Elmhust tune up gets engines revving for the NYC BIG APPLE GRAPPLE® XXVI

By JAMES RETARIDES

It was the calm before the storm.

The New York Arm Wrestling Association (NYAWA) held its first tournament of the year just a few days prior to one of the biggest blizzards ever to hit the I-95 corridor. The tournament had the same feel; it was the build-up to next month’s NYC BIG APPLE GRAPPLE® XXVI, which will take place March 22 at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan.

Though many familiar faces to New York Arm Wrestling were present at the Good Times Tavern Tune-Up in Elmhurst, NY, it was two newcomers that perhaps made the biggest splash. Giorgi Bregvadze, a Corona, Queens resident formerly of the Georgian Republic and Jim McCann of Port Jefferson, NY came in green to the scene but left with awards while leaving a huge impression on those who attended.

Bregvadze entered both the left and right handed super-heavyweight classes, which were each stacked with borough, junior and Empire State champions.

Dan Sorrese from West Islip, Shaun Freeman from Maspeth, Arjun Nagpal from Elmhurst, Kevin Nelson from Holbrook and Krysztof Perka from Ridgewood were among the many local top guns that Bregvadze would have to face. But Bregvadze was up to the challenge.

Freeman would be his first test in the left-handed open class. Both competitors employed a high grip before the go as referees Mike Selearis a school teacher from Elmhurst and Peter Milano from Ct. set them up for the start. A quick slip up top sent the two competitors into a hook, but again they opted to test each other’s top pressure. Again the two slipped as they fought for hand position.

Selearis then instructed the two competitors to start in a deep hook, and Bregvadze made a statement, handily driving Freeman to the pad for the win.

It did not get any easier for Bregvadze right handed as he drew Dan Sorrese, last year’s Empire State Champion at 200 pounds. The match was back and forth, but even though Sorrese appeared to have the better hand position he could not manage to drive the much larger Bregvadze past the center of the table. After the competitor’s slipped, they set up in a hook and after the second start they ended up back outside. Sorrese appeared to lose his hand and wrist to Bregvadze and lost the match as he slipped in a losing position.

In the next round, the two would have a rematch left-handed. But Bregvadze proved too strong as he drove through Sorrese straight to the pad with a perfect full-hand top-roll. With his toughest matches out of the way it seemed, Bregvadze plowed through the competition into the finals with both arms.

Meanwhile, the southpaw, Jim McCann was winning hook match after hook match including a classic versus Kevin Nelson of Holbrook, NY. With a great hit off the go, McCann turned Nelson into a hook and yanked him down one inch from the pad. Nelson showed patience.

He waited for his opening and then gradually worked McCann back up past the center of the table. That is when he made his biggest mistake. Instead of staying close to his arm, Nelson fell back trying to employ a drag hook and opened up. McCann held steadfast with his bicep, kept a perfect tuck and drove Nelson to the pad for the win.

Prior to the finals, a much-anticipated match between the two undefeated pullers, McCann and Bregvadze loomed. Bregvadze asserted his dominance right from the start however, as he did something no one else was able to do that night: he rolled out McCann’s wrist, and he did it fast.

In the loser’s bracket, McCann was forced into a long hook match with Freeman, a young man that will soon be a two-armed force in the world of armwrestling. Though McCann won, it was easy to tell that the long matches outside were taking their toll on him.

Sorrese fought his way into the finals for a shot at McCann. After forcing him into another long hook match, Sorrese lost, but McCann ultimately lost more strength. In the final match Bregvadze’s hit forced a foul on McCann in a losing position giving Bregvadze the championship and likely supplying McCann with a very sore arm the following morning.

McCann was happy with his second place finish following the tournament and said he will soon become a familiar face in the NYAWA crowd.

Bregvadze still had plenty of work to do with his right arm though, even with a bye in the opening round of the super heavyweight finals.

