Berlin's Jonathan “Super” Squibb had his thousand-yard stare fixed early on a possible record-breaking fourth straight Wing Bowl title.
Perenial favorite Bill “El Wingador” Simmons, of Woodbury Heights, hadn’t eaten since Tuesday, he wanted the crown back so badly.
Even 50-to-1 long shot and West Deptford native John “Freak of Nature” Harker knew he had nothing to lose in .
But the South Jersey men all came up against a Japanese locust Friday morning; famed gastric gold medalist Takeru Kobayashi crushed last year’s record-setting efforts by Squibb and Simmons, downing 337 wings to take the title at SportsRadio WIP’s Wing Bowl 20 Friday.
Kobayashi praised his competitors as a strong group of eaters, and said he had his doubts as to whether he could pull off the win, despite months of training leading up to the orgy of consumption.
“It was difficult for me, because I didn’t practice by stopping in between,” he said after being crowned this year’s Wing King.
The round breaks didn’t seem to affect Kobayashi, who’s perhaps best known for winning six Nathan’s Hot Dogs eating contests in a row, as he plowed through plate after plate of chicken wings with an almost casual efficiency, in stark contrast to the bobbing, gyrating Squibb, who again seemed like a maniacal marionette, especially as the competition wore on.
The diminutive eater—at just 5-8 and 138 pounds, Kobayashi wasn’t even half the size of some of his competitors—didn’t even seem to chew, calmly stripping the meat from the bones and downing it like a boa constrictor.
That is, if a boa constrictor could swallow a wing every five seconds over the course of 30 minutes.
By the end of the first round, Kobayashi had built a 20-wing lead.
After two rounds, and with just a two-minute blitz remaining, he’d already shattered the old Wing Bowl record, and was up by 65 wings—he could’ve put up his feet and napped for last two minutes, but instead pushed his total into the stratosphere.
In the wake of the record, the locals could only give credit to Kobayashi’s superhuman effort.
“It’s not bad to be second place today,” Squibb said.
Harker, who didn’t make it to the second round to even have a shot at Kobayashi, called his effort terrible, and couldn’t hit the 100-plus wings he thought he’d need to start.
He appeared to be on a good pace and had demolished much of his fifth plate of wings before the horn sounded on Round One, but judges put him short of the total needed to advance.
“I thought I ate close to somewhere around 90,” Harker said. “I guess they disagreed.”
Simmons, likewise, was disappointed at his performance; he’d guaranteed victory, but ended up falling short of last year’s effort by a handful of wings, and had no idea what held him back.
“I just can’t explain it,” he said afterward.
Their shortcomings were lost in the buzz around the new record, though.
WIP morning host Angelo Cataldi was drunk on hyperbole as he described Kobayashi’s total before the crowning ceremony.
“The numbers you hear today will never be seen again at Wing Bowl,” Cataldi told the capacity crowd at the Wells Fargo Center. “Wow. Wow. Wow.”
That may not be entirely accurate, given Kobayashi said only a few minutes later he’s already thinking about coming back next year to put up “an even stronger number.”