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Athlete of the Week: Bernstein ’15 caps impressive season with All-American honor

Bruno’s 184-pounder upsets higher-seeded Kenny Courts to break Bears’ 16-year drought

Sports Editor
Friday, April 4, 2014

At the Division 1 National Wrestling Championships last weekend, fans from across the country watched Ophir Bernstein ’15 make University history. The 184-pound captain won three of his first four matches to become the first Brunonian All-American in 16 years. In the process, Bernstein pushed his season win total to 36, the second-highest in program history.

In the match that decided who would claim the coveted All-American label, Bernstein faced off against Ohio State’s Kenny Courts. Despite holding a lower seed and having lost to Courts early in the season, Bernstein dominated his Buckeye opponent 9-4. With the ink still wet in the Brown record books, The Herald has decided to make the All-American our Athlete of the Week.


Herald: How did you get started in wrestling?

Bernstein: My dad was a really successful wrestler, and he actually wrestled in the Olympics for Israel. Wrestling is one of those sports where it’s a family thing, and my brother and I both wrestled. My dad got me into it, but once I started I definitely developed a love.


How did you choose Brown?

I visited Brown, Columbia and Harvard. Going into it, Brown was a far third choice, but seeing the student body and learning more about the open curriculum, the campus, the team, the coach — I just fell in love. Looking back, I can’t imagine going anywhere else, so it was definitely a good pick.


Did you know when you signed to wrestling at Brown that you could be a D-1 All-American?

It’s funny that you say that, because I remember when I was on my recruiting trip, the assistant coach at the time (John Clark) told me, “If you come here and work hard, we think you have a chance to be Brown’s first All-American in a while.” I thought it was a little far-fetched, because at the time of my recruiting trip, I hadn’t even won a state championship in high school. The position I was put in, with the coaches and great teammates, made it a realistic goal, but at the time I was like, “No way.”


Is it difficult to have to switch head coaches halfway through your career?

I didn’t find the transition hard at all. It’s sad to see the old coaches go. I loved them, but the new coaches fit in really great at Brown. They definitely have us headed in the right direction. Everybody on the team is motivated now and shares the same goals.


When you faced Ohio State’s Kenny Courts in the Las Vegas tournament at the beginning of the season, did you ever think you would see him again on such a big stage?

Before I wrestled him, I didn’t really think about that. But after I wrestled him and lost to him, I thought, “I sure hope I see him again.” I didn’t want to end on a loss.


What’s your favorite takedown move?

My signature move is the low single (an attack on the opponent’s near leg, below the knee). I’ve been doing that since high school, and it’s my bread and butter. But I’m trying to work in some more stuff.


Is it ever difficult to perform in an individual sport that puts you all alone on a big stage like nationals?

There’s definitely pros and cons to it. If you lose a match, you have nobody to blame but yourself. You can’t say, “Oh, if our second baseman would have caught that ball, we could have won.” On the other hand, all the glory goes to you when you win. I’ve played team sports also, but it’s a different feeling winning a team sport versus an individual match. You know that it’s you, and your guts and determination that got you there.

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