top of page
  • Chloe Mastour

Ready to Rumble: the North Shore Lions Reflect on a Victorious Wrestling Season

As the chill of December came a-knockin', so did the grind of the winter sports season at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School.

Over the course of these past few weeks, the North Shore halls were buzzing with talk of the “grind,” referring to the more grueling aspects of the winter sports season. From the exhaustive late-night practices to the inevitable injuries, the heartbreaking losses, and the incredible victories, it seems that the going has gotten tough and the tough have surely gotten going here at North Shore. This could not be any more apropos for none other than the oldest sport in the world: good ole’ fashioned wrestling.

The sport of wrestling dates as far back as 3000 BC. Archeologists have observed ancient drawings in caves depicting wrestling moves still used to this day. Wrestling was a featured sport in the earliest Greek Olympic Games. In the Hebrew Book of Genesis, Jacob, after having successfully wrestled with an angel, subsequently receives the name "Israel," which means "to wrestle with God." The sport is referenced in some of the earliest myths, legends, and traditions. In the heroic saga of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh earns the right to be a leader by wrestling Enkidu. Then there was the Western literary canon, the Illiad, in which Odysseus wrestles with Aias. Perhaps the purest form of athletic competition to exist in the realm of fitness and organized sports, wrestling requires no bats, balls, pucks, or sticks. There is little time to rethink strategy or even to catch your breath. On the mat is only you and your opponent of equal weight and size. Experience, preparation, and the will to succeed will determine the victor.

Revered as one of the best wrestlers in the world today, with two world titles and an Olympic gold medal under his WWE Smackdown belt, oft-referred to as “the great Ozymandias, king of kings,” is none other than the man, the myth, the very legend himself: Mr. William Muir, the man whom we are honored to call Coach. “It is a pure contest of skill and strength,” says Coach Muir when asked about his respect for the sport. “There's something primal about it.”

With six returning members and fourteen first-year wrestlers, the team’s season has been a historic triumph. With a roster full of star freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the mighty North Shore Lions had much to anticipate this season. While the team's background in the sport is a mix of those with ten years of MMA experience, like junior captain Jack Zarabi, and those who are fairly new to wrestling, such as senior Gabriel-Joel Ghalandar, an arduous amount of dedication and diligence is nonetheless required to become an all-star member of the North Shore wrestling team: “You get what you put in,” Coach likes to say. That is why Coach challenges each wrestler to strive for greatness- because ultimately, respect is never won but earned.

At the blow of each whistle, the boys who accept the challenge and dare to do great things have surely proven themselves. Reflecting on the season, Coach Muir says, “I take a great sense of satisfaction in wrestlers overcoming their insecurity and self-doubt. It's very rewarding to watch.” It seems now, in retrospect, many on the team can surely say that the sport has been nothing short of life-changing.

This past season was surely not without its unique challenges. Working around a difficult schedule, which involves a dual curriculum of general and Judaic studies, with the final school bell ringing at 4:40 PM, the team was not afforded the luxury of daily practices that many competing schools enjoy; rather, the wrestlers were lucky to meet three days per week. For those on the team who had never stepped foot on the mat before, training them to safely compete proved a greater task. The very fact that our athletes are returning to the mat following a year of rigid COVID-19 restrictions only served as a greater obstacle this season.

When the season began, a typical week involved two two-hour practices, the physical rigors of which have intensified in gradual progression while maintaining a focus on fundamental technique. Yet to be an all-star North Shore wrestler, according to Mr. Muir, “one has to be a self-starter.” In addition to formal practice, the team has made a considerable effort to constantly improve: whether it's late evenings lifting at the gym, grappling and conditioning, studying moves, or binge-watching the greatest takedowns, the team is wholly committed to the art of wrestling. What is perhaps most impressive is the ability of many of our first-time wrestlers to pick up moves very quickly, whose steady improvement in just four weeks of practice is pretty remarkable. There really is nothing quite like it!

One morning in early December, the wrestling team just so happened to offer me the position of manager. It sure was hard to say no to the enthusiastic bunch. We cut a deal, sealed it with a handshake, and while little was said at that moment, all was understood. And so, upon formally carrying out my newfound responsibilities, I first began to figure out just exactly what I was watching: high school wrestling, the strangest mix of entertainment and sports ever created. While not to everyone’s taste, I began to like it.

On the morning of Sunday, December 11, the North Shore Lions came to school bright and early to participate in a tri-meet tournament that included wrestlers from North Shore, Ramaz, and MTA. The match was held on our turf, known as “the lion’s den.” Following a series of weigh-ins and warmups, wrestling began promptly at noon.

Each match, beginning with a friendly handshake and subsequent blow of the whistle, includes three two-minute periods, during which wrestlers attempt to pin their opponents’ shoulder blades to the ground for at least five seconds to be declared the winner. While a pin is the ultimate goal, wrestlers can earn points for executing certain moves as well. Taking down an opponent is worth two points, for example, while escaping a takedown is worth one point. If a wrestler pins his opponent’s shoulders past 45 degrees for two seconds, he gets two points, and three points if he holds this position for five seconds.

As each match took place, parents, friends, and fellow teammates watched from the sidelines, with team members shouting words of encouragement and tactful advice to their comrades in action. Meanwhile, Mr. Muir coached his wrestlers in the heat of competition, offering guidance and moral support from the edge of the mat. His best piece of advice to those in combat: be aggressive!

