After strokes as a baby left him with no control over the right side of his body, Cody Wagner could have easily left sports behind.

But when Wagner was 16, he saw "Over the Top," the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie. He was hooked.

Wagner, now 21, was found to have a brain tumor at 18 months and had a series of strokes during surgery to remove it. He was left partially paralyzed on his right side, yet his left arm is strong enough to arm-wrestle, thanks to training.

It was tough at first. Wagner weighed just 104 pounds.

"He kept losing because none of the guys were in his weight class," said his father, John Wagner of Roseville, Calif. "He weighs too little."

So Cody Wagner bulked up, going to the gym three times a week. Now, at 119 pounds, he can arm-wrestle against opponents his own size. And, at this year's Unified National Armwrestling Championship, he had his first major victory at a national competition.

It was a tough final match for Wagner, going back and forth for a few minutes before he was able to pin his opponent's hand to the pad. But when it was over the crowd went wild and John Wagner was reduced to tears.

"He wasn't supposed to live," his father said.

Cody Wagner basked in the glory of beating an opponent at a national tournament.

"That son of a gun was strong," he said.

And it's all the more difficult because, John Wagner said, everything his son does "depends on strength, because he can't retain technique."

That doesn't stop the younger Wagner, who said he fell in love with arm-wrestling after trying baseball and regular wrestling.

"It's like a football play, and you will never know who will win," Cody Wagner said.