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Arm Wrestlers Do Battle of the Biceps at NYC Big Apple Grapple

By Dylan Butler | April 29, 2013 8:40am

FLUSHING — Mike Ayello has a lot of titles.

The 35-year-old from Deer Park, Long Island, is a New York City firefighter at Ladder 135 in Glendale, Queens, he’s Mr. September in the 2013 New York City Firefighters Calendar, and he is also known as Long Island's Strongest Man.

And on Saturday, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound tattooed behemoth earned the title of New York City King of Arms at the 36th annual NYC Big Apple Grapple International Arm Wrestling championships at Cheap Shots Bar.

Ayello said he played baseball and basketball in high school — but he was a lot smaller then.

“I grew too late in life,” he explained. “I’m a late bloomer.”

Ayello said he’s been arm wrestling for about five years. It started with beating fellow bouncers at bars around the city and then continued in amateur contests where he went undefeated.

“It’s great. It’s like the ultimate one-on-one, I’m bigger, I’m stronger than you,” Ayello said. “It’s an awesome sport.”

Ayello said he even tried to have a competition at the firehouse once, but quickly thought better of the idea.

“I brought a table to the firehouse, but I said before everyone starts snapping their arms, let me get this thing out of here,” he said.

While Ayello is a relative newcomer to arm wrestling, Mike Selearis has been traveling the circuit since he was 16. Now 38, he is probably the toughest high school chemistry teacher in the country.

“There’s so many sports out there — basketball, baseball, football. You’ve got equipment, you’ve got a field,” Selearis said. “In arm wrestling, you take all the equipment away, you take the field away, and it’s one arm versus one arm.”

The Elmhurst, Queens, native, who teaches at Wilbur Cross High in New Haven, Conn., acquitted himself well Saturday.

“I went undefeated,” he said. “I dominated my weight class with ease.”

The same was true of Oleh Frankivskyy, a 21-year-old native of the Ukraine who lives in Brooklyn. The butcher — his profession, not his nickname — won titles both as a left-hander and a right-hander Saturday.

“I’m happy that I beat everyone and I took first place,” Frankivskyy said. “I think I deserve it because I’ve been training hard for a lot of years. I’m probably going to go to the national tournament, so I’m going to do my best.”

Ana Kenah was named Queen of Arms after the 28-year-old from Jersey City, N.J., retained her left-handed title, but also beat longtime nemesis Joyce Boone for the right-handed crown.

“Joyce is a fierce competitor, so I’ve had to train a lot to be able to beat her,” Kenah said. “It’s taken a lot of work and a lot of effort.”

Kenah, who builds timber frames and, in the summer, drives cattle in the West, said she arm wrestled for fun in middle school and for a little more as a rugby-playing student at Humboldt State University in Northern California.

“I was a thirsty college student, so I would arm wrestle for beers,” Kenah said.

On Saturday, though, beer wasn’t her driving force.

“I’m so stoked,” Kenah said. “I’ve had the left-handed [title] for a while, but it’s irked me that I’m always second in righty. Unfortunately in this sport, the right is what counts. I’m so happy to win.”