Henry Wittenberg

Henry Wittenberg (September 18, 1918 – March 9, 2010) was an American wrestler and Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling.[1] He won two Olympic medals and was the first American wrestler after 1908 to achieve this feat. He at one point in his career wrestled 300 matches without losing. He taught wrestling at Yeshiva University and City College of New York for thirteen years. In 1977, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.[2]

Henry Wittenberg
Medal record
Men's freestyle wrestling
Representing the  United States
Olympic Games
Olympic rings.svg
Gold medal – first place 1948 London Light heavyweight
Silver medal – second place 1952 Helsinki Light heavyweight


Henry Wittenberg was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. He became an excellent wrestler despite not wrestling at William L. Dickinson High School, where he instead swam and played chess. As a student at City College of New York he did not even consider himself athletic. However, the wrestling coach, Joe Sapora, introduced him to the sport. By his junior year of college, he was placing in prestigious college tournaments. After college, Wittenberg entered eight AAU tournaments. He won all eight of them. In the AAU tournaments he did not lose a match. He wrestled over 300 matches in a row and did not lose a single one. Wittenberg was the co-captain of the CCNY wrestling team together with Stanley Graze in 1939.

In 1948, Wittenberg entered the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. He was wrestling at the weight class 191.5 pounds. In the semifinals, he tore muscle tendons in his chest. His coach did not want him to wrestle in the finals, but Wittenberg was stubborn and wrestled anyway. He ended up winning the gold medal match. When he returned to the Bronx, he received a hero's welcome.

Four years later, in 1952, Wittenberg competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki as the returning champion. He once again reached the final match of the Olympics. This time he lost the match, receiving the silver medal. He became the first American wrestler since 1908 to earn two Olympic medals.

Wittenberg also was studious. He earned a master's degree in health education at the Teachers College, Columbia University. Later, he became an officer in the New York City Police Department. He won five commendations of bravery while on the police force. He was actively involved in the Police Sports Association. He was also active in the establishment of the Maccabiah Games. These games are held every four years for Jewish athletes around the world.

Wittenberg coached the collegiate level wrestlers at Yeshiva University and City College of New York from 1967 to 1980. Additionally, he coached the 1968 Olympic team in Mexico City. Also, he wrote a best-selling book titled Isometric Exercises. It has been through five printings.

Wittenberg was the first inductee to the CCNY Alumni Varsity Association Hall of Fame. He was elected into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1977.

From 1995 to 2015, Yeshiva University annually held a wrestling tournament for Yeshiva high schools across the country named in his honor. However, Yeshiva University cancelled their wrestling program in 2015, and the tournament is now hosted by the Yeshiva Wrestling Association at The Frisch School in Paramus, NJ. Wittenberg was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on March 21, 1993, recognizing his gold medal-winning performances at the Maccabiah Games in both 1950 and 1953.[3]


Wittenberg competed at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, where he received a gold medal in freestyle wrestling in the light heavyweight class.[4] He received an Olympic silver medal in 1952.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Obituary Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2010.
  2. ^ Goldstein, Richard (March 10, 2010). "Henry Wittenberg, Champion Wrestler, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  3. ^ Henry Wittenberg Archived 2011-09-08 at the Wayback Machine, National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Accessed February 3, 2011.
  4. ^ "1948 Summer Olympics – London, United Kingdom – Wrestling" Archived 2007-12-08 at the Wayback Machine databaseOlympics.com (Retrieved on 13 September 2008)