ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – All East Brunswick High School’s Jonathan Schleifer knows is the podium at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Since his first trip down to state finals’ weekend during his freshman year in 2011, Schleifer has placed in the Top 8 of his weight class, but never the leader.
2014 is different. After beating Bound Brook’s Joshua Ugalde, 6-4, Schleifer is standing at the top of the podium as the State Champion 160 pound wrestler.
“Freshman year my goal actually was just to place and I realized what being a state champ really was,” Schleifer said. “Everybody talks about it in their practice rooms, but once I was here in eighth place and I was looking up at the guy all the way up at the top, I knew that’s what I wanted. Every year I trained harder and harder until I knew what it took to be a state champion.”
The experience of making it to state championship weekend each of the last three years showed early in the match.
Schleifer scored four points in the first period, including a 2-point take down in the opening minute, which was his game plan all along.
“Once I got a little bit of points, I started getting a little big more defensive, which came back to bite me,” the senior Bear said. “The game plan was to take him down and let him up, take him down and let him up.”
His defensiveness hurt him in the second period as Ugalde took advantage of an 1-point “escape” and a 2-point takedown to tie the match at 4-4.
In the third period, Schleifer was credited with a 2-point reversal after Ugalde called for an injury timeout in the middle of a play, resulting in the match-deciding points.
“I just stayed in good position,” Schleifer said of his late play. “I think that was all I needed really.”
The state championship victory is the last one of Schleifer’s high school career. He will move on to wrestle at Princeton University in the Fall.
“I still have much bigger matches to win,” Schleifer said. “I’m not a high school wrestler anymore, I’m a D-1 athlete. I have to step up the training. Not that I feel like I’m not in my league, I have to put more focus in it if I want to succeed.”