SPORTS / Trying to Win, Hands Down
BY: William Hernandez. William Hernandez is a freelance writer.
SECTION: QueensLife
DATE: 03-25-2001

WHILE ARM WRESTLING is becoming more of a professional sport and even is being promoted for entry in the Olympics, there's still hope for those who can't wait that long.

The New York Tendons, New York City's professional arm wrestling team, will host the second Big Apple Grapple on Thursday at the World Trade Center observatory in Manhattan, starting at 1 p.m.

The international event will include arm wrestlers from across the United States, India and Turkey. One highlight will be 47-year-old Cynthia Yerby, who is this year's Queen of Arms for the State of New York. Ironically, she lives in Wolf, Okla. She bested three-year defending champ Jayme Fernandez of Sayville for the crown in March 2000.

The amateur half of the Big Apple Grapple takes place April 3 at the High Tech Broadway City Arcade on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Big Apple Grapple winners will be eligible to compete in the annual Golden Arms Series finals Oct. 11 at the Port Authority Bus Terminal
While not possessing an international flair, a number of Public Schools Athletic League athletes got their first taste of competition Feb. 15 when Newtown High School hosted the inaugural New York City Junior Arm Wrestling Championships. The event was sponsored by the New York City Arm Wrestling Association.

More than 25 boys and girls from Queens, Long Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx competed in the one-day event.

Arm wrestling, one of the oldest forms of competition, needs no special equipment; just two people will do. Athletic ability is not a requirement, but some forearm strength and healthy wrists help.

Seventeen-year-old Monica Pahl, a Newtown High School student, decided it would be a good idea to try her hand. She already spreads her athletic talents among Newtown's basketball, volleyball and softball teams.

"I was very nervous when I saw all these people from different schools," she said about walking into the gym filled with competitors. Pahl didn't let nerves hinder her concentration as she breezed through the competition, earning top honors in the girls division, including being named girls MVP.

This won't be the last time that Pahl will arm wrestle. "I'll continue doing it if it's in a tournament," she said. "It's got to be for real."

So what do you have to have to be a good arm wrestler? Not much, says Frank Malis, director of referees. But the little that is required is hard to come by.

"With most of the amateurs, it's strength," Malis said. "But with the professionals, it's technique and strength."

Though there were no professionals participating in this event, there were a few teenagers who have the potential to become professionals.
Anthony Conigliaro, 17, is no stranger to arm wrestling contests. The Francis Lewis High School senior won the Queensborough competition last year.

"I've been competing with just my friends since junior high school," said Conigliaro, who said he is far from being a master of the sport. "But this is like my second real competition."

He might have had more experience than others at the meet, but Conigliaro said that walking into the gym wasn't easy for him, either.
"Sometimes when you come in and the guy has a really strong grip," Conigliaro said. "It's kind of intimidating right here now, but it all comes down to forearm muscle."

It wouldn't be unusual to have a skinny teenager come in and defeat a bulked-up one.

Conigliaro has seen this happen on numerous occasions. "The skinny guys just sometimes destroy the bigger guys; it's just a matter of training," he said-training and an enormous amount of forearm strength.

For more information about these events, call association founder and president Gene Camp at 718-544-4592 or visit

William Hernandez is a freelance writer.
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© Copyright 2001, Newsday Inc.
William Hernandez. William Hernandez is a freelance writer., SPORTS / Trying to Win, Hands Down, 03-25-2001, pp G10.