal matter baking in this sunny, 80 degree oven.

We take hours to film other competitors, think of strategy, and work up gumption. I hum James Taylor’s song “Mona” to myself—a touching tune, actually, about a pet pig he had growing up, that got old and sick and had to be put down with a “six gauge surprise.” I tell myself not to be scared, because I love football, crispy bacon in the morning, that my brother makes an awesome bacon fat popcorn, and well, this is where it all comes from and I need to get over it.

My bacon-filled stream-of-conscious reverie is a soothing rationale, until I contemplate just never eating bacon again. I imagine how much skinnier I’d be, especially with my porky legs in this ridiculous Wrestlemania outfit… Then my mind veers back to the topic at hand. It doesn’t matter what this animal is made of, what delicious breakfasts it creates, I’m here to win.

It’s not like I’m nearly destitute, living on a farm during the Great Depression with 10 kids and an ax in my hand–tasked to chop its head off and put food on the table. I’m here to give the hog a hug, kinda, albeit an unwanted hug. And hopefully for both of us, this embrace won’t last long.

Last year’s winner finished in four seconds because the pig ran up and jumped on the barrel… a form of cooperation I am not especially wishing for. I want to get down and dirty, and earn this prize.

My team discusses strategy, at length. While Katie and Chelsea are talking about who’s going to go left and who will go right, Zack suggests we slowly creep up on the hog as to not startle it. I say we should go for the mad scramble and try to win it all–that if our time is over 10 seconds, we’ve lost.

My friend Dave Nelson, who lives in Ishpeming, Mich.—traveled two hours to the event and served as “Coach Buzz” and a back-up videographer. He suggested we “Stay low, go hard, and get him by the bacon bits!” Another friend of mine in Seattle, versed in wrestling, told me to “Go all WWE on the hog. Come down off of the third turnbuckle with ‘the people’s elbow!’

And, one highly intoxicated woman who competed in a pink bikini suggests, “Don’t get too drunk–I couldn’t stand up.”

The only real rules consist of not grabbing the pig’s ears, legs, or abusing it—though the last rule seems murky.

When it’s our time to wrestle, we step into the mud ring and our hog is released into the pit. He’s erratic, very annoyed, snorting, and not cooperating. We need him to go to the opposite end of the ring for the match to begin but he’s cruising around, running into us like a porky little punk. The rancid odor is increasingly nauseating, as well as the jeers from the crowd for us ladies in the ring to flash our breasts… which is also the entertainment between matches.

A guy with a hose stands on the barrels surrounding the ring, dousing women in bikinis with water, until they take their shirts off. We keep our shirts on, with Hulk Hogin’ [sic] spelled out in red duct tape on the front, and finally, the hog gets in his starting position and the referee yells “WRASSLE!”

We all start running after the hog and all strategy is quickly abandoned. We’re falling into the mud, hog is darting around, slipping through our hands at every turn. We’re splashed with mud, can’t see straight, and all colliding with each other when we finally gain a grip the hog—and the squeals are deafening. The swine shakes us loose, we keep running after him and can’t take hold of those cushy, elusive love handles.

After a minute, the crowd is yelling, “PIG! PIG! PIG!” because everyone roots for the animal. The referee calls the match and the hog struts off victoriously. Though we wrestled the pig for about 60 grueling seconds, the match felt like 10 minutes.

We all walked back to the car, stripped our disgusting poop-covered clothes off and trashed the Hulk Hogan gear. We washed off with Wet Wipes, discussed the day, and watched the GoPro footage–spectacular and bizarre–and we all agreed the day was unforgettable and awesome, but that hog wrestling is something we’d never do again, unlike some competitors who have been doing this for 15 years.

On our way out of town, the police pull us over because I am hanging out of the passenger window with my camera, filming Coach Buzz’s high-octane sports car burning rubber past us.

I’m not wearing my seatbelt and Chelsea is driving without her license, but the police officer who at first seems irked, now seems impressed that we came all the way from New York to wrestle hogs in Wisconsin. I tell him, “We are probably the only girls in Crivitz who didn’t flash our breasts today!” and he laughs at a line I bet he often hears the inverse to.

Maybe it was the pig stench fumes reeking out of the car, or that he has a twin as well, but the officer let us go and we four Hulk Hogin’s [sic] travelled down the road with our seat belts on; though knowing that tackling that muddy, squealing hog is far more terrifying than sticking our heads out of a car window on a sunny, breezy July afternoon.

For more, check out Kristy in conversation on the BTR Sports podcast, every Sunday on BreakThru Radio.