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Photo by Christina Santucci
By Karen Frantz

A number of brawny men and women turned out at Cheap Shots Sports Bar in Kew Gardens Hills to compete in the city’s premiere arm wrestling championships Saturday, many of them seeking the thrill of besting an opponent using nothing but sheer will — and upper body strength, of course.

“It’s one man against one man,” said competitor Anthony Loria from Long Island who trains in the borough. “It’s a healthy hobby: no steroids required.”

The Big Apple Grapple International Arm Wrestling Championship brought together pros and beginners alike to the bar, at 149-05 Union Turnpike, where the mood during the several-hour event was spirited, with beer-swilling onlookers cheering on sweat-drenched competitors.

Some of the matches were over almost as quickly as they began, with the winners seemingly effortlessly forcing their opponents’ knuckles to the wooden table top. Others stretched on, neither arm budging while muscles trembled and veins bulged.

In the later of these scenarios, the emcee would shout, “Unbelievable!”

Lasha Krikheli, of Rego Park, was a right-handed amateur competitor in the 176-pound weight class. He said the championship was his first time competing after years of arm wrestling with friends for fun.

“It’s always been a hobby,” he said. “It’s a good way to release stress.”

He added that he loved the sportsmanship of the game and that a match could be settled quickly, unlike in other sports.

He said he learned about the competition only two weeks ago and decided to sign up.

“I figured why not give it a shot,” he said. “I think it’s pretty exciting.”

He ended up taking the third-place prize in his category.

Several other people from the borough also took home prizes in a championship that drew competitors from as far away as Ukraine and Hungary.

Patrick Baffa, of Whitestone, and Jason Vale, of Queens Village, took home second place prizes in right-handed pro divisions.

The top three prize-winners in the 199-pound, left-hand pro division were also all from Queens. Mike Selearis, of Elmhurst, took first place; James Sismanglou, of Astoria, took second; and Chris Tsintavis, of Bayside, took third.

Selearis also won the Left Hand Overall MVP Award for the best left-handed competitor across all divisions.

In a particularly heated moment, he also decided to take on the NYC King of Arms Right Hand MVP winner, Mike Ayello, of Deer Park, L.I.

“We’ve got a tense match here,” the emcee said, as Selearis and Ayello were having difficulty wrenching their hands into position and Selearis continued to move his elbow off the table.

Eventually, Selearis forced Ayello’s hands onto the table, then pumped his fist in supposed victory.

“Yeah!” he yelled.

But the refs ultimately determined that his elbow was off the table and Ayello kept the right-handed overall title.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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