Milano reigns in the rain!

By JAMES RETARIDES

 

With only a handful of armwrestlers deciding to brave the elements on a damp, dark and rainy Sunday afternoon at the beach, two rising stars did shine brightly at the Staten Island Borough championships June 1. And as fate would have it both met up in the overall to decide whose gun was at the top.

Joe Legasse, 32, of Providence, RI won his first title at the International Armwrestling Federation’s Connecticut Fall Classic last October winning the lightweight novice class despite giving away 25 pounds to most of the competition.

On Sunday, Legasse was the favorite with only two other competitors in his class. With veteran Bob Spieler of Brooklyn and first timer Nathan Valle of Brightwaters, NY in the class, Legasse said he thought about pulling the middleweight class as well.

That class was headlined by last year’s lightweight Empire State Champ Dan ‘Blue Thunder’ White, a Staten Island resident and Brooklyn vet Harry Wilson, keeper of numerous Borough and Empire State titles.

Since Legasse declined on pulling the middleweight class, he would have to win the lightweights to get a crack at White, the man he admittedly came to pull.

Legasse drew a bye in the first round getting a look at his competition. Valle, the newcomer, looked tough in the first round hitting Spieler with hard wrist curl pressure and driving straight across toward the pin pad. Spieler caught Valle’s hit and tried to back him out using lat-pressure but ended up opening up his arm in the process. Valle kept driving into a hook and parallel-pinned Spieler, earning the rookie a crack at Legasse.

Legasse, who trains at the veritable Mecca of lightweight armwrestling gripping up with legends of the sport like Gabe Accardi, Norm Devio, Mike Shalhoub and Tim Sears, blistered through Valle. Valle could not match Legasse’s backpressure, and when he caught Legasse inside it was too late. Legasse pumped hard once and secured an easy victory.

Valle defeated Spieler again in what looked like a carbon copy of their first match, only this time Spieler elbow fouled trying to drag hook. Legasse again breezed through the final match hitting Valle fast and hard up top and securing the Staten Island title.

Legasse would await the winner of the middleweight class in the overall and White looked to be that man early on. Standing in his way would be Wilson and up and comer Alex Josowitz of Brooklyn.

Josowitz made his presence known early on defeating Ed Riotte of Durham, CT. fast in a top roll in the first round. Wasting no time, Wilson and White were pitted against each other in match two with what would prove to be a war of a hook match.

Both competitors turned inside before the ‘go’ with Wilson looking like he had control early on. Wilson kept his tuck and had White on his side of the table appearing as though he was just a split second from a victory, but White swung his left leg around and drove his shoulder behind the pull, stopping Wilson and pressing him to the pad for the win.

To earn a spot in the finals, Wilson would have to pull Riotte. Off the go, both competitors hit up top and slipped putting them in the straps. Both pullers fought for hand position with Wilson coming high over Riotte’s thumb knuckle. Once the grips were finally set, Wilson flash-pinned Riotte eliminating him and putting himself in the finals to await the loser of the match between White and Josowitz.

Josowitz loaded up with a ton of backpressure prior to the go telegraphing his hit up top against White. With superior wrist pressure, White turned Josowitz inside and secured a fast pin.

In the finals, Wilson made quick work of Josowitz causing him to elbow foul and slip in a losing position with a powerful hit up top. Josowitz took home third.

In the final match Wilson decided to turn to his full-hand top roll, a move that he seldom pulls out of his back of tricks but an effective move nonetheless. The hit caused both competitors to slip and in the straps, White owned Wilson, turning him in and diving to the pad for an inside pin and the middleweight championship.

White says he feels stronger than ever and says he is going to the Unified National Championships in Arkansas this August to try and win the national title at 154 pounds.

“I think I’ve improved,” White said following the tournament. “Right now I am working hard so I can be ready for August to try and qualify for Team U.S.A.”

The stage was set for Legasse and White to meet in the overall. The match would decide who would be the odds on favorite to win the 150-pound lightweight class at the Empire State Championships on November 13, 2003.

But first, the heavyweight and super-heavyweight classes had to be decided.

The strange but effective pulling style of Mitchell D’Onofrio was showcased in this class that featured Riotte, who was pulling up in weight and Aaron Cox of Holley, NY. D’Onofrio, of Saratoga, NY went unchallenged in the finals where he would face the winner of Riotte and Cox.

Both competitors hit inside off the go, as Cox drove into a shoulder roll. He pumped, gave a little rolling pressure, let out a loud grunt and secured the pin, eliminating Riotte and putting himself in the final match where he would have to face D’Onofrio. With seemingly no knuckles-up wrist pressure, D’Onofrio still managed to roll out Cox fairly quickly, easily securing the heavyweight title.

