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Monday, June 13, 2011



The first Lehigh Valley Wing Challenge at Buckeye Tavern drew a track star, a three-time wing-eating champion and a guy who once got thrown out of a Chinese buffet.
But the last man standing Sunday afternoon turned out to be a 50-year-old business development director of an accounting firm. Martin "Rooster Hogburn" Russo downed 170 wings, snatching the title by three wings.
A first-time competitive eater, Russo was the only one in the contest to stand as he cleaned the wings to the bone with one bite.

"I didn't really have plan," said Russo of South Whitehall Township. "It was just go."
Russo was one of 21 contestants who competed in the event at the Lower Macungie Township tavern. The proceeds from the tavern event at 3741 Brookside Road will go to the Lower Macungie Township Fire Department and Lower Macungie's Bethany United Methodist Church.
Judging the event were local celebrity judges Congressman Charlie Dent, state Rep. Jennifer Mann and attorney Jay Scherline — plus former Eagles great Bill Bergey, Flyers hockey legend Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, champion cyclist Marty Nothstein and WWE's Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake.
Between the three rounds of eating, the crowd of about 200 was entertained by a woman who stuck a flaming sword down her throat and Bill "El Wingador" Simmons, five-time champ of radio station WIP's annual Wing Bowl in Philadelphia. Simmons ate 32 meatballs in a minute — three more than the record set in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The crowd circulated among sponsors' booths and browsed a silent auction as they waited to cheer on their favorite wing eater.
Meghan Bleiler came with her two sons to cheer on their dad, Derek. Bleiler said her husband was planning to rely on his muscle memory from college days when he would go to "wing night" and once was asked to leave a Chinese buffet because he was eating too much.
He didn't make it to the second round.
The only woman in the wing contest, Devon "Musashi" Sonne, didn't make it past the first round either, eating just over 60 wings. She knew her mistake right away.
"I ate too much of the wings," said Sonne of Easton. "The guy sitting next to me ate one bite out of each wing. I cleaned it to the bone."
After the food settled in the second round, some competitors were having tummy troubles.
Justin "The Jester" Vernon won the first 14-minute round by eating 132 wings, but part of the way through the round, he shut his lips tightly as he resisted the urge to vomit. His stomach beat him.
"The wings were too dry," said Vernon, a Kunkletown man who won the area's Big Woody's wing challenge three years in a row. "It was like trying to swallow cement. I couldn't get it down, and you don't want to drink too much water."
Sitting aside of beside Vernon was David "The Polish Bear" Budinas, who actually stopped eating for a few moments during the second round because he feared he would vomit. An Ironton Elementary School teacher, Budinas said his goal was not to barf in front of his students and principal who came to watch.
"It was quite disturbing," said Budinas of Schnecksville. "It felt like I was another step closer to the edge."
Budinas kept it down, but he didn't make it to the final two-minute round when Russo, who ate 108 wings the first round, finished strong with a crowd cheering him on.
Dent smiled when Russo was handed the trophy, appropriately adorned with a rooster.
"Pure athlete," Dent mused.
Then, the congressman went to congratulate the winner.


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