The Yeshiva Wrestling Association’s 2017 Henry Wittenberg Invitational Tournament concluded on Sunday (2/19) and saw the team from Flatbush perform to a level well beyond expectations of a team competing for the first time against a collection of the top yeshiva wrestlers from across the nation. In the wrestling crucible that was the Frisch gym, the Falcons placed 11th out of 15 competing schools, led by top 6 finishes by the teams co-captains, Junior Yaron Sternberg (3rd Place at 152 lbs.) and Freshman Joey Maswary (6th Place at 113 lbs.).
The Falcons were paced by their team leader on and off the mat, Junior Yaron Sternberg. Sternberg was the only Flatbush wrestler with any competitive experience under his belt, and over the course of the two-day competition he demonstrated that his high seeding was well deserved. Additionally, his weight class – 152 lbs. – was arguably the toughest of all, with more wrestlers competing in this division than in any other single weight class. After enjoying a first round bye, Sternberg made quick work of his first opponent, pinning the Ida Crown Jewish Academy (Chicago, IL) wrestler at the 1:40 mark of the first round on Friday morning. That advanced Sternberg within the winner’s bracket on Sunday. His next match was against a TABC (Teaneck, NJ) grappler, and Sternberg made even quicker work of him, pinning him just 50 seconds in, placing him in the semifinals.
Back on the mat a little over a half-hour later, Sternberg faced what would ultimately be his toughest bout of the event. He squared off with Yeshya Hirsch of the Atlanta Jewish Academy (Atlanta, GA) who Flatbush Head Coach Michael Amuev described as one of the strongest and beast wrestlers in the entire tournament. In an attempt to get Hirsch on his heels, Sternberg looked to attack from the start. the strategy looked to work at the outset as Sternberg moved Hirsch to the edge and nearly took him down before the pair fell out of bounds. When the official whistled the match back on, Sternberg immediately went on the attack again, but this time Hirsch was ready, and he showed why his reputation was well earned. He quickly turned Sternberg’s momentum against him, shifting his weight and taking down the Falcon. Moments later, Sternberg was on his back, and he could not bridge out of the position. The Atlantan pinned Sternberg, relegating Flatbush’s top wrestler to the consolation bracket and the battle for 3rd place. (Hirsch would go on to claim the top spot in the weight class).
Sternberg was dejected, but he quickly put the bout in the past; there was more wrestling in his future. He walked off the mat respectfully, put on his warm up, and started getting mentally prepared for his next match; a win would advance him to the 3rd Place bout while a loss would leave him fighting for 5th place.
Facing a top-level MTA (New York, NY) wrestler, Sternberg started off the match looking a bit shaky, and found himself early on in a dangerous position in which he almost exposed some points. However, a bit later into the match Sternberg reversed his opponent and put him right on his back and pinned him. One match remained, and 3rd Place would be the prize to the winner. The draw had him face off with TABC’s top wrestler in the weight class, Simcha Shron. Like Sternberg, Shron was well trained, however Sternberg took him down with ease, repeatedly exposing the Storm wrestler’s back, until he pinned him early in the second period, securing the 3rd Place finish in the 152 lb. division. Sternberg clearly showed his seeding was well deserved, going 4-1 in his bouts, with each win decided by pin.
Flatbush’s other top performance came from their other team captain, Freshman Joey Maswary. A true unknown, Maswary drew a bye in the first round, and took the mat for the first time on Sunday morning, matching up with SAR’s (Riverdale, NY) top entry in the 113 lb. weight class. Speed and experience were on the side of the Sting wrestler, and though Maswary battled, looking to employ the few techniques he has learned in just this one season, but he soon got caught on his back and could not get out of it, falling late in the second period. Tired, and dejected, Maswary still had a chance to earn points for the Falcons, wrestling in the consolation bracket.
Rejuvenated by the opportunity to continue to compete, Maswary came back and wrestled a tough, full six-minute match, winning on points by major decision. With confidence building, his next match saw him pin his opponent in the first period. having now already wrestled three matches in just an hour or two’s time, Maswary was now exhausted and starting to feel the effects of fatigue as he stepped into the center of the mat for the 4th time, with a place in the 3rd Place bout on the line. Unfortunately, it was evident that his tank was nearing empty, as he got pinned early in the second period by his TABC opponent after what was a close battle up until that point. Maswary had one match left, with the winner garnering 5th Place.
He took to the mat acknowledging the fact that he was exhausted and in a great deal of pain after a full day of wrestling, but he gave it his best shot. However, there was just nothing left, resulting in his falling by pin to his Maimonides School (Brookline, MA) opponent very quickly in the first period. nevertheless, it was an uplifting experience for the rookie Falcon wrestler. In his first-ever high school competition, Maswary went 2-3 against some of the top wrestlers in his weight class.