June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Gotham Burger Sportstar of the Week Jonathan Zughaft

The Jewish Link of New Jersey and Gotham Burger would like to recognize 17-year-old RKYHS wrestler Jonathan Zughaft as this week’s Sportstar of the Week. Zughaft is coming off a terrific Wittenberg Tournament, finishing first in his weight class.

When asked about Jonny’s win Coach Cilio told the JLNJ, “Jonny had a rough road leading to this day. Each year previous ended in disappointment and not placing at Nationals. He had obvious natural ability but he found it difficult to embrace the mindset of what it took to be great in wrestling. After Jon became a National Champion, this year, he said to me, “Sorry that it took so long coach, it took me over three years to finally listen.” My response to him was that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, it only matters that you finally got there and became the man that you needed to be in order to succeed. I saw him peak right toward the end of the season as he handedly won a quality Public/ Prep wrestling tournament. He beat strong, high caliber wrestlers there and it set the tone for his success at Yeshiva Nationals. I think in some ways it was all the more gratifying, the way it happened, for me as a coach because I always knew he could do it. There’s nothing more that I want for a kid than knowing that when he leaves our program, he possesses the traits that will help him succeed in life. It was truly an amazing moment.”

Jonny who is your role model?

My role model is my coach, Dave Cilio. He’s not just a coach, he is the spark to the fire. My teammates and I would not be here today without him to show us the way. Coach Cilio put in tremendous effort and believed in us even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. He is a life coach who didn’t just show me the path to victory, but the path to success.

Who is your favorite athlete?

My favorite athlete is Mark Messier of the NY Rangers. He would play hard on the ice for the whole game and then go on a stationary bike for an hour afterwards, to improve his stamina and strength for the next game.

What is your pregame routine?

Right before a match it is most important to clear your mind and let your body take over. If you think too hard about your moves, it could throw off your entire game. I just jump around, get loose, and try to get into the zone.

What is your earliest sports memory?

When I was about 3, my dad put up a portable little goal in our driveway, and my 5-year-old brother and I would take shots on him.

What is your funniest sports memory?

I went to a Yankees away game in Baltimore with my dad and my brother when I was about 8. I made a sign that said ‘Go Yankees’ and I wanted to be on television. We got seats in the nosebleed section and I waved my sign around like crazy, but nobody could see me or my sign. I got so mad that I tore it up and threw it away. When we went to get food at the concession stand, a guy was selling these amazing tickets for just $10. So even though we already had seats, my dad bought them. We wound up sitting five rows behind home plate and my mom said she saw me on TV during every pitch.

What is your favorite sports memory?

When I was a sophomore, I failed to make weight by.5, so I had to wrestle up one weight class. My opponent was the captain of a Newark public school team and he was massive. I pinned him in 37 seconds – best day of that year!

What do you like to do when you are not playing sports?

I volunteer as a mentor at Friendship Circle, I am a mitzvah clown, I make music videos and I take care of two rabbits and six guinea pigs.

What is the best thing about being a Sportstar?

Everything! It is great to be recognized for all my efforts, showing the world that I can give 100% and represent myself and my school with pride.

The Gotham Burger Sportstar of the Week will receive a $10 gift certificate to Gotham Burger. Please send nominees for next week’s Gotham Burger Sportstar of the Week to [email protected].

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