ABRAM "ALEX" OSTROVSKIY
Abram 'Alex' Ostrovskiy 3 May 1932 - 11 April 2016
Coach, Official, Wrestler... An American Hero
From Wrestlers WithOut Borders (WWB): Hall of Merit member Abram 'Alex' Ostrovskiy, an internationally noted CCCP competitor, coach, and official, who during the 2002 Gay Games VI in Sydney officiated and coached Golden Gate WC, died in his sleep on 11 April 2016.
Coach Alex was buried in Colma, California on Thursday 14 April 2016. WWB was represented at his service by board member/founder Gene Dermody and chairman emeritus Roger Brigham. "Coach Alex was a heroic leader with a generous heart," Brigham said. "He touched so many lives and was a fierce fighter for inclusion and acceptance of others in our sport. He will be missed by our entire community, which is deeply honored to have known him." Our condolences to his family and all whose lives he blessed.
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From Gene Dermody, based upon numerous interviews with Ostrovskiy over some 22 years of learning from him.
Ostrovskiy, better known to everyone as 'Coach Alex', was born in Belarus CCCP under the Stalin regime where members of his family suffered discrimination, persecution, exile, and execution. During WWII he was hidden in Siberia with other gifted children because of his early athletic prowess.
Through his technical mastery of the sport of GRECO and FreeStyle wrestling, he became a member of the CCCP national team but was never allowed to travel/compete abroad because of his Jewish background. Coach Alex married Lyubov, a stunning blond Russian Olympic Gymnast, and had two sons.
After migrating to the United States to create a better life for his family, Coach Alex became involved with Golden Gate Wrestling Club (GGWC) of San Francisco. When WWB and the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) had trouble gaining official endorsement for the wrestling tournament of Gay Game VI in Sydney, Alex stepped in to smooth the way, flying to Sydney to be one of the officials and to help coach GGWC. His gravitas and international reputation, together with the NSW Wrestling connections of his old CCCP teammate Sam Feigleman of Sydney, swayed Australian Wrestling to sanction the event. Sam operated a well respected Sydney wrestling and boxing facility, the Boxing Works.
My respect and admiration for Coach Alex stems from how he totally transformed Golden Gate Wrestling (GGWC), which I have been running since 1986. As a typical American 'scholastic wrestler', I suffered through high school coaches who were just redeployed football coaches collecting a coaching stipend. In college, the NCAA American 'folkstyle' was extremely hard on the knee/shoulder joints, and cutting weight bordered on the insane. I just did not have the high school experience to build upon, and I rarely incorprated new moves easily. When I became a high school coach in NJ, I just continued the American problem with scholastic wrestling, which was still in the Iowa/Dan Gable mode of favoring superhuman genetics, strength, intimidation, and almost autistic dedication which just did not include average guys like me.
In 2000 I covered all the wrestling at the Sydney Olympics for a web site, and was struck at the casual, almost FUN demeanor of the non American wrestlers. Why was it that non American wrestlers like Saitiev could survive multiple Olympics and smile, while the Americans were too beat up from the NCAA to handle FreeStyle.
When Coach Alex showed up at GGWC, I was blown away by his wrestling style. It was organic, the way little kids will wrestle... reactions based more upon basic body mechanics than complex moves. Immediately our newbies were getting takedowns, enjoying practices, getting fewer injuries, and gaining self confidence. Coach Alex vastly improved GGWC's repertoire and training style away from the scholastic John Smith zippy shooting 3' away ankle biter style to a more aggressive standing GRECO style that just was so intially foreign to me. Today I am a believer, and I credit Coach Alex with saving GGWC, and SF Bay Area wrestling in general by making wrestling far more accessible, inclusive, and FUN.