The man of the hour, however, was Peter Milano, a 28-year-old resident of Waterbury, CT.

Milano, who just came off winning the heavyweight overall at the Pennsylvania State Championships in April and the super-heavyweight class at the Delaware Valley Championships breezed through the competition, which included last year’s runner up at the Staten Island Championships Jason Otto of Rochester, NY and Milano’s younger brother Joey, a 19-year-old up and comer from Stratford, CT.

Milano drew Otto in the first round and asserted his dominance by hitting him slowly but surely back and straight across for a nonchalant pin.

Otto did regroup, however, fighting his way back to the finals where he was accompanied by the two Milano boys.

In the first Milano v. Milano match-up, Peter peeled Joey open, took his hand and rolled him slowly to the pad. He gave Joey the second match, however, putting himself in a position to pull his younger brother for a third time.

Joey had to pull Otto first, however, to determine who would get a shot at Peter. With an explosive hit off the go, Joey flashed Otto up top, setting up a brother-to-brother grudge match for all the marbles (well at least half of them).

With ease, Peter again defeated Joey; a natural lefty who would seek vengeance against his brother with the left hand, which Peter affectionately calls “the peg hand.”

The right-handed overall pitted Legasse and White against each other for the first time. With a powerful hit inside and a strong hook, Legasse won his first overall match with relative ease, asserting himself as the odds-on favorite to win the Empire State Championships at 150 pounds and giving him a shot at the overall.

Legasse said he was hesitant to commit to an inside match with White prior to the ‘go.’

“I felt strong up top until I pulled Dan (White),” Legasse said. “I know he has a strong hook so I tried to go up but his wrist was too strong. I just ended up inside.”

Legasse said he wanted to save some arm for his next tournament, which was the following Saturday in Laconia, NH.

With the elder Milano quickly and gracefully defeating D’Onofrio with an overwhelming top roll, it would be David versus Goliath in the right-handed overall match. Milano took it easy on Legasse taking him up top for the win and giving himself the MVP award as well as a shot at the Arm-Star Award, delved out to the puller who wins his weight class with both arms.

Peter Milano, who uses an unorthodox style left handed that he says he honed in practice with a puller he would only refer to as the left-handed Pennsylvania State Champ, brought his opposite arm to the party on Sunday.

D’Onofrio would not get a crack at Pete Milano with the left arm because it was obvious that he had his hands full with young Joey Milano.

D’Onofrio and Joey were pitted against each other in the first round with Joey flash pinning him up top.

Meanwhile, Peter Milano hit Otto hard up top putting the two Milano boys in the winners’ bracket together. While Joey looked strong up top off the go, Peter kept hard top pressure, popping Joey’s wrist out of socket and giving him his first loss left-handed.

Joey would once again have to pull Otto, who defeated D’Onofrio to come out of the losers’ bracket earning a spot in the finals. With a gimp wrist, Joey still hit Otto up top and after a brief struggle, controlled his hand. As he was driving Otto across the table, Joey made his move, which caused Otto to slip underneath. Referee Marty Soven called Otto for a slip in a losing position and Joey was awarded another crack at his brother.

Opting not to re-injure his wrist, Joey bagged the final match, giving it to his older brother. Taking the title, Peter Milano won his first Arm-Star Award. And though he would be a favorite in the Empire State Finals, Milano is unsure as to whether or not he will pull at the event.

“I was waiting for last year’s champ Eric Russell to show up today,” Milano said. “I hear he has been ducking me,” he added jokingly. The two pullers, who are actually good friends that used to train together pulled at the Pennsylvania States, with Milano coming out victorious.

Milano took his overall victory with a grain of salt.

“I truly feel that the caliber of pullers that usually come to these New York tournaments did not show up today,” Milano said. “New York has a lot more to offer as far as armwrestlers go.”

The younger Milano remained undaunted.

“All I have to say is that I want a rematch with Peter Milano left-handed,” Joey Milano said following the tournament. “For such a small turnout, the competition was fierce today,” he added.

In the lightweight left handed class, Josowitz lost his first match to Valle putting himself in the losers’ bracket right away. And with Riotte defeating Valle in a long hook match in round two, it looked as though Riotte was the frontrunner for the left-handed title.

Josowitz made a veteran move after watching the match between Riotte and Valle. Knowing that Valle was a hook puller, Josowitz changed his set up on the table, deciding to go with top roll in the finals. With a fast hit, Josowitz popped Valle over near the pad and laid on it. With a pump and a second hit, Josowitz secured the pin, putting him in the championships with Riotte.

To claim the title, Josowitz would have to beat Riotte twice as Riotte was unchallenged up until that point. Surprisingly, Josowitz flash pinned Riotte up top in the first match and duplicated his effort in the second match to climb out of the losers’ bracket and claim the left-handed title.



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