Wrestling team check-in


Gila Safra

Sophomore Ari Kittrie helps coach Chuck Woolery demonstrate a wrestling move to the rest of the team.

Gila Safra and Tali Loeffler

After almost three years of hibernation, the Lions wrestling team had their first match on Dec. 6 at the Covenant Life School. Though only one team member won their match-up, coach Chuck Woolery was happy with the team’s performance, given the long hiatus. Freshman Theo Rothenberg won his match, pinning his opponent down for 20 seconds in the first round. Other highlights included sophomore Ari Kittrie’s three takedowns, with one two-point tilt and three three-point tilts. 

With only one returning wrestler, senior Oliver Ferber, and six new members, Woolery plans to focus on helping the team develop their skills, including first-year wrestler Rothenberg.

“I like the size. I like that it’s small,” Rothenberg said. “We focus on each individual person on the team.”

The wrestling team meets four days a week for an hour and a half at various locations. Typically, they practice two times a week at JDS and two times a week at a public high school where they can practice with a bigger group of people, often around 40 to 50 students. So far, the team has been able to practice with the Wheaton High School, Rockville High School and Richard Montgomery High School teams.

The team’s practices at public schools look very different from those at JDS. Since there are more people and more coaches, it helps the team focus on different parts of wrestling that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do with a smaller team. 

At JDS, the majority of practice consists of the team working on technique to help the players in their matches. This includes Woolery demonstrating certain moves, and then allowing the players to practice them on their own and on each other. Woolery provides them with individual tips to help them advance and grow while wrestling. To close out practice, Woolery usually leads the team in conditioning drills meant to help with stamina, strength and speed which are necessary during matches. 

Although a small team makes it difficult to practice against people of different sizes and skill levels, many of the team members find it beneficial to work with a smaller group so that they get more attention while practicing. 

“I think the one-on-one attention is something really special to JDS because a lot of teams … have a lot of people,” first-year wrestler and sophomore Adam Bachrach said. “I think [the small group has] been very helpful. It really helps us learn from each other.”

Woolery said that the team is very smart and able to learn quickly. He is also impressed with their mental game and hard work. 

“Every single one of these guys wants to be here. They want to wrestle, and they really are good,” Woolery said. “I’m impressed with that commitment. Commitment is huge in life.”

Many team members set goals for themselves to help track their progress throughout the season.

“I want to end this season with a winning record. I [also] want the team to do well,” Rothenberg said. “Every person has grown, and there are [only] one or two guys that have wrestled before this, so you kind of have to grow.”

The team is looking forward to their next match at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf on Jan. 11. However, Woolery is not so concerned with the outcome of the match, and more about the experience it provides.

“If you’re wrestling for me, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about really learning every match,” Woolery said. “So I don’t care if they win or lose. The first thing I ask is ‘what did you learn?’”