BRAZIL DOMINATES

 BIG APPLE GRAPPLE

Barboza, Yerby crowned KING & QUEEN of ARMS

 

By JAMES RETARIDES

Senior news editor

 

They came to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum 30-strong insists world armwrestling champion Marcio Barboza. Though only four members of the Brazilian national team competed at the NYC Big Apple Grapple XXVII USA/INTERNATIONAL Pro Arm Wrestling Championships, an entourage of friends and family followed to see their favorite son compete. Prior to the tournament Barboza said he really wanted to do well in front of his friends and family. And as usual, Barboza did not disappoint.

Coming off a super-heavyweight victory at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness Classic Championships in Ohio. Barboza added another crown to his resume after beating the reigning “NYC King of Arms” Mamuka Pajishvili , from the Republic of Georgia.

Pajishvilli, who won the 100 kg class at the 2002 world championship, did not go down without a fight and impressed many of the armwrestlers in attendance with his performances against Barboza. The two first met as the last remaining pullers in the winners’ bracket of the 225-pound class.

Each competitor gripped with caution as neither would give an inch and both wanted their thumb knuckles entirely visible prior to the referee’s cadence. For about five minutes they jockeyed for leverage, meanwhile a crowd assembled in front of the stage backlit by flashbulbs.

Tension mounted as both polished professionals prepared for the ‘go.’

Finally, referees Bobby Buttafuoco and Frank Malis managed to set their hands and the match was underway. Both pullers delivered big hits up top, chalk flew as they slid their fingers with Pajishvilli getting the upper hand. The armwrestlers in attendance all let out gasps as they saw Barboza lose, what seemed to most, to be an impermeable wrist. Flopped over, Barboza drove with his tricep, slipping grips and forcing the referees to put them in the straps.

Barboza managed to establish some position in the straps, but Pajishvilli held him at a stalemate in the middle of the table. With a big pump, Barboza muscled Pajishvilli over to take the first match between the top competitors.

Pajishvilli came back through the losers’ bracket beating Krystoff Perka, from Poland to get a second shot at Barboza. This time, Barboza held up top against Pajishvilli, pumping and once again slipping grips. This time the slip was in a neutral position. On the restart, Barboza went through him quickly, winning the 225-pound class and putting himself in the pole position for the NYC King of Arms title.

His fellow countrymen Carlos Ferriera and Flori Dutra put on masterful performances of their own in their respective weight classes.

Dutra, who pulls at 143 pounds on a world level, put his hook up against the pullers in the 175-pound class, which featured the strong hooks of his Brazilian teammate Fernando Ferriera, Empire State Champion Patrick Baffa of Whitestone, NY, Krisztian Gelenscer from Hungry, Rich Calero of Bronx, NY, and Harry Wilson of Brooklyn, NY.

Dutra went unchallenged into his first match with Gelenscer. What transpired was one of the best hook matches in the tournament’s history. Gelenscer dove into a deep hook, driving Dutra mere inches from the pad as Dutra drove his shoulder underneath just holding Gelenscer and waiting for an opening. When he finally saw his opening, Dutra attacked, driving Gelenscer past center. Gelenscer responded by trying to shoulder-roll with his elbow joint sacrificed. The match went on, back and forth until finally Dutra was able to pull Gelenscer out of his tuck and claim victory.

But Gelenscer would be back. First he fought off Ferriera in a long hook match for win as Dutra had his way inside with 2003 Empire State champion Craig Saputo, who was also pulling up in weight.

Gelenscer then defeated Pat Baffa for a second shot at Dutra. Once again Gelenscer got off a big hit, this time Dutra collected it just an inch from the pad. What ensued was an amazing hook match, back and forth but this time, even longer than the first match. Finally Dutra wore Gelenscer down again defeating him and taking the middleweight class. Following the tournament, Gelenscer beat himself up for not training hard enough.

“I don’t train enough for this,” Gelenscer said. “(Dutra) is strong and has a lot of endurance,” he added.

Gelenscer insists he will train harder this year than ever before.

