Wrestling is far from glamorous, and humble beginnings in the sport are a rite of passage. Practicing on old wrestling mats, extensive workouts to lose weight before weigh-ins and long drives to tournaments are the norm. For Wantagh’s Loew family, and youngest son Jonathan, the journey was no different.
As his high school career wound down, and recruiting calls came from Hofstra and the University of Minnesota, the Loews, with Gillespie’s input, decided on Cornell University. “He earned the opportunity to go to an Ivy League School,” father Irwin Loew , 59, said with evident pride. “Now he’s also got one of the best coaching staffs in the nation, with Rob Cole as his head coach.”
“The most important thing to him and his father was the education,” Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie said.
Jonathan added that he “felt most comfortable to grow into the best person” at Cornell.
In the 2018-19 scholastic year, Loew took what is referred to as a “frog year” at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, N.Y. He didn’t take classes at Cornell, and as a result maintained his freshman NCAA eligibility, while learning to cope with the pressures of college life. This year he made his debut for Cornell, and is now in the midst of his first collegiate season, on a team that is ranked 16th in the country.
With a number of Big Red starters sitting out college competition in order to train for the 2020 Olympic trials, young wrestlers like Loew have more opportunities to earn valuable NCAA experience. At press time, his record was 13-4, and he had already faced — and lost to — No. 1-ranked 197-pounder Kollin Moore, of No. 4-ranked Ohio State University.
Loew said he would be moving down from 197 pounds to 184 for his next tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and that he would most likely remain at that weight for the rest of the season.
“Going down to 184, I don’t think they’ll be as strong as the wrestlers up at 197,” he said of his opponents, “but they may be more athletic, so I’ll make the right adjustments with my coaches.”
He added, “I’m not scared of anyone.”
“In my house we have so many medals, plaques and photos from wrestling tournaments from all three of my sons,” said Irwin Loew, who wrestled at Brooklyn College. “Whenever one of my [elder] two sons won,
Jonathan was always in the picture as a young kid. When we carpooled down to tour-naments, Jonathan was
in the car, always with the wrestlers.”
All three Loew brothers wrestled from early childhood, and all attended Wantagh High School. Matthew, 26, posted a career 165-35 record at Wantagh High School, was a three-time National High School Coaches Association All-American and a two-time state runner-up, and earned a scholarship to wrestle at Hofstra University. He is now a Suffolk County police officer.
Chris Loew, one year younger, finished with a 117-35 record and 78 pins for the Wantagh Warriors before earning a wrestling scholarship to Columbia University. He is now a police officer in Nassau County’s 4th Precinct.
“I was born and bred into it, and I didn’t really find anything else as interesting,” said Jonathan Loew, 20. “I remember watching my brothers wrestle with Paul Gillespie from a young age, and thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Jonathan wasn’t just young when he watched his brothers learn the sport from future Wantagh High coach Paul Gillespie at his Garden City Grapplers Wrestling Club; he was literally in diapers. “Jonathan would be rolling around the mats in diapers at 2 years old,” Irwin recalled, adding that when he saw how much Gillespie knew about the sport and how he connected with his sons, Loew urged him to come to Wantagh to coach the wrestling program. Gillespie is now a member of the New York State Wrestling Coach Hall of Fame.
“I coached his two brothers . . . and out of the three brothers, he was the best,” Gillespie said of Jonathan. “He had the most time to develop, watching his brothers, and his dad took him to train at a lot of different places.” One of those places was a wrestling club in Plainview operated by Vougar Oroudjov, a former European and world champion and the current interim head wrestling coach at Nassau Community College.
Loew wrestled on Wantagh’s varsity for six years, starting in seventh grade, and Gillespie watched him grow. In eighth grade, he wrestled at 99 pounds. As a freshman, he wrestled at 106 and 113 pounds before moving up to 138 as a sophomore. “I’d always been tall, but I knew I had to start filling out,” Jonathan said. “That’s when I started to really hit the weight room and get bigger.”
Committed to packing on muscle, and benefiting from a natural growth spurt, Jonathan wrestled at 195 pounds in his junior year. Aside from his skill on the mat, it was his attitude and leadership that stuck out to Gillespie. “He was a terrific worker in the wrestling room and the classroom,” Gillespie said, “and his leadership qualities were way beyond a lot of other kids’.”
As a senior, Jonathan won multiple county titles, a state championship at 195 pounds and a national title, for which he and Gillespie decided he should wrestle at 182 pounds. He credits both his coach and his father for his success. “First and foremost, my dad wanted me to be a hard worker, in anything that I did,” Loew said.