Adrian Morgan, of Baton Rouge, has reached the holy grail of competitive eating, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The contest is a 96-year Fourth of July tradition held on Coney Island, N.Y. It airs live on ESPN on Monday.

Morgan, fresh off a third-place finish in the Acme World Oyster Eating Championship in New Orleans on June 5, qualified for the Nathan’s contest the next weekend in Thackerville, Okla. Contestants must place first in a qualifying round in order to advance to Coney Island. Morgan downed 23 hot dogs and buns that day.

“I’ve been watching videos of contests from past years, you know, for techniques and to just kind of prepare myself for all the people who are going to be out there,” Morgan, 28, said Friday from New York.

He and family members had just arrived in the Big Apple to take in the sights over the weekend before Monday’s big contest.

“We actually came to watch (the Nathan’s contest) last year, and the heat index was like 102, but this year it won’t be too bad, the high’s supposed to be about 85, I think,” Morgan said.

He explained that Nathan’s is the only contest in which contestants are allowed to dunk the food into a drink before eating.

“So we all take advantage of it, because it really is a lot easier to eat the bun, even though it might not be as appetizing, it’s a lot easier to eat the bun when it’s soaked with water,” Morgan said.

Contestant typically eat the wiener first, then dunk the dry bun into water or a soft drink before consuming it.

“I’ll probably use pink lemonade because the tanginess kind of helps with the hot dog flavor, too. We can use condiments, but usually there’s no time for it,” he said, laughing.

Four-time champion Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., is heavily favored to take home the prize again this year. In 2010, he ate 54 hot dogs and buns in the 10-minute time limit.

“It’s kind of surreal, because I always watched it, too, and I never in a million years thought I’d be somebody eating in this contest, but I don’t know, step by step, it’s kind of led me here,” Morgan said.