In Israel “Judo is like football in America, “ and senior Shir Shraga was the best. Third best in the entire country for his weight two years in a row. Then, when he was 13, his dad got an offer to work in America, and Shraga’s athletic world was turned upside down.
From the small town of Reut, the comparable metropolis of Tampa was more than a small change for Shraga, and it didn’t help he didn’t speak English.
“No, (I didn’t speak English) at all, just ‘Hi my name is Shir, I don’t speak English, ‘” said Shraga. “It was a matter of time, learning a new word every single day, and walking around with my dictionary in my hand.”
When he arrived in America, Shraga tried to keep up his Judo but didn’t find American classes to be near as good as his homelands’.
“They were all really bad, after three months people got black belts, and the coaches….they weren’t even good, I would teach them things, “ said Shraga. He quit the sport, but when sophomore year began he had a new pursuit: wrestling. At first, he didn’t really know what he was getting in to.
“I had coach Noble (pictured right), for American Government I believe, and he talked to me about it. I didn’t know much English, so I just said ‘Okay, whatever.’ Then sophomore year I actually joined; it was pretty fun,” said Shraga.
In his first year Shraga was already on varsity, and got fourth in the district. Junior year—keeping in mind that he is a year younger than all other juniors—Shraga went 27-13 while hampered by a neck injury. In his senior year, injury struck again, but not before Shraga started off fast with a 38-6 record, and won the district title in only his third year in the sport. Ranked top seven in the state, who knows where he could’ve gone if a knee injury hadn’t ended his high school career.
Now his family plans a move back to Israel, to the town of Beit Hashita, where Shraga plans to enter the Special Forces branch of the Israeli armed forces.
Zealand Shannon / Sports Editor