John Bowne High School’s wrestling program has seen its fair share of ups and downs. A public school located in Flushing, John Bowne did not even have a wrestling program three years ago. It had previously struggled to put together enough students to form a team. Not many athletic programs could survive under that amount of adversity.
Today, it is finally safe to say that the school team is on the rise. John Bowne’s program is alive and well, thanks to the tireless work of its head coach, Rob Tronolone, and star wrestler, Brandon Nunez.
The last two years saw a program struggling to take hold. There were almost no students who were initially involved in the school’s foray into wrestling. The minimum required to compete was eight students, and that was exactly how many managed to show up in their first year. The second year? Eight again.
There was serious discussion of closing down the program. Men’s Head Coach at Beat the Streets, MarcAntoni Macias, said “talks about dropping the program were in the air.”
Today, John Bowne is able to field a nearly full team. It is hard to imagine that the team now scoring wins left and right was the same team that was at risk of extinction only a few years ago. There is little doubt now that the program will be around for a long time.
What helped to turn this dire situation around? The efforts of John Bowne’s head coach, Rob Tronolone, helped to keep the program functioning so that it could reach its new and revitalized state.
“ After the first year my goal was for anyone who was coming back to try and recruit one friend to join,” Tronolone said. “Once we got a couple of kids to join they were also able to bring a few friends down and the team just kept on growing. We ended up with 23 eligible wrestlers this year.”
There’s also the case of Brandon Nunez. Nunez, currently a junior at John Bowne, has made a reputation for himself as one of the fiercest competitors in the city. Most recently, Nunez was the only New York City kid to place at the NYSPHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York, taking sixth despite sustaining a knee injury in the semifinal round.
Nunez has previously proven his mettle in the 99-pound bracket. As a freshman, he took fourth in the city in his weight class, an impressive placement for someone at the beginning of his high school career. As a sophomore, he performed even better, winning it all and becoming the first city champ for John Bowne.
Nunez, says Macias, “is a true Beat the Streets kid.” He attends the training sessions at the BTS Manhattan Training Center at least twice and often three times a week. He never misses a practice during the season if at all possible. During the off-season, he does not simply rest on his laurels: Nunez still attends every practice he can.
Nunez placed fourth in his freshman year and first for two years in a row, further proof that all that practice and determination really pays off. This past summer Nunez placed and achieved All-American honors in Greco Roman at the Cadet Nationals in Fargo, ND.
“Brandon is a great role model for the rest of the student body,” Tronolone said. “His commitment to the sport and his performance in the classroom is great.”
The lessons he’s learned from Beat the Streets have managed to have a positive impact on his entire program. Nunez is not just an excellent wrestler, but a teacher in his own right, as well. Nunez explained that he assists Tronolone by helping to run warm-ups. When there’s time, he even helps teach technique to his teammates.
His school went 0-6 for two years in a row while it was still functioning at the minimum number of student wrestlers. This year, with the nearly full roster, it went 4-2.
There are still challenges that need to be overcome. The wrestling program at John Bowne needs to share the cafeteria with ping pong teams and other clubs, and they don’t always have a practice room available.
Fortunately, Beat the Streets is here to help accommodate the students with regular practices at the Manhattan Training Center. “Beat the Streets is great,” Tronolone said, and “it’s great to have a place available where the kids can train and get a good workout.”
John Bowne’s rise not only reminds us all of the power of perseverance, but also that wrestling is an increasingly popular sport among New York City kids. Beat the Streets is proud to have had a role in shaping this growing program and hopes to continue empowering Nunez and other John Bowne kids for years to come.