The Ida Crown Jewish Academy wrestlers journeyed to New Jersey over Presidents’ Day weekend to take part in the 22nd annual Henry Wittenberg National Invitational Wrestling Tournament. For the second year in a row, the tournament, which brings together all of the yeshiva high school wrestling programs in the nation, was held at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey.
The Aces, the team that has won the most times in the long history of the Wittenberg Tournament, entered the competition with a strong squad. However, ICJA was unable to field a full squad and had no one to compete at four weight classes. As such, hopes for a ninth Wittenberg championship were never a realistic expectation for the team. Nevertheless, the Aces made their mark on the tournament and reminded all of the other teams in the field that wrestlers from ICJA can never be taken for granted. In the ten weight classes where Ida Crown participated, ICJA wrestlers placed in nine of them. In all, ten Aces made the medal rounds. It was a solid team showing and resulted in fifth place team finish out of fifteen teams.
Seniors Ethan Lewis (113), Akiva Goldberger (126), and Max Gorenstein (160) led the way with appearances in the finals. Lewis’ quarterfinal performance inspired the entire team, as he surrendered an early takedown and was trailing 2-0 at the end of both the first and second periods. In the final period with the clock ticking down to an apparent defeat, Lewis locked up a crossface cradle with about fifteen seconds showing on the clock. He calmly pulled his opponent from Maimonides onto his back and held him there for the remainder of the match. The maneuver earned Lewis a three point near fall and secured a 3-2 victory as the final buzzer sounded. Goldberger punched his ticket to the finals with dominating wins over wrestlers from MTA in the quarterfinals and Kushner in the semifinals. Goldberger ended his career as a two time Wittenberg finalist and four time Wittenberg placewinner. Gorenstein, fresh off his victory at Regionals, powered through the early rounds with victories over wrestlers from SAR and TABC. In doing so, Gorenstein capped of an outstanding senior season where he claimed his first career podium finish at Wittenberg.
Senior Raphi Chernoff (138) ended his illustrious Academy wrestling career with a strong third place showing, earning his fourth Wittenberg trophy. Chernoff finishes his career as one of the winningest Aces of all time, landing in the fourth slot on the career victories list. Junior Yosef Marcucci (145) put together one of the best tournament performances on the team, as he cruised to a third place finish in one of the most competitive weight classes. His only loss came at the hands of the eventual champion and #1 seed. Senior Joey Silverstein (170) also claimed a bronze medal, as he improved on last year’s fourth place finish. Silverstein provided some late afternoon fireworks for the Aces, as he forced overtime against the #1 seed from RTMA in the consolation semi-finals. Silverstein then proceeded to take down and pin his opponent in the sudden death overtime period.
Freshman Nathan Shapiro (106) concluded his successful rookies season with a fourth place finish, which should set him up well in the seeding for next year’s competition.
Senior Sam Bellows (145) truly earned his sixth place finish at his crowded weight class. In the course of two days, Bellows wrestled eight matches. On Friday, he pinned a wrestler from Frisch before falling to the #2 seed from Westchester Hebrew H.S. in the Round of 16. Bellows then began Sunday’s competition on the far side of consolation bracket. Over the course of several hours, Bellows worked his way along that bracket, pinning wrestlers from Frisch, MTA, and North Shore, and scoring a major decision against Kushner. Junior rookie Daniel Karesh (152) impressed everyone on the team as he fought hard to claim a sixth place finish in his weight class against many more experienced competitors. Another junior rookie, Yehuda Carlsen (182), also claimed a sixth place finish.
“This team left everything on the mat,” Coach Doug Klein commented. “That says it all. They wrestled hard, they wrestled well, and there are few regrets.”