The Bronx Batmen

Read more about this in Men Without Fear, available at Amazon.

John Jensen wasn’t the only gifted wrestler to come out of the NY Institute. Three other blind wrestlers from the school won Metropolitan AAU titles in the years from 1942 to 1948, and a couple nearly took national titles in 1944 and 1946, Their names were Jacob Twersky, Anthony Mattei, Gene Manfrini, and Fred Tarrant.

In 1944, the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind featured three wrestlers from ages 15 to 17 who would either win metropolitan titles or nearly win national titles. John Jensen, then 19, was their captain.

I call these athletes “batmen” because they were blind (some more blind than others) and so fought their battles in the darkness.

Bob Russell, a less-accomplished wrestler and academic dynamo who graduated from the Institute three years before, went on to be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame [1]. None of these superior wrestlers received such honors. Though their accomplishments may have been easier to achieve during wartime due to reduced competition, many of their greatest wrestling victories came after the war, and it was not as though servicemen had ceased to compete in athletics during the war. On the contrary, much attention and honor was bestowed upon servicemen in such competitions, and rightly so. Though the war may have provided some blind wrestlers with opportunities to rise to the top, it may have eclipsed the accomplishments of others. And these were not men who vanished after their wrestling careers ended. Each of them went on to lead productive lives as fathers, teachers, artists, politicians, and businessmen.

Some Senior Metropolitan AAU Results (blind wrestlers in bold)

Year Weight Class 1st Place 2nd Place Remarks
1942 121 Jacob Twersky
1942 (Dec) 135 Murray Edelman
1942 (Dec) 150 Chris Soukas Morris Nemer
1943 135 Edward Collins Weyman McNabb West Side Y
1943 145 Lawrence Cowell Chris Soukas Sat, Mar 20
1944 145 Lawrence Cowell John Jensen**  
1944 155 Fred Tarrant**  
1945 145 Lawrence Cowell Gene Manfrini**  
1946 155 Anthony Mattei** March 23/30?
1947 135 Murray Edelman* Eddie Collins Metro
1947 145 Gene Manfrini* Kenneth Hunte McBurney Y
1947 155 Chris Soukas Sat, March 22
1948 136 Murray Edelman* NYAC
1948 147 Gene Manfrini* Sat, March 27

** New York Institute for the Education of the Blind

* McBurney YMCA

[1] Robert W. Russell, who went on to wrestle on the Yale varsity squad and become an accomplished professor and writer, was awarded the National “Medal of Courage” in the year 2000 by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

© 2015 Kaweah

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