For the Win(g)
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Ray Scuderi, a senior chemical engineering major, smirked to the crowd. His hot sauce-covered smile and empty plate were evidence of his victory. He had just taken first place in the first College Cup wing-eating contest, part of the 11th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival at Coca-Cola Field.
Scuderi was the first to polish off 25 wings, beating out competitors from Erie County Community College, Buffalo State College, D’Youville College, St. Bonaventure University, SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Delhi.
UB took first, third and fourth place while St. Bonaventure took home the second place award.
Third place was awarded to Drew Zahralban, a sophomore actuary science major, and fourth place to Vincent Buttimer, a senior mechanical and aerospace engineering major. The two were part of a three-man team of students from UB’s True Blue club, which also included Cody Breite, a senior geology major.
UB coaches Reggie Witherspoon, Jim Kwitchoff and Felisha Legette-Jack led the True Blue team. Usually they are in the business of basketball. But this past Sunday, the three headed to Coca-Cola Field to put their leadership to the test in a different sort of venue: the world of competitive eating.
“There are not a lot of opportunities to represent the whole university,” Witherspoon said. “This is one.”
The three coaches stayed on stage during the competition, encouraging all the UB students to “dive into the plate and just keep eating” as Legette-Jack said.
“It’s our job to motivate them, to keep them laughing,” Legette-Jack said. “We have to keep this True Blue. This is our city. Our name is in the contest’s name. We have to win.”
And UB did win. But the university’s wing-eating champion never even intended to participate in the event.
According to Scuderi, his roommate from the previous year entered him in the contest, and Scuderi only found out when a festival representative called him to confirm. Scuderi has never even been to the wing festival before – neither had his two teammates. They all agreed they were “doing it for the Bulls.”
“He [entered my name] because I’d eaten two garbage plates in one night,” Scuderi said. “He thought I could handle the wings. I was in somewhat of a coma after that. The wings were much easier.”
The wings eaten during the contest, provided by RuChDa Wings in Georgia, were only prepared to be medium hot. And while Scuderi likes the heat, especially the hot wings from local Duff’s Famous Wings, some of his UB colleagues were grateful the wings weren’t too spicy.
“I like to eat a lot of mild wings,” Buttimer said. “I can only eat like 10 spicy wings but I can eat 30 mild.”
Zahralban agreed, stating that he likes the mild wings better because he really likes the flavor of the sauce, and he thinks there’s more flavor in the milder wings, while hot wings just burn.
Breite’s favorite wings are spicy barbecue.
George Shea, the founder and CEO of Major League Eating, pegged Lauren Masset, an early childhood education major from Buffalo State to win, noting, “slender eaters have an advantage.”
Drew Cerza, the festival founder, took the opposite tack, and cheered on the D’Youville tennis player, Robert Amabile, who’s from Cerza’s alma mater.
The crowd cheered the loudest for Masset. As the only female to accept the challenge, she was the darling of the competition. Dennis George, known as the Quizmaster, called Masset a “chicken-eating chipmunk” and even Legette-Jack was cheering for Masset at points, in what can only be called a display of female solidarity.
Though Masset had a good start, both she and Amabile fell to Scuderi in the end. Shea credits Scuderi’s win to having made sure all the wings were completely stripped of chicken, so as to not accrue penalty points.
Also on the schedule for the day was the Competitive Wing Eating Competition, a professional eating contest sanctioned by Major League Eating. The contest is one of approximately 80 events held annually.
Sonya Thomas, a six-time champion, attempted to fend off challenges to her title. Ultimately, she placed second, ahead of Juliet Lee, who ate 5.63 pounds of wings in 12 minutes, but behind Joey Chestnut’s 7.61 pounds of wings. Chestnut’s win was a new world record, the weight equivalent to 191 wings. Thomas consumed 6.36 pounds in the allotted time.
Chestnut is also the current world-record holder in another famous New York competitive eating event: the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Buns contest, held every July 4at Coney Island.