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Wittenberg Tournament Draws Hundreds for Competition and Camaraderie at YU

The basketball court of Yeshiva University’s Max Stern Athletic Center witnessed a transformation over Presidents Weekend as three regulation wrestling mats cordoned off with velvet rope dominated the floor. Excited crowds of high school students, parents and eager fans filled the room as they looked on during the annual Yeshiva University Henry Wittenberg Wrestling Tournament.

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This year’s tournament included 200 wrestlers from the wrestling teams of the Davis Renov Stahler High School, the Frisch School, Fuchs Mizrachi of Cleveland, Ida Crown Jewish Academy of Chicago (ICJA), Kushner Yeshiva High School, Maimonides School of Boston, The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB), the New Community Jewish High School of Los Angeles, North Shore Hebrew Academy, JEC, SAR, Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), Yeshiva Atlanta and Yeshiva Derech Hatorah.

ICJA enjoyed a repeat tournament win, earning the Chicago school victories in four of the last five tournaments. The Dominator Award and Most Outstanding Wrestler Award went to Yoni Sunshine from Fuchs Mizrachi. The Champion of Champions Award went to Dovid Greenfield of TABC and the Rookie Team Award went to SAR Coach Roni Simchi.

Now in its 17th year, the Wittenberg tournament has become a highlight for many yeshiva high school students around the country, not just for wrestling matches held over two days but also for the weekend-long festivities. All of the wrestlers participated in a Shabbaton officiated by Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, instructor of Jewish studies at Stern College for Women.

Yonah Stromer, a junior at YUHSB and winner of the best in weight class, voiced the sentiments of many of his fellow athletes. “I think it’s great that Yeshiva University sponsors the Wittenberg Tournament,” said Stromer. “I love the intensity, competition and the camaraderie. The Shabbaton was a wonderful way to meet people from all over the country.”

Eitan Redlich, an ICJA senior, echoed the sentiment. “I love getting to know the other teams over Shabbat and then competing with them on the mat in a friendly way,” he said. “It is a great incentive to wrestle hard and test yourself to see how far you have come over the year.”

Ben Botwonick, a senior from Yeshiva Atlanta, especially appreciated the work that goes into the tournament. “It is an awesome weekend full of wrestling,” he said. “We do not have that opportunity otherwise. All of the tournaments in our area are on Shabbat so this gives us the opportunity to compete and see what we are really made of.”

It was not just the athletes who found value in the tournament; many parents exclaimed their pride in their children and schools for participating. Deva Zwelling came to New York from Chicago to see her son Jacob take part in winning ICJA’s championship. “It is unbelievable seeing so many Jewish kids so into wrestling,” she said. “This has been a great experience.”

Renee Freund was watching her son, Andy, wrestle. She was pleased that he took up the sport, saying that “he has never been more fit in his life.”

Melanie Santoriello of Riverdale saw another benefit in YU’s promoting wrestling among high school students. Her son, Gabriel, competed on the SAR team and after only one season of wrestling she has noticed that “the sport teaches about focusing and being in the moment. It has really helped my son focus in class,” she said.