First, Sorrese and Freeman would have to fight it out to see who would get another shot at him. To his credit, Freeman had kept both wrists throughout the tournament, not once getting rolled out on his way to the finals. But the work Sorrese has put in over the winter was evident as he managed to flop Freeman’s iron wrist and secure the pin. Freeman took third place.

In the final match, Bregvadze and Sorrese once again ended up top, and once again they slipped. Out of the hook they rolled, just like last time, but Bregvadze held on for the win, the Arm-Star Award and the day’s MVP. According to Bregvadze, it is time to test his arm on the real stage against the pros at the BIG APPLE GRAPPLE® .

“I will be there,” he said with his friends and supporters gathered around him after the tournament. Bregvadze did acknowledge that he would have his work cut out for him there though.

Putting the newcomers aside, it was old hat when it came to 175-pound middleweight class. Spending the whole winter training together, once again Richard Calero of the Bronx and Harry Wilson of Brooklyn would lock horns.

Last year the two went back and forth with Wilson ultimately coming out on top in the Empire State Championship after another hard fought war.

The competition between Wilson and Calero is fast becoming the biggest rivalry in New York Armwrestling. What solidifies the rivalry is the fact that the two are very good friends and training partners.

As usual, the two struggled to get a grip they could both agree on before their first match-up, which everyone knew would inevitably be a long hard-fought hook match. From the start it looked as though Calero had too much back pressure for Wilson, but as the match got underway, Calero fell back too soon and too far, leaving his elbow off the back of the pad. Referee Mike Selearis gave Calero a warning, instructing him to get his elbow back within the donut (the style of pad used). Calero could not manage to replace his elbow and was given a foul.

On the restart, once again Calero brought Wilson to his side of the table, but he could not manage to keep his elbow on the pad. He received his second foul and Wilson was awarded the match.

Wilson won the battle, but the war was far from over.

Meanwhile, Greg Neish, of Phoenix, NY was winning matches in impressive fashion. He was flash-pinning opponents; managing to win his way into the finals where he met up with Calero.

Calero, who seems to have gotten away from pulling in a shoulder-roll, a technique that was successful for him last year, disposed of Gabriel Yak in a hook match just prior to the finals.

Calero and Neish ended up in a hook with Calero coming out the victor after a brief struggle.

Calero knew he had a difficult task ahead of him. He needed to beat Harry Wilson twice in the finals to take home the championship.

Again the two competitors would not give up an inch prior to the start. Off of the ‘go’ they met in the center of the table, wrists curled driving into each other’s forearms. This time, when Calero fell back into a drag, he kept not only his tuck but he kept his elbow on the pad as well. After a war of a hook match, Calero secured the victory and evened the score.

The final match did not have the drama as the first. Wilson, visibly warn down could not manage to hold Calero up. As in all three matches, the larger Calero was the aggressor, and ultimately the winner of the middleweight class, driving Wilson into a hook and to the pad for the win.

“He is the greatest guy in the world,” said Wilson of Calero following the tournament. “I am proud of him man, he has gotten so good in the last year.”

Calero, who is ready to start pulling in professional weight classes, attributes all of his success in 2002 to his work ethic.

“I have been working hard,” said Calero when asked how he was capable of bringing his technique together since last year. “I get nervous, is what it is. I am concentrating on keeping the same body mechanics, staying tight and tall on the table.”

Calero said he thought about using a riser to keep himself taller on the table but decided against it when he saw it slip out from underneath another puller earlier in the tournament.

“And Harry (Wilson) – he is a great competitor,” said Calero, coming off of a victory in the amateur middleweight class at the sit-down championships Dec. 7. “He always brings out the best in me.”

Left-handed, Calero was trying to keep the momentum he had from winning the Empire State Championship from Tony Kaiser, who now resides in Georgia. A three-match war between Calero and Kaiser at the Empire States was a coming of age for him.

He had a tough draw in the first round in Anthony Gutierrez, whose cousin Angel Cosme is one of the best left-handed hook pullers in the city at any weight.

