|Training paid off for TABC wrestlers.|
Torah Academy of Bergen County took first place at the 18th annual Henry Wittenberg Wrestling Invitational, marking a historic first for the Teaneck school.
“It’s a huge accomplishment that TABC stepped up and finally won first place,” said TABC wrestling coach Yoni Ellman, who witnessed his team’s rise from a bottom challenger at Wittenberg to top contender during his 12-year tenure.
“It took lots of training and practicing on the mat but it all paid off,” he said.
Of the team’s 24 members, 11 placed in the top five, with team member Robert Elsas winning the prestigious Dominator Award for the most pins in the shortest time (four in roughly two minutes).
The competition drew 200 Jewish wrestlers from 14 yeshivah high schools across the country to Yeshiva University in Manhattan, the event sponsor. The tournament is named in memory of Henry Wittenberg, a former Yeshiva University wrestling coach and Olympic medalist who founded the university’s wrestling program.
Among the other New Jersey schools that participated were the Kushner Academy in Livingston (which won fourth place), the Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy of Elizabeth, and the Frisch School in Paramus.
The tournament participants also enjoyed a Shabbaton with inspirational lectures by special guest Yuri Foreman, a former World Boxing Association super welterweight champion who is studying to become an Orthodox rabbi, Newark Mayor Corey Booker, and YU President Richard Joel.
Nechama Greenfield of Teaneck, a TABC parent whose son Yosef won a second-place Wittenberg trophy, said the benefits of wrestling don’t come from pulling opponents to the mat. “The teammates give each other a lot of support, and they have a real camaraderie,” she said. “They gain so much self-confidence from this.”
Ellman, who was a three-time Wittenberg champion as a teen, and whose day job is in ecommerce, treated his team to dinner at Dougie’s to celebrate their victory. He predicts more wins in the future. “They will only get better,” he said.
But whether they master more pins or bring home additional trophies, the champions possess what’s needed to overcome struggles on or off the mat.
“They are good kids,” Ellman mused. “They have great middot” – Jewish values.