Two men, four dogs, one champion.
The inaugural Helmreich House Hot Dog Eating Contest ended in a tie Saturday afternoon, forcing an electrifying overtime period from which a winner emerged, much to the delight of dozens of raucous students gathered in the residence’s living room.
After 18 competitors—15 men and three women—faced off during a ten-minute contest, Grady Hayes ’22 and J.J. Bussgang ’22 were left tied at 10 wieners apiece.
Since Helmreich House Chair and event organizer Dylan Sloan ’22 had not anticipated a dead heat, he came up with a tiebreaker on the spot. The hot dog crown, Sloan announced, would go to the man who could consume two additional dogs the fastest.
Hayes, who selected “Black Hole” as his nickname for the contest, subsequently eked out a win over Bussgang. Hayes wolfed down the extra dogs in about 45 seconds, flashing his tongue to prove he had finished eating just seconds before his opponent.
Hayes was so desperate to win that he tried to regurgitate before the overtime commenced. His attempt failed, however.
“I just got that drive, when I saw the two hot dogs in front of me, I was like ‘This is what I gotta do,’” Hayes said. “And I just pounded them in.”
Spectators said they loved the aggressive competition.
“It was very intense and funny to have seen them eat two hotdogs as quickly as possible after already eating a dozen,” said Arman Kothari ’22. “J.J. and Grady’s faces looked miserable.”
On paper, Hayes did not seem a likely champion. A member of the golf team, he weighs 170 pounds and had never participated in a competitive eating contest before.
Additionally, Hayes’ training routine seemed questionable—he ate a full brunch earlier in the day and woke up from a nap just minutes before the contest started.
Pre-match, Bussgang, who chose the nickname “Meat Sweats,” was viewed as the favorite by fellow competitors and fans. An offensive lineman on the football team, Bussgang is listed at 278 pounds.
Before the overtime period, Bussgang told the Orient that he could not get beaten “by a skinny kid.”
The bronze medal went to Caleb Eurich ’21, a member of the ultimate frisbee team, who munched eight wieners. In total, the 18 contestants ate 96 hot dogs, eight of which were of the veggie variety. For comparison, 12-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Joey Chestnut set a world record in 2018, eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes. It would have taken the combined scores of the top 11 finishers to defeat Chestnut.
The lowest moments of the event, perhaps, were when Tenzin Choezin ’21 vomited twice during the main heat. Choezin persevered until the final buzzer sounded, but was unable to register a score, as his count reset after each regurgitation.
Sloan explained he came up with the competitive eating idea last summer while brainstorming potential College House events.
“I brought it up at a house meeting in October. And it kind of kept getting pushed back and pushed back,” he said.
Sloan tried to get the event officially sanctioned by Major League Eating (MLE), an organizing body for competitive eating contests, so that the winner could have a chance of competing in the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City.
“I reached out and explained the situation to [MLE employee David Baer]. He emailed me back five minutes later. He said ‘My wife went to Bowdoin. My in-laws went to Bowdoin. I love the idea, give me a call on my cellphone any time you want.’”
Sloan’s hopes for certification fell short as Baer told him the event would have needed to generate “thousands of dollars” of ad-revenue to be officially sanctioned.
But once he got the event planning in motion, Sloan said it was simple to organize. He used the Helmreich House programming budget to purchase 350 hot dogs and 350 buns for $122.
Sloan only used half of the hotdogs at the event and doesn’t know what he’ll do with the other 175.
“Half of them are still in my bedroom,” he said. “They’re just sitting on my desk.”
Dylan Sloan ’22 is a member of the Orient staff.