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— When Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas and Aaron “A-Train” Osthoff take the stage in the Chili’s of Jacksonville Wing-Eating Championship at Saturday’s annual Wing Ding Festival, it will be a battle of champions.

Thomas and Osthoff will be amongseveral competitors with ties to Major League Eating taking part in the contest. Thomas is the U.S. wing-eating champ while Osthoff recently claimed the Canadian title.

The Major League Eaters are scheduled to participate in the wingeating contest at 1 p.m. Saturday at Dupree Park. Thomas and Osthoffwill battle for the championship in a 12-minute all-you-can-eat style contest for a $3,000 purse. The competition is sanctioned by Major League Eating in New York, N.Y., which is the governing body of eating sporting events.

Thomas may only weigh in at 105 pounds, but that didn’t stop her from eating almost 7 pounds, or 183 wings, in 12 minutes at the Buffalo WingFestival and 5 3/4 pounds of Buffalo chicken wings in 10 minutes on Sept. 4 in Buffalo, N.Y., which earned her the U.S. wing-eating championship title. She is currently ranked as the No. 5 eater in the world.

“Sonya is certainly one of the top eaters in the world, and hands down, the top female,” said Mike Antolini, head of operations at Major League Eating in New York.

Having shown up on the eating scene in 2009, Osthoff is still new to the profession. He is currently ranked as the No. 17 eaterin the U.S.; however, he captured the Canadian wing-eating title in July.

“My preparation for a contest is mostly mental,” Osthoff said. “The week leading up, I spend lots of time - probably too much time - visualizing how I expect to perform. One day during the week leading up, I will practice with the contest food. For wings, that will entail me ordering a dozen wings at a local restaurant and reviewing my technique.”

Osthoff said he doesn’t plan on letting Thomas win.

“Sonya is the best wing-eaterin the world, and I look forward to the challenge,” he said. “I’m not traveling all the way to Arkansas to concede and be content with a second-place finish. I’ll be bringing my A game and looking for the upset. No matter what happens, I guarantee a great show for the Wing Ding Festival crowd.”

Also expected to compete is Rookie of the Year Adrian Morgan of Baton Rouge among others.

Prior to the professional competition, there will be an eating competition featuringlocal celebrities as contestants at 12:15.

“So far, we have D.C. and Pool Boy (from Alice 107.7) and [Jacksonville Police] Chief Gary Sipes,” said Amy Mattison, CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Contestants who place first, second and third in the celebrity chicken-wing challenge will have money donated in their names to a charity of their choice.

“We are still taking applications for any local celebrities who would want to have money donated to theircharity,” Mattison said.

The festival will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a fishing derby and the Peace, Love & Run 5K to benefit Special Olympics Arkansas. Throughout the day, there will be a volleyball tournament, food, children’s activities, paddle-boat rides and musical entertainment.

For more information, visit the chamber’s website at www.jacksonville-arkansas.com.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or [email protected].

Three Rivers, Pages 51 on 09/29/2011

Print Headline: U.S., Canadian wing-eating champs face off at Wing Ding

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