The ‘Rockaway Flash’ Crowned Strongest Arm
The 'Rockaway Flash'
Crowned Strongest Arm
Rockaway resident Sean Ringgold, 6'5" and 280 pounds, was billed as The "Rockaway Flash" for his uncanny ability to 'flash pin' (win in a second) against all comers in both the right and left hand Super Heavy Weight Empire State Championships on October 10.
This is NYC's oldest and most prestigious amateur contest of its kind. The Empire State 'Golden Arm' Tournament of Champions XXV was held at the Empire State Building Observatory's sky lobby, marking a twenty-fifth anniversary. Major World Used Car Superstore was the proud sponsor of the Empire State Finals.
Ringgold put on an impressive display of brute strength in the deciding matches when technique most time carries more weight. The employee of BET (Black Entertainment Television) was further crowned with the "Arm-Star Award" for winning with both arms, and then he took on all first place winners and captured the days Strongest Man - MVP Award.
Earlier this summer, Ringgold qualified for this event because he entered and won the 'Queensboro' Championship, which is one of the 10 preliminary events held for men and women in each of the five NYC boroughs, Long Island (LI) and Upstate New York as part of the New York 'Golden Arm' Series sponsored by the New York Arm Wrestling Association (NYAWA).
At the finals Ringgold was challenged as a leftie by second place finisher Edwin Safarian of Bayside, a Hunter College student and last year's 200 pounds and under Empire State Champion. Dan Fortuna of the "Amazing Fortuna Arm-Wrestling Family" from Wading River, LI took third. Fortuna's wife Dina and daughter Amanda were also medal winners.
In the right-handed Super Heavy Championship it was Eric Russell of Wappinger Falls, NY, taking second place and Krysztof Perka of Ridgewood, Queens, who took third to Ringgold.
In the 200-pound heavyweight class, Dan Sorrese of West Islip, LI, a multi-borough champion of the preliminary tournaments and former MVP overcame Safarian, who ended in second place once again, with Greg Gavin of West Islip, LI in third. Gavin, a favorite who was expected to win, fell short today in his matches. But in acknowledgment of his all-around competitive finesse in events throughout the year, he was awarded with the NYAWA's NYC "Arm Wrestler of the Year" award.
In the 175-pound middleweight class, Patrick Baffa of Whitestone, Queens, a nine-time borough champion, bested Tony Kaiser of Plainfield, CT, a top competitor who took second, and Harry Wilson of Brooklyn was third. Wilson is a seventeen time Borough Champion and was last year's Arm Wrestler of the Year.
Wilson, who often dominated past events in the 150-pound class, was edged out by 3 pounds into the 175-pound class to go up against unfamiliar and bigger men and to take third place. In the 175-pound left-handed contest, Richard Calero of the Bronx, a personal trainer and Bronx Team captain, was able to beat both Kaiser and Wilson, who again ranked second and third.
In the 150-pound class, Dan White of Staten Island, named "Blue Thunder" by his admirers, had to struggle, but prevailed over James Rought of Laceyville, PA, second place winner, and Steve Zannikus, a Manhattan restaurant owner, who was third.
In the lightest 132-pound class, 16-year old Gabriel Yak, who attends Flushing High School, made fast work of the field, leaving Chris Sciarappa of Seymour, CT in second place and Floyd Ryder of Bristol, CT in third. Yak was the NYAWA's NYC Junior Arm Wrestling Champion this year. The NYC Junior Team Champions from Newtown High School in Queens also competed, but went home disappointed without anyone winning a medal.
Dina Fortuna, who with her family is building an arm wrestling dynasty, was named the female MVP, after defeating Carrie Wilson of Milford, CT (second place) and Kim Dykstra of Brooklyn (third) in the open weight class. Then Fortuna went on to beat Christine Scheurich, a one-time 11 years in a row NYC Champion and long-time dominating presence, which had only competed twice in the past two years. Sheurich was off her best form but still prevailed in the lighter 135-pound women's class against Dina's daughter Amanda, another arm wrestling star who won seven championships in the last two years. Amanda had to settle for second place and Melanie Ovalles of the Bronx third place.
In the Masters Men's Class (age 45 and over), NYC Parks Department employee Michael Degraffenreid of Ozone Park defeated Bob Spieler of Brooklyn and Augustin Gonzalez of the Bronx, who were second and third place winners. Gonzalez, at age 75 was Masters Class Queens Borough Champion this year by outlasting younger men in the 60 plus age category.
Queens won the Team Award title again in a landslide, when points for each of the individual contest winners were tallied by place of residence. Long Island came in second, and the Bronx third.
For all titles, a 3-inch Olympic style medal was awarded, and plaques were given for the special honors. Major World's President Bruce Bendell was delayed in traffic and couldn't present the awards as planned.
Gene Camp, founder and president of the 25-year old NYAWA, described the Finals as "One of the best events ever and displaying the flash and individualism of very diverse competitors who are always surprising us with major upsets."
The NYAWA will hold the NYC Big Apple Grapple XXVI ALL PRO Championships on Saturday, March 22, 2003, at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. This event will feature NYC's King and Queen of Arms and the best pro arm wrestlers in the world. Prospective sponsors and venues for all 2003 events are invited to contact NYAWA at (718) 544-4592 or www.NewYorkArmWrestling.com.