South Fort Myers arm wrestler pulling for comeback

He hasn’t arm wrestled competitively for nearly three years, and today is the day he’s back in front of all his peers. wholesale jerseys This is supposed to be his triumphant comeback into the sport in which he helped build in Fort Myers seven years ago, but Ceci doesn’t feel so confident with a pinched nerve in his back.

Everything feels so new again. There’s a new league, there are new rules and there are people he’s never seen before, young stallions with muscles everywhere. About the only thing he knows well is arm wrestling.

When he steps near the table for his first match against 26 year old Maks Taubin from Tampa, he finally enters a world that’s familiar to him again. The World Armwrestling League arrived in Fort Myers as one of 100 qualifiers across the nation, part of a regional and national competition that will ultimately award a combined $500,000 of prize money for those lucky enough to win.

A second place winner from New Orleans, a former correctional officer with seemingly 285 pounds of pure brawn, is here today. So too are national and world champions, amateurs and teenagers.

Ceci is clean shaven from head to toe and is wearing a black t shirt and jeans. Taubin is wearing a cut off t shirt and has his cap backwards, a requirement for all competitors.

They hammer their elbows on the table and lock arms. The referee holds their hands together, then lets go, and within seconds it’s over.

Ceci has lost just seconds into the match.

His triumphant comeback will need to wait a little longer.

Early age

Ceci left Fort Myers nearly three years ago for New Jersey. He met a woman he fell hard for, and after six months, he decided to leave everything for New Jersey.

That everything, besides his job and his comfortable living, was arm wrestling, which he helped bring to Fort Myers in 2008. There was a local club, the Southwest Florida Armsport Club, which met Thursdays at a bar named RonDao’s.

And there were local tournaments, Grip and Hits, which by the end were offering winnings as much as $1,000.

But mostly, it was the love of “pulling,” which he first learned at the age of 13 from his father, who was in and out of his life before his mother, Jane, raised him as a single parent.

“He’s flexing. And he puts his arm up on the table,” Ceci said. “And my coach is saying, ‘On the go!’ And the referee drops and I’m on the go. And then there’s silence.”

Ceci moved to Fort Myers a month before Sept. 11, 2001, along with his mother and made it his home for over a decade before his exit nearly three years ago.

After moving back to his native New York, one of Ceci’s club members, Jesse Gonzalez, took over the club and began to step in as the area’s new tournament director. Before Saturday, the 40 year old Gonzalez has held tournaments in Cape Coral and Clearwater.Brandon Morris arm wrestles Ray Hennerichs, left, of Denham Springs, La., in a super match at the WAL Qualifier at Sidelines Sports Bar and Grill in Fort Myers on Saturday, April 18, 2015. (Photo: Amanda Inscore/The News Press)

“It’s gotten to now to where the WAL has sparked everyone’s interest,” Gonzalez said, “So why not? If you do what you like , then why wouldn’t you do it?”

Back at it

Ceci steps to the table again. Once again, he’s facing a pile of muscles. cheapnflauthenticjerseys He pits his hand against 25 year old Devin Lee Brown from Dade City. This time his nerves are a little less tense.

As the match begins, it’s evident Ceci has learned from his first loss. He gives ground to Brown, who’s taller and has more leverage, but fights back, twisting and leaning back with a top roll, a tactical maneuver which levels the playing field.

Gonzalez, who’s doubling as the event’s play by play guy, lets out a huge yelp.

“We’ve got a match here, folks!”

Ceci fights his way almost at even before Brown, who’s still and paced, strikes with one blow over the top.