By Madina Toure
About 70 wrestlers from Queens, the metropolitan area and even countries as far away as Russia, Poland and Japan competed against one another in the 37th annual Empire State “Golden Arm” Tournament of Champions at the Cheap Shots Sports Bar in Flushing Sunday.
Some 100 people came out to cheer on friends, loved ones and other competitors who spanned different weight classes and experience levels as they locked hands and attempted to defeat their opponents. The event draws some of the top wrestlers around the world, including winners of the renowned 2014 NYC Big Apple Grapple International as well as last year’s Empire State champions, who came back to defend their titles.
“It was a jam-packed audience,” said Gene Camp, NYAWA’s president and founder. “Everybody had a great time. That’s the main thing — that everybody has a great time watching this event.”
The competition was previously held at the Intrepid Museum, the World Trade Center, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Javits Center, but high rents pushed the competition back to its home base of Queens. The association’s first tournament — and where the association first started — was held at the now defunct Sunnyside Gardens Arena on Queens Boulevard.
“Cheap Shots Sports Bar has given us all the things we need,” Camp said. “Tables and chairs, the venue, and they don’t charge us.”
Camp established the New York Arm Wrestling Association in 1977 to provide a platform for arm wrestlers in New York City to connect with one another and compete in competitions.
The association runs the New York Golden Arm Series, a series of events in the five boroughs, Long Island and upstate New York.
The classes, whose levels were right-handed, left-handed, amateur and pro, were 164 pounds, 176 pounds, 198 pounds, 225 pounds and 226 pounds and up. There was also a master’s class (45 years and up, 55 years up), a women’s class for right-handed women who weigh 125 pounds, 143 pounds and women who weigh 144 pounds and up and a women’s class for left-handed women.
Japanese native and Forest Hills resident Sky Hosoya, 52, who grew up in Jackson Heights, has been a professional wrestler for more than 20 years. She decided to participate in the competition on a whim after celebrating her 52nd birthday.
After witnessing one of the competitors’ arm break, she was momentarily discouraged, but quickly overcame her fears.
“After I saw that, two guys that were there were standing next to me … they backed out,” Hosoya said. “They said, ‘No, they got canceled’ and then I got scared and wanted to cancel. I’ve been punched in the face. What’s she (competitors) going to do to my arm?”
Deer Park resident Dan Sorrese won the right-handed men’s MVP award, while Puerto Rican resident Richard Calero won the left-handed men’s MVP award.
Brooklyn resident Joyce Boon, known as the “Queen of Arms,” won the right-handed women’s MVP award, while Brooklyn resident Beulah Stevens won the left-handed women’s MVP award. The Puerto Rico team won the team award.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.