While Fernando Ferriera just missed placing in the 175-pound class, his brother Carlos took the title in the 200-pound class despite getting a scare from relative newcomer Charles Link of Yonkers, NY. Bearing a striking resemblance to Louisiana’s legendary Craig Tullier, Link seemed just as ferocious on the table, flash-pinning Baffa and giving Ferriera two long hook matches.

Ferriera managed to dig out of both, but Link seemed happy with his performance. Link won a novice event in Manhattan in 2001 but insists he has no other armwrestling experience.

“In the first match, I just felt like I wasn’t ready,” Link said. “But I thought I had him the second time around…I’ll be back. I am going to look into going to more tournaments.”

With Brazilian pullers taking the other three classes, it seemed only natural that another foreign puller would take home the title in the super-heavyweight class.

Dirk Schenker or Wolfsburg, Germany took the super-class with ease, presenting too much top pressure for the much-improved Empire State Champion Shaun Freeman, of Maspeth, NY who managed to take second place after defeating another Empire State Champion (Left Handed) Kevin Nelson, of Holbrook, NY.

Freeman was impressive in his wins, all inside, but said he just couldn’t figure out the German’s top-roll.

“It was probably my wrist,” Freeman said. “I just have to get it stronger.”

A much-improved Shaun Freeman did indicate that he has a lofty goal for this year.

“I want to take Queens home this year,” he said in reference to the Queensboro Golden Arm Championship. Sean Ringold of Rockaway has won the competition in each of the last three years.

“I just want to keep winning,” Freeman continued. “My main objective today was to place and I did. I felt good. No I just have to keep doing it.”

Though Freeman did not match up well with Schenker in the finals, Schenker met his match in the overall competition, as Barboza easily defeated him to secure the “NYC King of Arms” title.

Schenker was equally impressive with his left arm defeating Georgi Bregvadze of the Republic of Georgia for second place. But once again, Barboza presented too much of a challenge for anyone in the heavyweight left-handed class.

Though another Empire State Champion Richard Calero bowed out early in the right-handed middleweight class, he sought revenge with his left. Calero reinforced his status as the best left-handed middleweight puller in the state easily defeating his former rival Angel Cosme of Manhattan, NY for the title. Though Baffa managed to beat Cosme early on in the tournament, Cosme came back in the finals, defeating Baffa with a valiant effort. Baffa stretched out too far trying to drag-hook and got opened up, as Cosme held tight to his body and managed to pull of the pin.

Calero was all smiles afterwards though he did indicate that he was unhappy with his performance right-handed and sustained an injury to his rib cage during a match with Fernando Ferriera. Calero, did however, get to have his name mentioned on the FOX 5 10PM TV News that night.

“I am very happy with how did left handed today,” he said. “But I guess I just need more work with my right, to get stronger and polish up on technique. But I’ll get there, that’s for sure.”

The masters’ 45-60, saw 14-time “King of Arms” Bobby Buttafuoco easily defeating Harry Wilson for the title. Wilson was impressive in two strap matches defeating Marty Soven of Woodside, NY. The senior masters’ class saw the ageless wonder Bob Columbe, of Albany, NY, beat out former lightweight standout Jerry Darvas of Roebling, NJ with two brilliantly executed top-rolls. Michael Kirshner, of Suffern, NY took third.

Cynthia Yerby, of Wolf, OK, who was sponsored by White Castle Hamburgers, repeated once again as the NYC Queen of Arms for the fifth consecutive year. She breezed through the competition, which included Empire State runner up Camile Burford, of Manhattan, NY and Mary Fichter, also of Manhattan, NY.

Though she lost her first match to Katie Wetlund of Brooklyn, NY, Simone Barboza managed to defeat her twice turning her inside to take the class in the finals. Katie Wetlund of Brooklyn, NY took third.

Powered by the Barboza tandem, Brazil ran away with the team title defeating Upstate New York, 35-11 Germany took third with 10 points.

Ray Darling was awarded the NYAWA “NYC Armwrestler of the Year” award in absentia due to an injury.

 



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