Staples SLOBS no slouches as arm-wrestling record is smacked down

March 20, 2011

At least one Staples High School student was strong-armed by a female teacher Friday afternoon, but it never made the police blotter. That’s because the male teen was one of 214 people who helped the school set a Guinness world record for the largest-ever simultaneous arm-wrestling event.

“I brought everything I had,” said Serena Tirado, a young biology teacher dressed more appropriately for a lecture than for physical competition.

Tirado, one of the last to arrive for the event, initially said she just wanted to take a shot at making history.

The previous record for a simultaneous arm-wrestling stunt was set by 206 people in 2008. The group, which staged the event next to the River Thames in London, included by males and females. Even though more wrestlers answered the Staples call to arms, the record won’t be official until representatives for the Guinness Book of World Records review the evidence.

Friday’s event was organized by the Service League of Boys (SLOBs), a community-service group of Staples students who, with their parents, raise funds for non-profit organizations and also help Westport neighbors in need.

The wrestle-a-thon was joined at 2:30 p.m. Friday as hands locked. Most matches were over in seconds. However, a pair of wrestlers here and there engaged in prolonged struggles.

Seventeen-year-old Jake Krosse had a match that lingered a little longer than expected with Caroline O’Brien.

“I just wanted to keep holding her hand,” he said. Krosse joked that after emerging victorious in the end, his dad “will finally accept me for who I am.”

Asked what that is, he responded, “An arm-wrestling world champion.”

At a table filled with Staples faculty, a more serious competition unfolded. It was a battle of Daves, but Dave Dubois, who works security at Staples, and Dave Gusitsch, a physical education teacher, ended in a stalemate. They were still giving it their all when time ran out.

The 214 tally wasn’t official, at least when certified by the adults given oversight authority, until 2:54 p.m. The number of participants at first appeared to be 215, but then a parent who had a ticket said she hadn’t actually wrestled.

However, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, former high jump Olympian Ann Marie Flynn and Velma Heller, a Sacred Heart University professor and member of the Representative Town Meeting, the contest adjudicators, said there wasn’t a single person sitting who didn’t compete.

The likely record might not have been achieved if the sporting community hadn’t lent its support. Staples football coach Marce Petroccio had his athletes take part, forgoing a weightlifting session. Petroccio said the football team accounts for roughly 35 to 40 students.

“This is something we wanted to do to support our teammate (Ben Platt, a member of SLOBs) and support a good cause,” said Petroccio.

Wrestling coach Kevin Lippert also instructed his team to lend a hand, or hands, to the fundraiser.

Some SLOBs parents also helped beat the record. In one matchup of SLOBs moms, Ann Marie Massi took on Sue Colasurdo. Asked how she prepared for the event, Colasurdo said, “Spring training in Florida” last week.

“It was spring training. It wasn’t a vacation,” she joked.

While it was a fun event, there were specific rules for the arm wrestlers. Included were: each participant places one arm on a surface with elbows bent and touching the surface; each competitor’s shoulders must be square to the table before the match starts, and a competitor’s shoulders may not be less than a fist distance away from their hands at the start. In addition to adjudicators, there were also judges/supervisors monitoring groups of 50 combatants.

Ben Lewin, a 16-year-old junior who took on the more slender Hamza Khan, joked before the match, “This is bullying, except in arm wrestling, organized.”

Olivia Kalb defeated Charlotte Piekara even though before the match, the smaller Piekara said she had “faith in my ability.” However, faith can only carry you so far, especially when you’re wrestling with your weak arm. Piekara had a sprained right thumb, according to her mother Terri. She was even wearing a thumb brace.

Suzanne Kalb, a SLOBS founder, said that even if a record wasn’t broken, the SLOBs event still would have been a success, because “our boys took the initiative, had meetings, strategized, did marketing.”

“They took charge,” she said. “We’re thrilled that it worked. That is the success for us, that our boys pulled this off.”

As one dad put it, “Staples High School just produced 214 new world champions.”

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