‘A Bronx Tale’

Calero and Freeman, who train in the Bronx, dominate at Orchard Beach



Senior News Editor


“This is my house,” Richard Calero said Saturday prior to the 20th Annual Bronxboro Championship.

The 29-year-old middleweight armwrestler was not being brash. Those who know Calero know he carries himself with a sense of decorum both on and off the table. But the Bronx native knew he would have to be confident to pull out two hotly contested weight classes on the main stage that sat smoldering on the pavement abutting Orchard Beach.

Calero, who may have the best left-arm in the state in his weight class still had to prove his worth to Manhattan’s Angel Cosme. Cosme, a big 175-pounder had never lost to Calero in a competition before.

Also in the running was a budding Eddie Riotte of Durham, Conn. as well as the Hall brothers, Jason and Michael that made a splash last year at the event. Michael Hall won the lightweight class last year, while his brother Jason was in contention in two loaded middleweight classes left and right handed until the final rounds.

Hall drew Cosme early on and was put in the losers’ bracket as Cosme caught him and threw him across the table in a hook for the win. Calero flash pinned Riotte, whose hook and top-roll have progressed quickly in the last few months.

Cosme drew Jason Hall in the winners’ bracket in round two and once again played catch. After corralling Hall’s hit inside, Cosme rolled him to the pad for the win.

Meanwhile, Riotte found himself in a long hook match with Michael Hall. After a fairly long inside pull, Riotte managed to back Hall out with his lat and then rolled him out for the win.

Riotte would survive through the losers’ bracket and make it to the finals where Cosme and Calero had remained unbeaten. In their first match, Calero shocked everyone as his hit Cosme hard into a shoulder roll and almost got the pin off of the ‘go.’ Cosme was able to catch the hit but could not back Calero out and Calero held on for the pin.

Cosme would have to beat Riotte to get another shot at Calero. Prior to the ‘go,’ Riotte was loading up with a ton of backpressure but was losing his wrist. With enough knuckles-up strength, he might have been able to roll Cosme out, but Cosme won the battle up top slowly rolling Riotte out for the win. Riotte took third.

The rematch between Calero and Cosme may have been more of a shocker than their first match. With a resounding, “I have arrived,” Calero flashed Cosme into a shoulder roll and secured the Bronxboro championship, making him the frontrunner for the Empire State Title later this fall.

“That is a real strong move for him,” said Cosme of Calero’s shoulder roll following the tournament. “I can tell he has been training a lot because his technique has gotten so much better.”

After the win, Calero jumped off the stage and gave his father a hug. It was the first time his father had ever come to a competition to see him pull.

“I was so nervous when I saw I would have to go up against Angel (Cosme),” Calero said. “He has dominated me in the past but I had faith that I could do it. Winning this in front of my dad made it so much better. It was more special.”

Though Calero won his second straight left-handed middleweight Bronxboro Championship, he would have his work cut out for him to win his first right-handed. Last year, Tony Kaiser dominated the weight class, flashing through all comers. This year, standing in his way would be the young star Alex Josowitz and veteran Harry Wilson, both of Brooklyn, NY.

Josowitz burst onto the scene in February when he won some convincing matches at the Tune-up held in Elmhurst. Josowitz’ top pressure has increased considerably in the past few months and he was ready to break it out on Wilson in round one. From the start, Wilson was much too late trying to turn Josowitz inside and was flashed.

Calero drew a bye in the first round, but would dispose of Jason Hall in the second round as Josowitz quickly beat Riotte.

In the following round, Calero broke through Josowitz’ wrist chopping him into a shoulder roll for the pin.

As Calero cruised through the winners’ bracket right handed, Josowitz made it to the finals where Wilson awaited him. Wilson, who is typically dedicated to his inside move, decided to employ a top roll against Josowitz. The first time the two set up, Wilson hit him straight to the pad but was called for an elbow foul. Off the restart, it appeared as though Wilson jumped the ‘go,’ but he managed to roll Josowitz out handing him third place.

Following the match, Wilson had nothing but good words for Josowitz.

“He’s gotten good, excellent,” Wilson said. “He is real fast too, I can’t catch him. The ref’s gave me a good start on the second match.”

Josowitz agreed.

“I feel like I should have pulled out that second match,” Josowitz said. “But the ref just started without me.”

Wilson knew he would have to defeat his old friend and rival Calero twice to be crowned champion. However, with a much-improved inside game, Calero drove right into Wilson’s forearm and pinned him for the title and the Arm Star Award given to the puller who wins the title with both arms.

Seldom are there two Arm Star Awards given out at the same tournament but making the attempt on Saturday would be Joe Milano of Stratford, Conn. and Shaun Freeman of Maspeth, NY, who trains at Calero’s house in the Bronx on Tuesdays.

Accompanying the two in the super-heavyweight right-handed weight class would be 6-time Bronxboro Champ Luis Diaz. Early on, Freeman made his presence known, taking advantage of Diaz’ wrist and hitting him to the pad fast up top.

Meanwhile Milano popped over Zepf Alia early on setting up a match in the winners’ bracket with Freeman. Freeman used his superior hand and wrist strength to roll Milano to the pad securing a spot in the finals.

Too stay in contention, Alia and Diaz would pull for a crack at Milano. Off the go, Alia gained hand control, but Diaz slipped and the two decided to set up in a hook. On the restart, Diaz was too much inside but would have his work cut out for him if he wanted a seventh title in his home borough.

