On the Fourth of July, Miki Sudo and Nick Wehry are expected to do something no other couple in America will: eat about 90 hot dogs and buns combined at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island in New York.
Each will shovel down the food during a 10-minute time limit, and Sudo and Wehry, who are engaged, will re-earn their nickname, "The Hungry Couple.''
The chances of being dethroned?
“It’s almost mathematically impossible,’’ Wehry said, with relish.
Sudo, 36, is a seven-time champion in the women’s division who is No. 1 among the women and third overall in the current Major League Eating rankings. She will be returning to action after taking off last year while pregnant.
Wehry, 33, is a former competitive bodybuilder who is No. 3 among the men and fourth overall in the Major League Eating rankings.
At Nathan's, the top finisher among the men and the women each win $20,000 – the most lucrative of the contests sponsored by Major League Eating. This year there are 18 contests, with up to $6,100 in prize money (at the Sweet Corn contest in West Palm Beach, Florida) to as little as $2,000 in prize money (at the BakeMark Donuts contest in San Diego.)
Sudo and Wehry often find themselves going head-to-head on the competitive-food eating circuit.
“I beat him by half a taco, he beat me by half a bratwurst,’’ Sudo told USA TODAY Sports during a recent interview. “We tied at pepperoni rolls most recently.’’
Said Wehry: “Typically, if it’s capacity based, she’s going to be a little better than I am. But if it’s based on just ferocity and intensity, then I’ll do slightly better in the contest.’’
The payoff is less than lucrative.
Sudo said she has made a "modest'' living as a full-time competitive eater and Wehry said he has to maintain his day job, running an adult novelty store.
The couple said they attend 12 to 15 contests a year, with Nathan's covering all of their travel expenses for the hot dog eating contest and other sponsors sometimes helping pay for travel costs to other contests.
At Nathan's, they've become virtually unbeatable.
A 10-pound BBQ sandwich, 12 pounds of pizza tacos and a 10-pound sushi roll
Joey Chestnut, the 14-time champion in the men’s division at Nathan’s Fourth of July contest, and his then-fiancée Neslie Ricasa set the couple’s record in 2014 when they ate a combined 71 hot dogs.
But Chestnut and Ricasa broke up, and in 2020, Sudo and Wehry shattered the couple’s record by devouring a combined 88 hot dogs – buns included. Sudo ate 48½ and Wehry ate 39½.
Chestnut is engaged again, but his fiancée is not a competitive eater, and so the Hungry Couple's feat looks safe.
"I don't need every record,'' said Chestnut, who holds the individual record with 76 hot dogs, set in 2021.
The Hungry Couple have their own website, where they have sold “The Hungry Couple’’ hats and fanny packs. They also have their own YouTube channel, featuring videos that show feats like Sudo eating a 10-pound spicy BBQ sandwich, Wehry eating 12 pounds of pizza tacos and the couple devouring a 10-pound sushi roll.
They do not have a sponsor. Yet.
“That’s the dream,’’ said Sudo, who broke through as the hot-dog eating queen in 2014 when she upset three-time champion Sonya Thomas.
Another mouth to feed
The Hungry Couple now has an extra mouth to feed. Sudo and Wehry have an 11-month-old son, Max.
“I’ve dubbed him the Similac-eating champion of the world,’’ said George Shea, MC of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Sudo and Wehry recalled their first meeting: 4 a.m. in a hotel gym before the Nathan’s contest in 2018. Both said they work out before contests to get focused.
Sudo was a four-time champion. Wehry had just qualified for his first contest.
“I was just a scrub,’’ he said.
They took a photo together, but the romantic sparks did not fly.
“I approached him for social media obligations,’’ Sudo said. “I wasn’t really trying to say hi. At contests, I’m really all about business.’’
A few months later, Wehry recruited Sudo to participate in a food-eating stunt – a 10-person team would eat a 107-pound burger in New Jersey.
Something juicier followed.
“We actually had a friend that encouraged us to talk,’’ Wehry said. “They were like, ‘You should talk to Miki Sudo.’ And I was like, ‘She’s not going to give me the time of day.’ ‘’
But she did.
They started dating in June 2019, although it was long distance, with Sudo living in Arizona and Wehry in Connecticut.
Eventually, they moved to Tampa, where they share an apartment.
“We realized the seriousness with which we took competitive eating and how we kind of were at contests, and all the little neurosis, down to like we like 30-calorie almond milk in the house,’’ Wehry said. “We don’t like any dirty dishes in the sink. “Things like that. We have a lot in common beyond being able to eat 20 pounds of something at a time.’’
Before they met, Sudo said, criticism online from anonymous detractors had taken its toll.
"People who don’t know me will say that I’m full of myself, or like the seven belts have gone to my head,'' she said.
“It led me to put up a wall. I was just in to do a job and out to go home. So I kind of fell into a funk, but then I met Nick and now I don’t care (about the criticism). I have my best friend, we have our baby, things are fun all over again.’’
During a recent interview via video, they shared time holding Max, and the only mishap was when their dog, an American Bully named Dennis, licked Max’s apple slice and Max started gagging.
The truth is, Sudo and Wehry said, The Hungry Couple is a rather normal couple.
“We eat probably less than most people during the week,’’ Wehry said. “We just go on walks in the park with the baby and take him to the pool and take the crazy dog out.
“We might as well be two accountants when we’re not shoveling a combined 40 pounds of food down our face in an eating contest.’’
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nathan's Hot Dog Contest: Joey Chestnut no match for 'Hungry Couple'