From Wednesday, July 5 to Saturday, July 8, 250 BTSNY youth trekked from all over the city to Seward Park Campus for the first Top of the Podium (TOP) Camp that has taken place in the city.  This 4-day camp was coed, with boys and girls ranging from 5th through 12th grade. Each day included two wrestling sessions for each group, Life Skills workshops for middle and high schoolers, lunch, which was provided to the youth wrestlers everyday, and a recreation session.   

On the first day, the wrestling clinicians were  Elena PirizkhovaOlympian, and Corey LuceNYU Coach. The Life Skills workshop for high school athletes was an admissions process talk organized by NYU. The middle school Life Skills workshop was held by Brendan Buckley, BTS Executive Director. Buckley described the BTS vision to the youth wrestlers as he guided them on writing 'thank you' letters to donors.   

The second day had several wrestling clinicians: Kendall Cross (Olympic Gold Medalist), MarcAntoni Macias (Hunter Coach)Adis Radoncic (BTS Alum and current UNC wrestler), John Martin (BTS Intern and current wrestler at Cleveland State), and Brian Scherr (Eagle Assistant coach and former SUNY Buffalo Wrestler). The high school Life Skills was a financial aid presentation by Hunter College. The middle school Life Skills was a H.S. Program presentation put on by Cardozo High School, Eagle Academy, Seward Park High School, Stuyvesant High School, as well as others.  

Like the second day, the third day had several wrestling cliniciansJoe Favia (Head Coach of Stevens University)Barry Hart (BTS Alum and former Hunter wrestler)and Destane Garrick (BTS Alum and current Mckendree wrestler). For the high schoolers, Life Skills was a class on the BTS Vision and 'thank you' letter writing. Ken Bigley, PSAL Wrestling Supervisor and BTS Programming Consultant, gave the middle schoolers a presentation on the high school application processThe day culminated in a talent show in which BTS student-athletes showed their peers their various talents. It turns out that many youth are quite talented and potentially have entertainment in their futures. Performances included a piece on the pianosinging, beatboxing, dancing, and gymnastics.   

Wrestling Clinicians on the fourth day included Coach Nick Catana from the New York Athletic Club, Walter Peppleman (2x All American from Harvard), and various camp counselors. On the last day, Life Skills for both the high school and middle school groups consisted of making a tri-fold poster. High schoolers included information about colleges on their posters, while middle schoolers included information about high schools. This was based on a choice kids made at the beginning of camp regarding which school each group would gather information on. Poster information included details on the school's wrestling program, common majors, and statistics, such as acceptance rate. This last day of camp included a fair where everyone presented their posters. 
 
Throughout TOP Camp, other significant components included  "Wrestler's Mark," which consists of concepts titled "Move your feet," "Head up," "In Position to Score," and "Champion Caliber Character." At the beginning of each day, counselors would discuss the applications, on and off the mat, of the day's Wrestler's Mark. At the end of each day, five kids would be awarded the "Wrestler's Mark" for exhibiting aspects of that mark while at camp. 
 
The camp also included "TOP Camp Cup", which allowed each team to earn points throughout camp. Points could be earned for anything from winning Wrestler's Mark, being punctual, or wrestling hard. The winners of the talent show and poster contests also gained pointsThe team who won the TOP Camp Cup got free fight shorts and a Chipotle gift card. 

Penn Gottfried, Junior League Director, was pleased with 2017 TOP Camp. "TOP camp enabled us to really show our wrestlers what BTS is and what wrestling can do for them. I also had a lot of fun and would like to thank the counselors, kids, coaches and everyone else who made this camp happen." 

Barry Hart, BTS alum, Assistant Coach at Wingate, and volunteer coach for Beat the Streets, was attending his ninth TOP Camp. "I grew up through the program and was a camper for four years, and then I was counselor/clinician for about five years... so like 9 years!detailed Hart. As someone experienced in TOP Camp from various perspectives,  Hart noted that having TOP Camp in the city is significant difference"First off, being in NYC, it's easy to commute and makes camp accessible to approximately 300 individuals instead on 100." 

Hart also raved about the Olympian clinicians, Cross and Pirozhkova. According to Hart, "Cross showed a good leg lace that was easy, as well as some high level stuff that was put simply that could work on any level." As for Pirozhkova, Hart said that she taught the "basics of hand fighting, which is important for the girls to learn because not a lot of coaches teach that to the girlit's good for their futures." 

Beautiful Robinson, a soon-to-be 7th grader at MS 129agreed about Pirozhkova. Robinson was nursing a slight neck injury on the third day while on the sidelines of practice. She was thoughtfully looking through and writing on the Beat the Streets brochure that lists high schools with wrestling programs. She described having fun and learning a lot while at TOP Camp. She described the comprehensive practices and the opportunity to learn from Elena Pirozhkova. "It was a great session, probably the best I've ever had," said Robinson.  Pirozhkova showed the movements that go with hand-fighting, as well as other wrestling basics. "You have to keep learning to get better," said Robinson. 

Wilver Mariano-Peralta, a recent alumni of M.S. 129 will be attending Urban Assembly Career in Sports. He'll be beginning his fourth year of wrestling and has attended his second TOP Camp in order to be better prepared for high school wrestling tournaments. He enjoyed being able to train and improve himself. He was also grateful for the opportunity TOP Camp provides. "If I'm not wrestling here, then I would just be playing videogames at home this summer," said Mariano-Peralta. 

Mitchell Barcus, an 8th grader at Eagle Academy, echoed the sentiment. "[I] don't sit around in the summer not doing anything. I'm getting good experience throughout these four days," said Barcus. This is Barcus' second year at TOP Camp. He'll soon be starting his third year of wrestling.  

Both Barcus and Mariano-Peralta enjoyed meeting Kendall Cross during the clinic. They also said they learned a lot during the financial Life Skills, as well as application process workshops. They thought it was pretty cool to write 'thank you' letters to donors. 

2017 TOP Camp seemed to be a great experience, on and off the mat. "All in all, I think the camp was a success," said Gottfried.  He continued by expressing his pride over being "able to be a part of the present and future of each of the NYC wrestlers who were in attendance," Everyone else at BTS agrees—we look forward to watching our youth wrestlers grow into impressive athletes, students, and people. 

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