About a week before the NCAA tournament, a number of former wrestlers, including All-Americans and national qualifiers, got back on the mat at Baruch College at the Beat the Streets "Step into the Circle" event.
During the day, more than 45 wrestlers raised over $27,000 -- with Team UPS leading the charge. On the mat, it was Columbia’s Buck Wild Lions earning the top performance, with a trio of champs - Eren Civan, Jacob O’Hara and Stephen West.
“The quality of the wrestling was very high,” said Beat the Streets Executive Director Brendan Buckley. “But that was just part of what made the event such a blast. There’s such a strong wrestling culture in New York City, with former coaches, Olympians, All-Americans and so many other wrestlers here. Any time we have the opportunity to engage with them and show them what we’re trying to create in youth and high school wrestling, it’s a big win. The participants were great … a lot of them are high level executives, but when they have a free day they’ll mentor kids or lead workouts. Step into the Circle was a fun day where everyone was reminded how good it feels to give back to the wrestling community and everyone felt the impact wrestling and our program have on the kids in New York City.”
Another opportunity to feel and support that impact will take place at the Annual Benefit on May 17. Once again, Times Square will host world class wrestling, with Team USA taking on Japan. According to Buckley, the United States squad will not be determined until after the US Open, however, the Japanese contingent is listed below.
“With the next Olympics in Tokyo, there's a lot of excitement about competing against Japan," Buckley said. "We're looking forward to an exciting dual."
It’s also an exciting opportunity for Beat the Streets participants to wrestle in the spotlight, as there will be youth exhibition matches and a Girls Freestyle Dual Meet championship prior to the main event.
“The most important thing for us is to keep the message alive about why we have this high level international dual meet on the biggest stage there is," Buckley said. "It’s all to promote our efforts to provide wrestling and academic opportunities to kids throughout New York City. Our annual event funds all our programs for the entire year - our staff, scholarships we provide, coach education, middle school league, life skills workshops on nutrition, SAT test prep and so much more. Having the kids compete at the event helps to keep the message clear that this is what Beat the Streets is all about.”
The international competition in the Big Apple isn’t limited to the Times Square clash. A few weeks earlier, on April 22-23, the Gotham City Girls tournament will take place at Columbia University. A year ago, over 100 girls took the mat, from "18 different states and four countries". There were three 2016 world team members in the field.
“Our head women’s coach, Jacque Davis, has really caught a lot of traction with this premiere event,” Buckley said. “It provides opportunities for girls in New York City to see high level competition right at home. It will only continue to increase in terms of numbers and competitiveness. We’re really proud of our girls program and our girls league, which is one of a kind.”
Speaking of one of a kind … John Bowne’s Brandon Nunez, a senior who credits Beat the Streets and the sport of wrestling with "saving his life", became the first-ever Division 1 New York State high school champion in late February after defeating Terry Adams of Monsignor Farrell in the NYS finals.
“You always want to have shining examples of what’s possible if you do the right things, put in the time and make a full commitment,” Buckley said. “Our organization is incredibly proud of Brandon. He had to travel to different schools and various training centers. He went to Fargo on our funded trips and to camps. He did things the right way and is a shining example to his peers of what is truly possible."
Through events like those discussed above, Beat the Streets is looking to make that possibility a reality for many more.
57 kg/125.5 lbs. - Rinya Nakamura
61 kg/134 lbs. - Shingo Arimoto
65 kg/143 lbs. - Daichi Takatani
70 kg/154 lbs. - Nobuyoshi Takojima
74 kg/163 lbs. - Sosuke Takatani
86 kg/189 lbs. - Takahiro Murayama
97 kg/213 lbs. - Koki Yamamoto
125 kg/275 lbs. – Katsutoshi Kanazawa
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Yuki Irie
58 kg/128 lbs. - Chiho Hamada
69 kg/152 lbs. - Miwa Morikawa
Team Leader - Kosei Akaishi
Freestyle Coach - Shinichi Yumoto
Women’s Coach - Ryo Kanehama