November 17, 2005

New York’s toughest fight it out among themselves

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a city where strong-arm tactics may
be commonplace, scores of New York's toughest on Thursday
turned the practice into a spectator sport.

Grunting and grimacing, contestants battled their way
through New York's annual arm-wrestling championship, staged
before a crowd in the center of the giant Port Authority Bus
Terminal.

While nearly everyone has tried arm wrestling, although
generally not since childhood or maybe a late night in a bar,
these contestants said it's harder than it looked, and it
looked hard.

David Milburn, a burly 35-year-old security guard, said the
key is attitude. His tactic was wearing dark, mirrored
sunglasses to intimidate his opponents.

"It's like playing poker. You hide your eyes," he said.
"It's a mental thing."

The day's champion, Shaun Freeman, 24, said: "It's all
about technique. The trick is you've got to practice."

Winning for a third straight year, Freeman won his super
heavyweight class, for those weighing more than 225 pounds,
then went on to defeat the winner in each of the other seven
weight classes below his.

Nathan Berdugo, also 24, who works as a food deliveryman,
found out about technique the hard way. Having only heard about
the contest two weeks ago, he quickly lost.

"That's my problem," Berdugo said. "I don't have any
technique at all."

Bob Santalucia of Troy, New York, learned his lesson an
even harder way. His match ended with a loud snap as he
clutched his wrist in pain. As onlookers agreed among
themselves that he surely broke some arm bone, he left in an
ambulance.

Not everything about arm wrestling is hard, players said.
One contestant said he trains on bacon, egg and cheese
sandwiches, while another admitted the staple of his diet was
candy.

More than 70 arm wrestlers, including two women, competed
in the afternoon-long event sponsored by the New York Arm
Wrestling Association. Winners took home medals and plaques.

"It just feels good that I can tell people I'm the arm
wrestling champion of New York," said Freeman. "And the girls
like it."