LAS VEGAS – If there's a given in a sport that involves the stomach, it is the upset.
Spiky-haired Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti turned the world of competitive eating on its head by beating champion Joey Chestnut and holding off a comeback by Takeru Kobayashi to win the chicken wing "Chowdown" for Spike TV on Tuesday.
Wriggling his body and gnashing his teeth, the 22-year-old downed 4.1 pounds of chicken meat in eight minutes flat in front of a cheering crowd in downtown Las Vegas to win the $25,000 top prize. Chestnut wolfed 4.05 pounds for second while Kobayashi came third for inhaling 3.12 pounds.
"I knew whoever had the best day today would win," Bertoletti said. "I guess I just had the best day."
Bertoletti, who came into the event ranked 3rd by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, said he used his thumb to squish meat off the bone for speedy ingestion, using the "umbrella technique," and credited the Buffalo Wild Wings staff for preparing a tasty meal.
"They were warm enough and they were soft enough. They had the perfect amount of sauce on them," he said. "It was perfect."
Top-ranked Chestnut, 23, in his first cheek-to-jowl matchup against No. 2 Kobayashi since wresting Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog eating crown from the Japanese eating machine three months ago, said the loss left a bad taste in his mouth.
"It's bittersweet," said Chestnut. "I beat Kobayashi, but I didn't win."
"I've got to go in hungrier next time," he said.
Kobayashi was the six-time Nathan's champ from 2001 to 2006 and came into the contest nursing a sore jaw. While he downed wings like a cartoon character eating corn on the cob, the 29-year-old from Nagano, Japan, said he was more tentative than usual.
"At first, I was a little worried about my jaw, so I ate scared," he said. "Halfway through I got more excited and ate faster, but there wasn't much time."
On the gastronomic undercard, Tim "Gravy" Brown won the potato wedge-eating contest, stuffing down 3.74 pounds of starch with his secret weapon — nacho cheese sauce for dipping.
Despite the apt-sounding nickname, "Gravy" comes from his perpetual runny nose during eat-offs.
"It doesn't matter what it is, snot, water, you've just got to shove it down," Brown said.