Coach Robinson Prebish, or “Prebes” as he is widely known, has been a highly-respected Greco-Roman coach at the age-group level in the United States for almost two decades. A former competitor himself, Prebish is an extremely passionate advocate for the style and is always willing to lend a hand to young athletes interested in learning more. In 2016, prior to his 14th annual trip to Fargo for the Cadet and Junior Nationals, he provided this platform with a wonderfully detailed set of articles known as the “Fargo Survival Series” geared towards coaches and athletes alike. Since then, he has been a busy man and earlier this year was selected as the assistant coach for the US roster headed to the 20th Maccabiah World Games in Israel. Prebish had been to Israel previously as a competitor and it changed his life. He’s returning again next week as a coach, and he shares his perspective on the trip and what it means not just to him, but hopefully to everyone else, as well.
“IN a little over a week, I will return to Israel for the fourth time to participate in my third World Maccabiah Games. Not many people, let alone wrestlers, can say that they have experienced Israel three times with a pending fourth trip right around the corner, so I feel very fortunate for the opportunity. My previous journeys to Israel were as an athlete; training, cutting weight, and competing weighed heavily on my mind. But this time around, I get to experience Israel and the World Maccabiah Games as a coach. I have to thank US Maccabiah Wrestling Coach Chris Feder and all of the members of the Wrestling Committee for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to work with an outstanding group of athletes and show them the beauty and awesomeness that is Israel.
“The 20th World Maccabiah Games is a pretty big deal — it is the third largest multi-sport competition in the world behind the Olympic Games and the Pan American Games. 10,000 Jewish athletes from across the globe will converge on Israel in July to battle for Maccabiah glory. The US delegation will be over 1,000 strong and our twelve wrestles are some of the top grapplers in the nation. We have a number of NCAA Division I qualifiers on the roster and wrestlers who have excelled in Fargo and other National caliber freestyle and Greco Roman events. And Nate Engel, the current assistant coach at the Naval Academy, is a former Senior World Team member in Greco. This could be one of the strongest World Maccabiah Games wrestling teams the US has sent to Israel. To say that I am excited to work with our wrestlers is an understatement; these kids were exciting to watch at our team trials held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra in April.
“The majority of the team has not wrestled much Greco, so we do have work to do once we touch down in Israel. We will have about ten days to prepare for our tournaments, more than enough time to prepare a crash course in Greco. Having Engel on the roster will definitely help with training tips. I’m confident in the team’s ability to pick up technique in preparation of the Greco tournament. My main focus for the team with Greco is to: 1) Maintain good position; 2) find simple ways to score from our feet, and 3) have good par terre defense. If we can do this, we will be fine.
“Certainly the focus will be on wrestling, but there is so much more to sports when participating in the World Maccabiah Games. The day after we arrive in country, the US delegation will embark on the Israel Connect program. Israel Connect gives the athletes and coaches opportunity to experience Israel: from visiting the Old City and Western Wall in Jerusalem, climbing to the top of Masada, the last stand of Eleazar ben Ya’ir and his band of Jewish Zealots against the Romans, and visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. Israel Connect allows participants to really tap into their Jewish roots and experience their faith.
“I was a sixteen-year-old secular Jew when I first traveled to Israel in 1989 to compete in the 13th World Maccabiah Games. I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah when I turned thirteen, simply because I was busy training for my junior high wrestling season. That’s awful to say from a religious context, but it was the truth. Wrestling trumped everything in my life at that time. But once I arrived in Israel my perspective about my faith changed. I found myself growing closer to Judaism and learned so much about what it is to be Jewish. I had my Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Before the 13th Maccabiah I was Jewish by birth, but when I returned from Israel, I changed. I was different — proud of my heritage and eager to learn more about the religion. I am not the most traditional Jew, but I am proud of my religion and personal faith, and am excited to share this with our wrestlers.
“My faith is, just that — mine. What works for me may not work for others, and that is okay. I believe G-d is with me everyday in everything I do. Some people feel the need to go to synagogue or church once a week to develop their relationship with G-d, but for me it is important to experience G-d, my faith, my religion in every aspect of my life. I don’t push my personal beliefs and faith on others, rather I embrace our differences as a way to bring us closer.
“The World Maccabiah Games is an incredible vehicle to bring Jewish people from different cultures together, united in faith and athletics. Don’t get me wrong, I want our American wrestlers to win every weight class, but experiencing Jewish athletes from all over the world is pretty remarkable. I can’t wait to touch down in the Promised Land to reaffirm and build on my faith and share my faith with the wrestlers and the rest of the American team. I will keep you posted about our travels and experiences.” — Rob Prebish
20th World Maccabiah Games — Team USA Roster
Head coach — Chris Feder
Assistant coach — Rob Prebish
Nate Engel (Missouri Valley College)
Mosha Schwartz (Wyoming Seminary)
Bo Schlosser (Ellsworth CC)
Zachary Sherman (Blair Academy/UNC)
Parker Kropman (Binghamton University)
Jack Mutchnik (American University)
Mitchell Finesilver (Duke University)
Matt Finesilver (Duke University)
Sage Heller (Hofstra University)
Gordon Wolf (Lehigh University)
Donald McNeil (Rider University)
Michael Kosoy (North Carolina State)