Girls are grappling with success

A practice at Beat the Streets Wrestling in Soho. Photo by Justin Hoch

BY ERICA RAKOWICZ  |  New York City public school students can grab on to a chance to grow as both athletes and individuals thanks to a nonprofit organization in Soho.

Beat the Streets Wrestling, based at 145 Thompson St. near Houston St., provides both girls and boys with the opportunity to wrestle for both recreation and competition.

B.T.S.W. was founded by Mike Novogratz, a former wrestler who is a financial investor and Hudson River Park Trust board member.

Wrestling is one of the world’s earliest sports. In fact, according to B.T.S.W., we’re all born wrestlers. The group’s mission statement notes every newborn child has demonstrated “the back arch as an effort to roll from back to stomach.”

Most girls in the program learn about it through word of mouth, school visits or seeing the boys’ teams wrestle.

“Girls would go up to the boys’ teams and say that they wanted to wrestle,” said Justin Hoch, B.T.S.W.’s director of advancement.

Having recognized the potential a girls’ team could have, B.T.S.W. organized a girls’ wrestling tournament. Meanwhile, the organization has grown enormously, from 19 total teams — boys’ and girls’ teams combined — to 64 teams in just three years.

B.T.S.W. not only provides students with an athletic setting, but leadership experience, as well as a structured place to grow and learn.

Many young women in B.T.S.W. have excelled in the sport, bringing back medals to show for their hard work, dedication and skill.

Rosemary Flores and Shannon Henry, both from Curtis High School, on Staten Island, traveled north for the Canada Cup, where they wrestled in the pre-junior division. Flores took home a bronze medal.

Kimberly Cardenas from the Michael J. Petrides School, also on Staten Island, traveled to Venezuela for the Fila Cadet Pan Am Games, winning a silver medal.

Yuneris Diaz from Bathgate High School, in the Bronx, and Flores both achieved All-American status last month, bringing to six the number of All-American wrestlers the Soho-based program has produced this year.

B.T.S.W. is also going to the mat financially for youth sports, giving the Public School Athletic League the largest donation in its history.

Cheryl Wong, the girls’ program manager, said the coaching B.T.S.W. provides, plus the girls’ tremendous effort, gives the young grapplers both confidence and discipline.

Wong, a wrestler herself, holds two open, girls-only practices each week at the New York Athletic Club, on Central Park South.

Yet, the girl grapplers are sometimes ridiculed for their sport of choice.

“Teenagers make fun of everything,” Hoch said, “but these girls are strong-willed to begin with.”

B.T.S.W.’s free camp runs Mondays through Fridays, starting at 9 a.m., until Wed., Aug. 15. The camp is partnered with the city  Department of Education’s Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Big Apple Games and Crossfit Virtuosity.

Coaches John Zarcone, Anthony Constantino and Dean Morrison and organizer Mike Torriero teach the Summer Wrestling Skills and Drills Program.

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