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Jonathan Loew of Wantagh captured the 195-pound title at the Journeymen Fall Classic on Sunday, defeating nationally-ranked Tony Wuest of Delaware (an NC State recruit) and NHSCA All-American Joe Miller of Nevada in the finals.
But his outstanding performance on the mat wasn’t necessarily the highlight of the weekend for the Nassau County senior.
On Friday and Saturday, he took his official visit to Cornell University and a few days later, Loew committed to the Big Red.
"I chose Cornell not only because of the wrestling team and the campus, which are great, but the academic opportunities really separated Cornell from the competition," he said. "On my visit, I thought the facilities were really nice and I liked the coaches and the guys on the team. The camaraderie stood out."
Loew plans to compete at 195 pounds as a senior for a loaded Warrior squad and expects to be a 184 or 197 pounder at the next level.
Despite his future as a college upperweight, Loew began his career with Wantagh as a 99 pounder, notching huge victories for the team on the way to the Union-Endicott Duals team title as a seventh grader.
In the semifinals of the event against Islip, Wantagh trailed by two points going into the last and deciding bout at 99 pounds. Loew trailed after two periods.
"I remember that like it was yesterday," Loew said. "I was eating dinner the night before with my dad [Irwin Loew] and Coach [Paul] Gillespie and we were talking about how we thought the match would go. I realized I would be the last match and it might come down to me - and then it did. My opponent was a big 99 pounder and I was a seventh grader so I was very nervous. He was strong and he took me down early on, but as the match went on, my confidence went up and I came back. I was down 2-0 going into the third but got a takedown and rideout and it was 2-2. I remember going into overtime, PJ Gillespie told me to stay on my offense, stick with the single. I hit a lefty single and got the takedown. The place was crazy. It was amazing -- one of the best feelings of my life."
That victory sent Wantagh to the finals and once again, the seventh grader showed calm under pressure, coming up with a big win as the Warriors took first place and later finished #1 in the state dual rankings.
Loew returned to the 99 pound class as an eighth grader and earned his first trip to the NYS tournament, falling one win short of the podium. During that campaign, he notched six victories over wrestlers who went on to win state titles during their careers.
"Sometimes I look back at that weight. It was stacked with a lot of talent," he said. "When we went up to the states, I felt like I was playing with banker’s money. Whatever happens, happens. I got to the blood round and put myself in a position to win, but didn't get it done."
He continued his ascent up the weight classes during the next two years.
"My freshman year I was growing, but I was trying to wrestle 106," he said. "I eventually went up to 113 and finished off there. I took sixth in the county. It was a disappointing year. I was planning to go 126 the next season, but I tore my UCL that offseason and I had to choose between surgery and rehab. I missed the first part of the season while I rehabbed and came back in January. I wound up wrestling in a tough class in the county at 138."
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He returned healthy - and up at 160 - as a junior, determined to make his mark.
"That offseason, I really exploded," he said. "I wrestled 100 matches - at least. It made a huge difference. I felt much more comfortable and ready to go."
Loew was 29-0 heading into the Eastern States Classic, with 26 of those wins by bonus points. He nabbed third at SUNY Sullivan and also grabbed bronze at the state championships in Albany at 160 pounds.
"I felt like I had a lot of momentum throughout the season and I was very confident heading into the states," he said. "I was disappointed about my loss in the semis [6-4 to Grant Cuomo of Brewster]. But I was glad that I had the grit to wrestle back to third. It was a good learning experience and I have one more year to get it done."
Next up was the NHSCA Nationals, where the Section 8 wrestler earned All-American honors with a fourth place showing at 160 after racking up five victories over opponents from four different states.
"I went out to Virginia Beach the year before and made it to the blood round," he said. "I was a lot more confident this time after taking third in the state this year. I felt really good. I stayed on my offense."
That was just the start of the “offseason” in which Loew estimates he wrestled around 65 matches. He defeated multiple Pennsylvania state placers, as well as a National Preps bronze medalist (Darrien Roberts) from Wyoming Seminary.
In addition, he trained at Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW) and with numerous standouts, including NCAA All-Americans Justin Accordino and PJ Gillespie as well as his brothers - Matt and Chris, who were both Division 1 wrestlers.
He said wrestling with his brothers helps him with hand fighting and college preparation on the mat. In addition, Loew said their experiences assisted him as he went through the recruiting process.
"My brother Matt stayed home and wrestled for Hofstra and ever since I was at a young age, going there was on my mind. So it was hard to say no to them," he said. "Chris went to Columbia and that was a big reason I wanted to go to the Ivy League. I saw that he got a good education plus networking and connections. College is about more than just the wrestling; it's about life after wrestling too."
But, of course, Loew is also enthusiastic about the wrestling.
"Gabe Dean just became the volunteer assistant at Cornell," he said. "I'm very excited about that. He’s an animal. There are guys like Max Dean and Ben Darmstadt, who is really tall like me [Loew is 6-foot-2], so hopefully I can pick up things from him. I'll have a lot of great people to train with."
But first things first. Loew has some history he wants to make in his last high school season.
"First and foremost, my individual goal is to win a state championship," he said. "My oldest brother Matt made it to the finals twice and unfortunately didn't get the job done. My brother Chris didn't win a state title. So it's time for me to break the curse and win for my family, my team and me."
And there's more, with the first-ever official dual meet state championships taking place in New York during the 2017-18 campaign. Wantagh is certainly among the favorites.
"We talk about it all the time," Loew said. "There's a lot of talent on our team and everyone is doing their part in the offseason. We really want to be the first team to officially win. It's a big goal of ours."
Back in 2013, Wantagh was declared the NYS dual champions in a sportswriters poll, with a 99 pound Loew making big contributions. Now, as a 195-pound senior, Loew will look to finish off his career on top before leaving for Cornell.
Jonathan Loew had a long list of thank yous. "First and foremost, I want to thank my dad [Irwin Loew] for everything - all the time and investment and driving me everywhere. I also want to thank Vougar Oroudjov, Justin Accordino, Paul Gillespie, PJ Gillespie, Brian Hooker, Todd Bloom, Ray Handley, Ray Handley Jr, Reggie Jones and all my friends and family who supported me through everything."