Friday September 15th 2017

On Wednesday September 13th, George Reinitz, sponsor and one of the founders for the Montreal YMHA Wrestling Club held a book signing for his memoir, “Wrestling with Life”.  I had the privilege of attending the book signing and being able to listen to George’s experiences both in pouring his life experiences into the book and to hear his personal recounting of his life in Hungary, his experiences in Auschwitz, coming to Canada and finally wrestling.  Among the guests in attendance, there were people from the Jewish community, members of the wrestling club and even some local and foreign dignitaries.

Richard King and George Reinitz in a “fireside” chat

The Beginning

The evening began with a question and answer period between co-writer Richard King and George.  George recounted many of his experiences, sometimes elaborating more than was told in the book itself.  George further outlined the importance that wrestling played in his life and how it helped him to come to terms with what he had experienced in Auschwitz as well as provide him a family for the one he had lost. It was a heartfelt and emotional evening.

At times, George would pause for a moment, seemingly finding it difficult to move and who could blame him? In some ways it must be cathartic to bear your soul to such a large group and at other times, extremely difficult.

A packed house

George’s impact on wrestling

I’ve have had the fortune of knowing George for many years.  Some of the stories that he told at the book signing, I had heard them before and some were brand new.  Throughout the whole evening, one of the reoccurring themes was that wrestling was an important part of his life.  This in turn led him to create the training facility for wrestling at the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA.  Through his generous contributions, the Montreal YMHA was able to develop and recruit many athletes from across Canada and around the world.  The club boasts wrestlers from different nationalities, ethnicities and religious denominations.  And yet with all this diversity in the room, there’s never been an issue with these differences. Everyone is welcome as we all speak the language of wrestling, and that’s the atmosphere that George created when he gave us not only a room to train in, but also a home.

Members of the Montreal YMHA (We can’t even get everyone into the picture!)

Some afterthoughts

As I pick up my copy of the book, I’m looking forward to reading it and learning more of the man’s experience.  The story of how George got started in wrestling is very similar to many of us who started wrestling very young.  Wrestlers tend to be an odd bunch.  We try to be the Alpha figures in our day-to-day lives and will fight vociferously when challenged.  Most wrestlers never really fit in to the concept of team sports and are usually solitary and cerebral athletes.  My own experience with team sports involved me playing goaltender as I felt that the only person I could rely on was myself.

As solitary athletes, many aspects of wrestling would appeal to us.  In wrestling, we definitely liked the idea of being able to take control of our own destiny.  Through wrestling, we developed an intense independence and a fierce loyalty to the sport, which has helped some of us to become the people we are today.

George takes his time to autograph every book brought to him

Wrestling has had a profound experience on my life. I once confided in my coach Victor Zilberman that without wrestling, I would have probably quit school and that the life I have now was due largely to him and all the other mentors and coaches I’ve had the fortune to know throughout my life.  I count George amongst that select group of people.  I owe these people so much for what I have at this point in time and I will always be grateful for both their patience and guidance throughout my life and wrestling career.  Many of us can relate to this as we have often found refuge in the sport wrestling as it provided us a place for us to feel welcome whereas we might not feel so otherwise anywhere else.  Wrestling became a safe haven for all us misfits and in essence, our salvation.

While George’s book launch and signing was in essence a way to sum up his life experiences, for the rest of us, it provides a window of the harshness that one person can endure.  The importance that a sport like wrestling had on his life cannot be understated and can serve as a lesson for not only enduring through hardship, but thriving.  In essence, some would say that his life was like a wrestling match.  And he came out a winner.