Henry Wittenberg

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

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 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 London Olympics. 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 entered the Helsinki Olympics as the returning champion. He once again reached the final match of the Olympics. This time he lost the match, but he still received 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 a New York City police officer. 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.

Since the mid-1990s, Yeshiva University annually holds a wrestling tournament for Yeshiva high schools across the country named in his honor. But, since more teams joined the tournament, Yeshiva University’s gym got to small. The tournament is now held 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 also[edit]


  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)