PHILADELPHIA — What goes better with chicken wings at 8 a.m. than, well, more chicken wings?
At least that was the case for 28 people with iron stomachs as they participated in Wing Bowl 22 bright and early at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, including Avondale native Monty Wiradilaga.
Wiradilaga got his start in competitive eating at this year’s Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, where he was crowned the champion.
“I’ve lived in Kennett Square all my life and they were having a contest and I thought I’d do it,” Wiradilaga said. “My wife said, ‘go for it’ and I won. I always do crazy things and I figured why not try the Wing Bowl?”
He sent along his story and qualified with his stunt of eating 3 pounds of Brussels sprouts and fried mushrooms and soon found himself standing on the floor level of the Wells Fargo Center to compete in Philadelphia’s biggest eating contest.
“I was so happy my friends were here supporting me and it was just great,” Wiradilaga said. “It reminded me of coming (in the parade) to Wrestlemania. It was unbelievable looking around at people going crazy.”
Once the contest began, it was all business as he went up against some tough competitors in defending-champion James McDonald and even Jason Kelce, center for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he didn’t let it phase him and kept to his strategy.
“Wings first because I could do that with one bite and pull off everything and I just spun the drumsticks,” Wiradilaga said. “I was eating them and by probably the 60th wing, it tasted like cardboard. It was just disgusting.”
Wiradilaga, coming into the morning with 60-1 odds to win and 12-1 as a local winner, unfortunately was unable to advance to the second round, but was still in good spirits over how he did and the excitement of the day.
Results of the 18 participants who did not make it through were not released and even Wiradilaga was unaware of his final count, though he knows he was close to breaking into the next round.
“I was looking (at the tally sheet), and I was very close to the top 10,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t win, to be honest. I was going for top local eater and that would have been awesome, but next year I’ll train more and I’ll know what to do. Next year, I’m going for top 10.”
The competition had another two rounds and in the end, a woman claimed the win and smashed the record along the way by eating 363 wings — far surpassing the 337 mark set in 2012 by Takeru Kobayashi.
Molly Schuyler, a military wife from Omaha, Neb., joined Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas in 2004 as the lone ladies to claim the title.
Once all was said and done and Wiradilaga was able to give his stomach a rest, he found he could have kept going.
“I’m actually not feeling that bad,” he said. “You would think after almost 100 wings you would just feel horrible. I think I felt worse at the Mushroom Festival. I definitely could have eaten more. I could have eaten another 50 wings and felt OK.”
Now that it’s all over, Wiradilaga will stop his binge eating, which he did in preparation, and said he’s going on a diet. But since it was still morning, did he have room for breakfast?
“No, no,” he said. “I will probably just have some drinks to celebrate.”