Friday, June 02, 2023

Livingston—It feels like the season started mere weeks ago, but it has actually been many months of excitement, blood, sweat, and tears, all culminating with the incredible Wittenberg National Tournament. The Kushner Cobras did spectacularly at Nationals, with nine of their wrestlers placing in their weight classes and the team placing fifth overall, missing fourth place by a mere two points. Kudos to seniors Menashe Shershow, Coby Kestler, Freddy Knapp, and Yosef Berger for placing first, second, fourth, and fourth respectively in their weight classes; to junior Max Chosak for placing fifth; to sophomores Avery Katz, Yoni Uvsitzky, Brian Carmeli, and Yair Tennenberg for placing fourth, fifth, fifth, and fifth, and to the entire team for a tremendous effort.

While this tournament is always the high point of the season, in addition to their performance on the mat, the Cobras have much to be proud of. Many of the originally inexperienced wrestlers became hardened by the tough practices and battles fought against public, prep, and yeshiva teams.

It’s a cycle a coach continually sees: Youngsters enter a room for the first time, wide-eyed, scared, and doubting themselves—young kids who are unsure whether they have just made a huge mistake. They start out weak, uncertain and shy, using a variation of these same words, “I’ve never been an athlete and am not very coordinated, do you really think I can do this?” Now, months later, these boys have transformed themselves into confident, muscled men, warriors who are ready to take on any obstacle they will encounter. Their uncertainty has been replaced with, “You are capable of greatness beyond your imagination.”

The eyes of our veterans hold a very different look, as they are hardened athletes looking to finish their high school careers at the top of the podium. The intermediate wrestlers possess qualities of both veterans and rookies, looking to rise and make a name for themselves, yet still somewhat hesitant. Regardless of their experience, they all, without exception, have proven themselves up to the challenge.

The Kushner wrestlers have now concluded their season, some of them for the last time as Cobras. Kushner is proud of its boys and can say several things for sure about the team as a whole. These wrestlers grew and improved in so many aspects of their lives, on and off the mat, and are well on their way to becoming men. A Kushner team that only four years ago was the worst yeshiva team in the country rose to second place in the nation last year. Kushner will forever be synonymous with quality wrestling.

As a coach, the worst part of my season is about to happen again. I have to say goodbye to wonderful young men who I have seen grow immeasurably throughout the years. They will now move on to the next phase of their successful lives. My solace is that part of me will go with them and I can rest assured that being part of the Kushner Wrestling Team made a positive difference in their lives. The rest of the team will move forward, bolstered by the influence and achievements of these graduating seniors, and will continue to strive for success, with an eye to the future.

Kushner Athletic Director, Rabbi Richard Kirsch, agrees wholeheartedly and, in tribute to Coach Cilio, would like to say the following: “What this team has accomplished is something of which we, as a school and a community, can be extremely proud. The effort put forth by each and every wrestler has been truly inspiring, and is something to which future Cobra wrestlers can aspire. The success of this team is truly a ‘team’ effort, beginning at the top. Coach Cilio was instrumental in the success of this team, as he has been the last few years since his tenure as coach began. He helps motivate and mold young boys until they emerge as men. He sets the example, and the boys follow suit. He inspires them, and they work hard to make him proud. He loves them, and they love him right back. I am certain each and every graduating senior will be a better man because of the lessons learned from Coach Cilio.”

By Coach Dave Cilio, JLNJ Staff

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