Calero’s first match with Gutierrez was choppy but productive nonetheless. Calero dove inside but got parked in a hook by Gutierrez. Showing great presence of mind and thinking fast on his feet, Calero brought his shoulder behind the pull and drove into a press for the win.

Cosme, of Manhattan, dumped Yak in a hook and turned Wilson inside hard and fast, winning easily in the opening rounds.

In the loser’s bracket, Gutierrez drew 150-pound Empire State Champ Dan White. Gutierrez showed speed, as he cut White into a hook. As soon as White stopped his momentum, Gutierrez pumped, then gave hard rolling pressure flopping White’s wrist and bringing him straight to the pad.

Gutierrez then drew Wilson. With both pullers adept at pulling inside, it was strange when off the start they hit up top. After a grueling match, struggling for hand position, they slipped. Gutierrez proved to be too much for Wilson off the go, putting him on the fast track to the finals.

Calero eliminated Yak from contention with a hard wrist curl pressure into a half-hook and drove him straight down for the pin. In the next round, however, Calero would have to face the truth, Angel Cosme.

Cosme proved that sometimes the truth hurts after he caught Calero’s hit and threw him across the table for the win. To get another crack at Cosme, Calero would once again have to defeat Gutierrez.

Gutierrez could not manage to hold Calero up in the finals, as Calero fell back into a drag hook for a convincing win. Gutierrez went home with third place.

In the championship match, Cosme once again caught Calero’s hit. Calero fell on it, but lost his wrist and Cosme took home first place.

“I felt good today,” said Cosme following his seemingly effortless victory. “I have been working hard and I was just really in the zone today.”

What’s next for Cosme?

“The BIG APPLE GRAPPLE® ,” Cosme said. “That’s going to be hard – there’ll be a lot of competition there.”

Another guy that could surprise some people at the BIG APPLE GRAPPLE® is Dan “Blue Thunder” White of Staten Island, NY. White won last year’s Empire State Championship in the lightweight class and has been training to go to nationals this year he said.

In White’s way at the tune up were two of New York’s other rising stars Sean Velazquez from Maspeth and Andrew Kendall from Elmhurst.

At the Junior Championships last year, Kendall won the Junior MVP and the 175-pound class while Velazquez held off Devin Worrel to win the 150’s. Velazquez and Kendall would not lock up until the finals on Thursday, however as Velazquez drew White in the early rounds and Kendall drew Bob Spieler.

Spieler, who had lost to Velazquez in the first round, faired no better against the hard shoulder-roll of Kendall.

White, in the meantime, had a fairly tough time with Velazquez inside but staved him off and sent him to the losers’ bracket where Kendall would be waiting in the finals. In the finals the two competitors showed a lot of intensity prior to the ‘go.’ Kendall’s speed proved to be the difference however, as he quickly got behind his arm and started driving into a shoulder-roll. Velazquez held him up and brought him back near the center of the table, but Kendall was buried behind the pull and eventually drove Velazquez to the pad.

Velazquez took a well-deserved third place.

Kendall was fired up for his championship match with White, but White was not to be denied. Kendall got a quick hit from the start once again, but White caught it and hit straight across for the win, picking up where he left off last year.

“I have been practicing really hard, but my arm needs more practice,” said White, who then reflected on the recent passing of his grandfather. “Grandpa Bob, rest in peace and you will always be inside my soul helping me win.”

Both the 132-pound featherweight class and the masters’ open weight class boasted just two competitors. Ken Atkins, of Brooklyn pulled out the featherweight class with two convincing wins over Chino Yung.

Jean Daigle, who was much larger than his 150-pound counterpart Bob Spieler, used his size and strength to easily win the masters’ class. For information on the complete schedule of events fans can visit the NYAWA Website at www.NewYorkArmWrestling.Com or Call Gene Camp at (718) 544-4592.

 

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