In the finals, Milano came out with a vengeance. His explosive hit flopped Diaz’ wrist but Diaz pushed behind it in a tricep and managed to slip. Referee and double-armed national champion Mike Selearis decided to put the two in the straps to determine who would move on.

Though it looked like Milano left early on the ‘go’ he managed to drive Diaz straight over for the win and a chance to redeem himself against Freeman.

“I think Luis Diaz - if he worked out on his wrist – could be a tough competitor in this sport,” Milano said following their match. “He has a very strong hook, but since his wrist flopped over I gave him a hard time.”

Milano added that his strap technique came from someone he would only refer to as “the left-handed Pennsylvania State Champ.”

During the final match, it was plain to see that both competitors would be going up top. Off of a running start, Freeman looked to have the hand advantage but Milano slipped just past center. In the straps, Milano looked perfect prior to the start with his strap low around his wrist. From the start, however, Milano did not have enough post pressure to open Freeman up. He stopped Freeman about four inches from the pad and held but Freeman was able to wear Milano out and drive him to the pad for super-heavyweight title.

Left-handed Freeman would find himself in the finals with Milano and Joe Maresch of Bronxville, NY.

Milano, a natural lefty was hungry…for a shot at Freeman left-handed that is. First, Milano would have to pull Maresch and would slowly roll him to the pad for the victory. Against Freeman, Milano would once again test his top pressure but Freeman had too much for him.

Milano beat Maresch once again and would change tactics with Freeman the second time around. This time, he would try to turn Freeman inside from the start. With a burst of side pressure, Freeman put Milano almost to the pad when Milano managed to turn into a hook. It was too late as Freeman held on for the pin and the Arm Star sweep.

“In the finals I intentionally slipped because I thought I had a better chance with Shaun (Freeman) in the straps,” said Milano, who anchored Team Connecticut helping the squad win the team points championship. “I stopped his hit, but he had too much side pressure. He was the only thing stopping me in both weight classes today.”

Following the tournament, Diaz was so impressed with Calero and Freeman that he decided to become a new member of the Bronx team.

“I have never really trained for this sport,” Diaz said. “I have never really lifted any weights; I’m just naturally strong. I have no transportation to train out in Whitestone, so I am going to start pulling in the Bronx with Shaun Freeman and Richie Calero. I am going to get strong and then I am going to test out how far I have come at the Columbus Avenue Street Festival tournament.”

With the super-heavyweight Arm Star Award, Freeman was poised to win the M.V.P. as well. Waiting in the wings would be Kristian Gelencser of College Point, NY. Gelencser was at one time a mainstay in the 175-pound class, but has beefed up since his last tournament, nearly two years ago.

Gelenscer flashed through everyone in his weight class including Julio Rosario of the Bronx and Riotte a natural middleweight that managed to take third in the heavyweight class. Though Rosario was too much inside for Riotte, Gelenscer was far too much for Rosario, giving him the heavyweight championship.

Freeman flashed through Gelenscer in the overall, however, winning the M.V.P. He said Joe Milano was his most formidable opponent of the day.

“I have to say that my toughest match today was against Joey (Milano) in the straps,” Freeman said. “In the straps I remember thinking back pressure, post from the wrist.”

Freeman said he never imagined winning an Arm Star and M.V.P. in the same tournament but said it was a great feeling.

“I never thought I would ever do anything like this in the sport,” Freeman said. “But I did and it feels good.”

The lightweight finals featured three newcomers that look to have a great deal of potential. John Kagan, a Yale student living in New Haven, Conn. looked to be the man to beat early though Vardan Krpeyan of Dumont, NJ and Andrey Martyanou of Bensalem, PA were equally impressive.

Kagan and Martyanou would meet in the middle rounds and battle through a long hook match that saw Martyanou come out on top. Both would find themselves in the finals with Krpeyan who defeated Muhammed Azam, a strong inside puller in his own right.

In the finals, Krpeyan dove in on Kagan and, though Kagan stopped him, he could not manage to drag him across the table. Kagan took third. Krpeyan pumped and secured the pin and a shot at first place. In the final match, Krpeyan would hit Martyanou the same way and laid back into a drag hook for the pin and the title.

In the featherweight finals, last year’s champ Floyd Ryder of Bristol, Conn. was accompanied by 16-year-old Andrew Castellaneta of Massapequa, NY and John Cruz of the Bronx. In their first match, Ryder kept a very tight tuck and managed to roll Cruz to the pad for the win.

Cruz quickly defeated Castellaneta, but bowed out in the finals setting up a championship match between Ryder and Castellaneta. Ryder quickly defeated Castellaneta to take home his second straight 132-pound title. Ryder, who took third at Empire States last year, should be the frontrunner for the title this year based on his performance.

It was a repeat performance for both Cindy Looney and Carrie Wilson of Milford, Conn. Much like last year, the two would once again take first and second at the Bronxboro. Carol Varga of the Bronx rounded out the women’s open weight class taking third after two hotly contested battles with Wilson. Though Wilson did manage to force Looney into the straps in their first match, in match two it was all Looney.

In the lightweight class, Rouzanna Brownell and Araksya Kovsepeyan of Dumont, NJ took first and second as Jennifer Griffith of the Bronx rounded out the weight class taking third.

In the women’s overall, Looney quickly disposed of Brownell, taking home the women’s M.V.P.

As a result, Connecticut scored 26 points and the team championship. Queens took home 21 points behind Freeman’s performance and the Bronx took home 18 points thanks to Calero. The event was sponsored by the City of New York Parks and Recreation.

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