After a second place finish two years ago, a fifth place team finish last year and the graduation of five top-five national place winners, Kushner wrestling was faced with what seemed to be an impossible task at the beginning of the 2016 season. The team was young and inexperienced and only returned one fourth place and three fifth place finishers from the prior year. Kushner would not only have to figure out a way to fast- track its inexperienced wrestlers, but its veterans would also have to step up to the plate. The team was looking up at a mountain that seemed as if it might be just too hard to climb.
The season started very rocky, with one of the top starters succumbing to an injury that took him out for the season, and numerous losses that resulted in a 50/50 record in the first half. Kushner had to put its faith in a vigorous and well-planned training system, and rely on the team’s record of improvement from the start of the season to its close. Soon losses turned into wins. The team excelled in several public/prep tournaments, and ran off an impressive string of dual-meet victories. Kushner was climbing.
As Yeshiva Wittenberg Nationals approached the team gained confidence. At the tournament, Kushner was represented in 12 out of the 14 weight classes. The first day showed promise, with all but one point scorers winning their first match. On Sunday, the team started fairly strong, waivered and then fought its way back. Nine wrestlers entered the medal rounds. Kushner doubled down and pushed strong for the peak of the mountain. This last effort was successful; eight out of nine wrestlers won the medal round matches and scored many bonus points. These points were a factor that helped Kushner throughout the tournament.
When the time came for the winners to be announced, each Kushner wrestler switched back and forth between staring at one another and looking up, as if the voice itself was coming down from heaven. Out came something that has never occurred in the history of Wittenberg: “tied for second Kushner!” The look on the faces of the Kushner wrestlers was priceless. The team realized that it had just been declared the second best yeshiva wrestling team in the nation; their hard work and perseverance paid off. They nearly reached the peak of the mountain, and surmounted what had seemed impossible. Kushner proved that it remains a top Yeshiva team and a force to be reckoned with.
By Coach Dave Cilio