NORTH CENTER — For a second year in row, girls rule when it comes to eating ribs.
Miki Sudo, who won last year's competition, came out on top again, downing nearly five pounds of ribs in the eight-minute contest.
And just like last year, Michelle "Cardboard Shell" Lesco finished second behind Sudo.
Sudo, who joined the competitive eating circuit in April 2013, said RibMania was the first competition she won as a professional.
"It kind of holds a special place in my heart," she said. "It's great to be back this year. Everything keeps getting better, and to win two years in a row is just icing on the cake."
Six professionals from the Major League Eating circuit and two amateurs competed at the fifth installment of RibMania Friday. One person dropped out just before the competition, so professional and Chicago native Juan "More Bite" Rodriguez recruited his sister, Nicole Rodriguez, to fill the final spot.
The two competed side-by-side, but Juan Rodriguez said afterwards they supported each other.
"I think I helped her, and she started yelling at me in the final minute or so to pick up the slack," he said.
Nicole Rodriguez jokingly agreed.
"I told him, 'Miki's not cleaning them bones off enough, you better kick it up!'" she said, playing jabbing the two-time champ.
Sudo said Major League Eating has its rivalries and "little spats," but mostly, it's just plain fun.
"For the most part, we're one big dysfunctional family," she said. "I liken the competitive eating circuit to a modern-day circus."
Sudo took home $2,000 and a trophy Friday, and Lesco won $800 for second place.
Sean "Two Dollar" Nichols, the other amateur who earned a spot to compete by winning an eating contest Thursday night, also took home some money after he came in sixth place Friday. The Green Bay resident, who claims he is actually an "anti-Packers fan," traveled to Chicago solely for the competition.
Despite his amateur status, Nichols said he's no stranger to competitive eating.
"I've done wings, hot dogs, burgers, pizzas, roast beef, corned beef, bunch of stuff," he said.
There's a technique to eating ribs quickly, Nichols said. He prefers to rip the meat off the bone first, and then eat. On Thursday night, the ribs were too burnt to do that, Nichols said, but on Friday, competitors only had good things to say about the ribs.
The St. Louis-style ribs were provided by Westmont's Uncle Bub's BBQ, which won "Best Ribs" at the fest in 2013. Owner Mark Link said he cooked up 100 pounds of ribs for the competition.
Link said he got a call from one of the competitors earlier this week. Last year, there were some complaints the ribs were cold and too tough.
"I said, 'Listen, if it's coming from me, I'm not going to give you a bad product," Link said. "They're gonna be tender. They're gonna be hot, and you're gonna love them."
On top of quality ribs, Sudo said RibMania is "just a great time" in general. And the petite Sudo said she plans to be back next year to defend her title.
"Absolutely," she said. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
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