July 18, 2024
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Reflections On the Brick HS Wrestling Tournament

With a successful outing against Rutger’s Prep in the rear view mirror, the question would be… could the Kushner Wrestling team continue to perform well in the very tough Public School Brick Memorial Tournament or would it lapse back into the shaky start that was seen at the beginning of the season? Having coached both public and prep high school teams, I have experienced first-hand the intense grind of six-day-a-week practices. I am fully aware of the fact that many public school wrestlers, myself included, started their wrestling journey in their childhood years. I personally started at the age of 5 ½, and that is by no means outside the norm. In contrast, a yeshiva wrestler, or at least a Kushner wrestler, stepped foot on the mat, at the earliest, as a freshman in high school. It would seem a daunting task for relatively inexperienced yeshiva wrestlers to face their often much more experienced public/prep foes. On this day, our experience at this tournament would, however, prove differently. We showed that a yeshiva wrestler who has chosen to train hard can represent Jewish wrestling very well.

Throughout my five years coaching yeshiva wrestling, each year has brought a unique experience. The majority of our opponents consist of about two-thirds public and prep schools. Circumstances often arise when the Kushner students face challenges that non-Jewish wrestlers would not. This instance was no different.

We arrived at Brick and quickly set up our area on the bleachers. Instead of beginning our warm up immediately, as did the other teams, Kushner students began their morning prayers (Shacharit) instead. The kids took out their tefillin, what I affectionately call “gladiator wear.” Please forgive this non-Jewish coach, no disrespect is meant, I always tell the kids I think it looks cool and warrior-like.

When I later checked on the boys, there was a cart of coaches’ breakfast food waiting outside. The deliveryman would not enter the room because he did not want to disturb the prayers. I listened to the conversation; one coach said there is some kind of school play practice going on and they are all dressed up. I couldn’t help but chuckle, because very few in this public school world understand the life of a Jewish wrestler. I have been fortunate enough to experience the dedication to religion that these kids display. The balancing of a dual curriculum and a very intense sport is a supremely difficult task, which these boys have clearly mastered. I couldn’t help but think to myself, after hearing the coach’s words, that if this were a play it will soon be a tragedy that a number of the public school wrestlers are about to experience at the hands of my Kushner wrestlers.

To cut to the chase, after a long tournament… eight Kushner wrestlers out of the 14 placed and earned medals. Six of them went on to the finals and competed for 1st and 2nd place. Two were crowned champions and brought home the gold; the other four placed second. To sum it up: Kushner proved that it could compete and, I believe, represented yeshiva wrestling very well.

By Dave Cilio, RKYHS Wrestling Coach

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