Armed and ready
to grapple


Dozens of the world's best arm wrestlers went mano a mano yesterday in the Big Apple Grapple.

Hands-down, the big winner was burly Mamuka Pajishvili , a 27-year-old native of the republic of Georgia.

"I'm stronger," growled Pajishvilli, who took home this year's "King of Arms" title.

The 28th annual contest, sponsored by the New York Arm Wrestling Association, drew more than 70 competitors to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum.

"This event draws the best pro talent in the world," association President Gene Camp said of the round robin competition. "This is the marathon of arm-wrestling."

Most competitors said their training centers on strengthening their wrists through curls and pull-ups.

But it's not only about strength, they insist.

"It's not just the guy with the biggest arms," said Michael Selearis, 29, a grapple referee. "It's mental and physical."

And it's not just guys.

Selearis, a high school chemistry teacher at Queens Gateway to Health Sciences School, has recruited several of his students.

"I'm stronger than a lot of boys," boasted Mirline Berrouet, 17, of South Ozone Park, who took second place in the women's lightweight competition.

"Train? I mostly just watch others to learn," Mirline said, adding that she stays in shape playing pickup basketball, volleyball and football with the boys.

Another Queens champ - Pat Baffa, who nabbed third place in the 175-pound left-hand class - said he was back after several years' absence.

"I play Bach and Mozart - that is what I really love to do," said Baffa, 21, a plumber and amateur pianist. "I'm good with my hands - I guess this is my macho side."

Originally published on March 20, 2005


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