Wrestlers from Israel, Morocco and the United States are training together in Israel this week. Photo by Aaron Galef, courtesy of event organizers.
The Israel Wrestling Federation is holding an international wrestling tournament to mark 50 years since the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, where members of the Israeli Olympic delegation were kidnapped by terrorists in the Olympic Village, and 11 Israeli Olympians were eventually murdered.
According to the Israeli Wrestling Federation, “In commemoration of our fallen athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, our federation is holding a wrestling tournament officially titled ‘Slavin, Halfen, Weinberg & Gottfreund Memorial’ and under the name ‘Wrestling Tournament for peace.'”
The four Israeli Olympians from the wrestling team who were killed were Yossef Gutfreund (referee), Moshe Weinberg (coach) and wrestling athletes Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin.
There will be senior level competition on Thursday August 25th in Greco-Roman wrestling and Friday August 26th in men’s freestyle at The Conch Arena. Six countries are expected in the tournament, Israel, the United States, Morocco, Germany, Greece and Switzerland.
An informal training camp program for young athletes is also planned for the week. This will include young American wrestlers from Chicago’s Hope Academy, as well as Beat the Streets Cleveland. Emphasis is placed on establishing links between the athletes of the nations concerned.
Three-time member of the Greco-Roman world team and current member of the national team Pat Smith of the Minnesota Storm will be among the American senior entries in the competition.
“Dan Willis runs Hope Academy and is with Beat the Streets in Chicago. I’ve done a few camps for him in the past. He brings more than 40 high school students there, to do sports diplomacy with Israel and to get involved in the event they are organizing. John and Ben Peterson, who were at the Munich Games, are also going there. They were looking for someone to come and represent them in the senior level tournament. It seemed like a pretty amazing opportunity, and I decided to jump on it. I can see Israel, represent the United States and be with a great group of guys in what should be a historic event,” Smith said.
John and Ben Peterson were American Olympic freestyle wrestlers who were in the Olympic Village during the Munich Games. They are legends of the sport, who have both won Olympic gold and Olympic silver and will be inducted into the UWW International Wrestling Hall of Fame this year.
Also on the trip, the first senior Greco-Roman world champion in United States history, 1985 world champion Mike Houck, who later served as USA Wrestling’s Greco-Roman National Coach. Each of these American wrestling legends will spend time coaching young Israeli wrestlers during camp, as well as assisting American athletes in competition.
“John (Peterson) has been a great mentor my whole life. He was with Athletes in Action at the University of Minnesota when I was there, and we met with him weekly to study the Bible and just talk. John m helped a lot. I met Ben at Camp des Champs. I have the opportunity to rub shoulders with two sports legends and men of faith. Add Mike Houck, one of the greatest mentors in my life. It will be cool to be out there and have Mike in my corner for the first time in a long time,” Smith said.
Smith, who placed second in the 2022 Final X, has been training this summer and is looking forward to the competition and overall experience.
“I trained with Ivan (Ivanov) and the national team for the majority of August and a bit of July. It will be a good little test to be back there and what we did, and if that changes a bit I’ll be good to go and it’ll be a fun event,” Smith said,
USA Wrestling will post results from the event as information becomes available.
One of the tour leaders is Dr Aviram Shmuely, an Israeli referee who lives in New York and is very active with the New York Athletic Club and American wrestling.
There will also be struggle diplomacy included in the tour between Israel and Morocco.
“A very important part of this event is that it follows on from the Abraham Accords, in which Israel and Morocco signed a peace accord. The delegation of 17 Moroccans arrived in Israel for a week and the President of the Moroccan Wrestling Federation will sign a cooperation agreement with the President of the Israeli Wrestling Federation in the presence of the President of the Israeli Olympic Committee and the Ambassador of Morocco in Israel. “, said the director of the event Jake Kornblatt.
SLAVIN, HALFEN, WEINBERG & GOTTFREUND MEMORIAL
in Beer Sheva, Israel, on August 25 and 26
Thursday August 25
10:00 a.m. – conclusion – Greco-Roman preliminaries to semi-finals
3:30 p.m. – Opening ceremonies
4:00 p.m. – conclusion – Greco-Roman finals and prize-giving ceremonies
friday august 26
10:00 a.m. – Conclusion – Men’s Freestyle Preliminaries to Semi-Finals
4:00 p.m. – conclusion – Men’s Freestyle Finals and prize-giving ceremonies