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Location: Yardley, PA (Bucks County), United States

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Strength & Courage" Jewish Education Series - Part 3 - Ken Chertow - PhillyBurbs.com

     Meeting Ken Chertow and discussing his accomplishments and contributions simply made my jaw drop.  I’d like to introduce you to Ken, discuss his road to the Olympics and then leave you with his view on achievement.  The ultimate goal of this final example of “Strength & Courage” will be to provide you with a few more tools to apply to your own lives and to those of others.
     A partial list of Ken’s leadership is:
     -          3x Academic All-American at Penn State
     -          2x West Virginia State Wrestling Champion
     -          Junior National and World Champion
     -          Maccabiah Games World Champion
     -          3x NCAA All-American
     -          1988 US Olympian
     Ken grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and spent a lot of time playing a variety of sports and other activities at the JCC and YMCA.  The YMCA introduced Ken to wrestling in his elementary school years.  It was very tough and he did not initially excel.  Baseball was his favorite sport with visions of being the next Sandy Koufax.  It was the challenge of wrestling, though, that eventually won out.
     The Chertow family moved from Chicago to West Virginia where his father became the Chief of Endocrinology at Marshal Medical School while in 7th grade.  It was a busy and fun year of wrestling, Bar Mitzvah studies, piano lessons, baseball and a little basketball.
     The commitment to wrestling was increasing as Ken started lifting weights and going to some serious wrestling camps.  He went from a .500 wrestler in 7th grade to winning most of his matches in 8th.  He kept working hard and improving and continues that theme today.
     Ken’s parents emphasized education over sports, but were supportive.  They were not pushy at all as Ken’s self-motivation kept building in school and wrestling.  Ken’s parents even agreed to replace the ping pong table in the basement with a wrestling mat, but Ken had to pay half the cost with money raised cutting lawns.  100’s of hours were spent on that mat with the associated results.
     Ken culminated his high school career at the Junior World Championships.  Many colleges were in the running with Penn State and Princeton at the top of the list.  Ken chose Penn State for their unique blend of academics and sports.
     Following his freshman year in college Ken won the US Maccabiah Team Trials at Penn.  The World Maccabiah Games in Israel is also known as the Jewish Olympics.  The trip to Israel was incredible with a lifetime of memories.  “Visiting Israel helped put me in touch with my heritage and was a very educational and enlightening experience.”  Ken won the Gold Medal in both Greco Roman and Freestyle Wrestling at the Maccabiahs.
     Ken continued on at Penn State where he became a 3x All-American and a 3x Academic All-American.  If you like, here’s a fabulous Sports Illustrated article about Ken and one of his teammates while in college - http://nittanyliongrappling.org/si1.html .   Ken lives in State College, PA with his wife Laurie and two children (who, by the way, like basketball, baseball and wrestling).  He coaches wrestling full time in State College and at camps across the nation.  Ken takes particular pride in his wrestlers’ success both on and off the mat.
     “Wrestling is an awesome Olympic Sport that teaches boys and girls of all ages self-discipline, perseverance, an intense work ethic and much more.  Team sports are nice, but individual Olympic Sports have so much direct carry over into helping children succeed and excel in school and life.  In wrestling it does not matter if you are tall or short, rich or poor, Jewish or Christian – if you want to succeed in wrestling you will find a way to be successful.  By combining technical and physical training with proper nutrition and a correct mindset, wrestling is truly a sport that teaches lessons in life.”
     A few things jump out following my visit with Ken:
     1.  Positive support at home (whether from parents or a spouse) is critical to achieving maximum success in any endeavor. 
     2.  Motivation, intensity, positive vibes and learning what works from those who have already been there are the primary ingredients for achievement.
     3.  Wrestling is one of the most comprehensive training arenas as it prepares young people to become successful in all aspects of their lives better than any other sport.
     4.  And, finally, Ken feels an even greater level of achievement in helping his own children and wrestlers to achieve their goals than he did in achieving his own.  Being a devout student of wrestling has helped Coach Chertow to become an outstanding role model as he’s mentored thousands of kids over the years.  Ken’s site, www.kenchertow.com , has some of the greatest learning tools, nutritional aids and training/camp info available.
     I’d like to thank Ken for allowing me to conclude this Series with his story and hope you found his example of leadership, persistence and hard work as worthy of following as did I.  It’s never too late so I’m getting started right away.

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