North Shore certainly gave an impressive showing that day. Not only did the Lions win most of the day’s matches, but you bet your bottom dollar that we brought the energy! Senior David Moshel, though having dislocated his shoulder in the midst of his match, managed to perform an atomic suplex, slamming his opponent onto the mat full-force and pinning him down effortlessly.

Even North Shore’s smaller wrestlers pack quite the punch. Sophomore Elijah Kule, amassing 0% body fat and 100% sheer muscle, won both his matches in which he flawlessly executed all the right moves and flung his opponent nearly five feet in the air. One promising freshman on the team, Asher Aboulafia, fought tirelessly until the last blow of the whistle when he managed to slam his opponent down. Both Elijah and Asher distinguished themselves as two-time champs this season, surpassing their teammates with hard work, preparation, and the will to dominate. Every period of history had men who conquered the known world, their names now spoken across the globe. The modern-day equivalent of Genghis Khan and Atilla The Hun is certainly personified by these two young athletes in their primes.

Junior Jonah Lieb, a second-year varsity wrestler, spoke of the aggressive nature of the sport: “Most guys will run away from the challenge but us wrestlers are the chosen few. We run towards challenge and ultimately, towards greatness.” Looking back on his most recent tournament, Jonah added, “It's always helpful to compete against schools like Ramaz and MTA, which have similar limitations to ours. I’m proud of myself for winning my match, and I look forward to competing against both teams at the Wittenberg Tournament in February.”

Riding the wave of emotion that accompanied their first matches of the season, the North Shore boys returned to action before an elated crowd on Monday, December 19th, at the Martin Luther School. “Our wrestlers were very nervous wrestling teams that practice more than we do and have a great deal more experience,” says Mr. Muir.

Shaking in their wrestling shoes before the chiseled beasts and somersaulting-super-humans of Martin Luther and Long Island Lutheran High School, who cast a menacing shadow upon our woebegone bunch, it was at that moment that the team stood just as their ancestral Macabees had before battle against the Greeks as they humbly prayed for the merciful instruments of Divine grace to grant the team with strength and illuminate the destined path of victory on the first day of Chanukah.

As G-d is our Savior, transcendent and imminent, the course of nature was mercifully bent to vindicate the strength of the Hebrews once again. If we cannot reasonably make sense of the events of that evening, then it was truly a miracle that we have been offered sweet deliverance on the mat. Looking back on the events of that historic day, Coach remarks, “It was a real confidence booster that we were able to win some matches and seriously compete. Our wrestlers made a strong showing and I was pleased with the progress we made.”

While our impressive performance can be traced to a wider scheme of revealed providence, North Shore’s unflinching courage is surely a miracle of grace in and of itself. It was time we earned the sacrifices of the generations of strong men who came before us, who have battled the forces of evil for the team to be on the mat today. It was in their honor that we prevailed.

Not only do practices push North Shore’s boys of sun and steel to the absolute limit, but no other high school sport requires its participants to meet a certain weight in order to compete. It is, therefore, pretty common for most competitors to maintain a strict, low-calorie diet and endure long periods with minimal to no food or liquid intake every so often. As you can imagine, empty stomachs, sore muscles, and bruised egos are commonplace in the sport.

To succeed as a wrestler, the North Shore athletes understand the value of eating right, not just during the heat of the wrestling season but today, tomorrow, and every day throughout the year. The team has been devout practitioners of a little something we like to call “raw egg nationalism.” Our allegiance is not to a diet but to an esoteric movement of like-minded individuals built on the massive consumption of raw eggs. Inspired by the innovations of professional bodybuilder Vince Gironda, our goal of thirty-six raw eggs a day is a physical ethic perfectly suited for our ancestral genetics. Cholesterol is a building block for the anabolic hormones, including the all-important testosterone. Once denatured by heat, the androgenic effects of the cooking process render cholesterol less readily usable in the body; therefore, the eggs must be consumed, or what is more commonly referred to as “slonked,” in their rawest and purest form.

Massive egg consumption mimics the effects of newly available steroids like Dianabol in helping maintain a positive nitrogen balance throughout the day, essential for lean muscle retention and growth. Wrestlers have begun sharing all sorts of recipes with each other, whether the “Original Gironda” raw egg shake or the protein-rich “Get Big Drink.” A symbol of the generative power of nature, the raw egg returns us to a state of nature from which the modern world alienates us. Yet perhaps I have already revealed too much, for these are secrets made known to the initiate only with time…

As North Shore senior, Max Kogan, spoke on his experience with wrestling: “This season was defined by the culture that I, along with all my teammates, were able to create. We've evolved to the point where we feel invincible when wrestling amongst the battle cry of our teammates. Us lions thrive in a pack.” Max found that wrestling involves a program of strategy and grueling workouts that test him physically and mentally. He adds, “As men, we all possess unlimited power, and wrestling has taught me how to harness it.” Max attributes the team’s rapid ascent to the dedicated coaching of Mr. Muir.

The team will face its biggest challenge yet at the Wittenberg Tournament this February, where North Shore will compete against the entire Yeshiva League. Although these are tough competitors, the team believes that this season will be one of the most successful ever due to the fact that everyone is working incredibly hard.

Wrestling is great for exposing the “champion” within anyone, especially those who love to compete. Even as the boys are thrown to the floor and locked in battle, it is clear that they are having fun. When entering a tournament, the North Shore wrestlers walk with undoubted dominance. Some may say their rise was destined; but in wrestling, just as in anything, everything must be learned, every skill mastered, and every accomplishment achieved. We are building warriors here at North Shore. We are more than a team but an army. At this point, world conquest is inevitable.

You just wait and bear witness to our triumph.

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page