TODAY   |  May 11, 2010

Gator wrestler survives gnarly attack

Jeff Quattrocchi, better known as "The Swampmaster," was able to free his arm from the jaws of an 8-foot alligator after he made a wrong move during one of his performances. NBC’s Lee Cowan reports.

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MATT LAUER, co-host: We are back now at 7:45 with a man who makes a living by wrestling alligators, recovering now after he was bitten during a recent show. Here's NBC's Kerry Sanders.

Mr. JEFF QUATTROCCHI: It was lightning fast.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Mr. QUATTROCCHI: Lightning fast.

KERRY SANDERS reporting: Jeff Quattrocchi is drinking Gatorade and why wouldn't he? Still wiggle your fingers?


SANDERS: The veteran alligator wrestler... Still bend your elbow?


SANDERS: ...knows this time he cheated one gator's best intentions to kill him. Watch this tourist's video at a show on Sunday as the 45-year-old, better known as "The Swampmaster," made a momentary wrong move and the 8'3" 220-pound alligator attacked. What happened?

Mr. QUATTROCCHI: You know, I was going into the catch part of the alligator show where I catch the eight-foot alligator, and I simply made a mistake.

SANDERS: When the gator chomped down, Jeff 's arm was trapped. An alligator's jaw exert 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch . That's equal to having your arm pinned under a small pick-up truck. Are you brave or are you just crazy?

Mr. QUATTROCCHI: Well, you've got to be three things to be a professional alligator wrestler. You've got to be pretty big, pretty strong, and really stupid.

SANDERS: Thirty-six staples, 23 stitches, but somehow, The Swampmaster Jeff didn't panic and was able to get his arm free. That's not always the case. In just the last year, there's the man who lost several fingers and the teenager who lost his arm in gator encounters. Gator wrestling was popularized in Florida in the 1950s . Seminole and Miccosukee Indians set up roadside attractions to earn money .

Unidentified Man #2: Two, three, lift.

SANDERS: Today, the Seminole Reservation is where they shoot the reality show "Swamp Men."

SANDERS: For Jeff , who over the past 17 years has been nipped and bitten 12 other times, this was unlucky 13. Have you named him now?

Mr. QUATTROCCHI: His name is Thank You .

SANDERS: Thank You?


SANDERS: Because?

Mr. QUATTROCCHI: Thank you for not tearing my arm off.

SANDERS: For TODAY, Kerry Sanders, NBC News, New Port Richey, Florida.