Jews In Sports: Exhibit Page @ Virtual Museum


Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
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Jews In American Sports

from the East, who competed for a dozen years without ever losing a match.

Born in New Jersey in 1918, Henry Wittenberg never wrestled at all until he reached college, an amazing fact in view of his prowess in the sport. In high school, his passion was not the sweaty physicality of combat on the mat, but the cerebral concentration of chess. As captain of the team, he led his high school chess group to a state championship. But when Henry enrolled at City College of New York, he made a decision to engage in more physical sporting events.

"There are a lot of stories about how I began to wrestle," says Wittenberg. "The most famous is that I went out for the swimming team and the coach told me to wrestle in order to build myself up. That's not exactly true. What really happened is this: there were only two sports open to me at CCNY swimming and wrestling. Both were winter sports and I had to choose one or the other. I swam a little but picked wrestling. I weighed only one hundred and fifty pounds at the time and had never wrestled before."

In his first competitive match, Henry demolished his foe and in the process broke two of the man's ribs. It was instantly apparent that the Jewish novice had a special gift for the demanding standards of wrestling. He learned and improved as he went along, and when he graduated CCNY with a B.S. in Education, he came in second in the national NCAA 174-pound championships. That was in 1939. It was 1952 before Henry Wittenberg ever lost another match.

"Everyone talks about Henry's incredible streak of never losing in National AAU Championship