On Thursday, May 19, wrestling fans from around the world gathered in historic Times Square to show their support for everything Beat the Streets does for the kids of New York City. This year’s annual gala, “United in the Square,” featured world-class wrestling matches between some of the top men and women wrestlers from the United States, Iran, Canada, and South Korea. There were also thrilling exhibition matches between local Beat the Streets kids and those from Baltimore and Philadelphia, and the PSAL Girls Freestyle Dual Meet Finals between Brooklyn Tech and Truman High School. All of these exciting matches were followed by a gala celebration in the PlayStation Theater.
The first competitions of the day were the exhibition matches between kids involved in Beat the Streets programs in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. NYC’s Shamelle Sinclaire started things off strong by winning her first match by a pin against Philadelphia’s Tiarra Andrews. Her sister, Shamella, followed this tough act with her own skillful display, winning over Baltimore’s Jailyn Reedy by technical fall. Jack Reusing had a frantic, scrambling bout, but was ultimately bested by Baltimore’s Clement Woods. Jayden Cardenas established a strong lead halfway through match against Kyree Brisco of Baltimore, pulling off another win for New York. Joe Perez was pinned by Philadelphia’s Angel Garcia.
By this time the high school matches had begun, there was a solid wall of spectators outside the barriers of the event. Tourists and locals alike had stopped to watch the fierce competition taking place on the mat in Times Square. New York’s Dimitrius Henry lost by fall against Baltimore’s last contender, Josh Laubach. Jake Barry faced a close match against Philadelphia’s Ron Palmer -- at one point, the score was tied 10-10, until Barry got the four-point takedown of his own. He held onto this lead until the end of the match and walked away victorious. Simon Chee had a close match of his own, surely due in part to the loud cheering section from Benjamin Cardozo High School that came out in his support, but was defeated by Philadelphia’s Edwin Morales. In the final exhibition match, Leo Rabinovich demonstrated his technical superiority with a technical fall over Miles Lee from Philadelphia.
The next event for the evening, the Girls PSAL Dual Meet Championships, was met with plenty of excitement from the growing crowd. The cheering managed to drown out the sounds of sirens and other ambient effects of the heart of the city. The competition between Truman and Brooklyn Tech was marked by close matches throughout, with Brooklyn Tech opening an early team lead. The final score, Brooklyn Tech 30 to Truman 22, was an indicator of the tense struggles on the mat and the multiple victories on both sides.
After the dual meet, Beat the Streets NY gave out awards to some of its most accomplished wrestlers and students for their achievements in the past year. Presenters included NYC DOE Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose and 2016 Olympic Team Members Kyle Snyder, Haley Augello, and Elena Pirozhkova. The awards included the Become Your Own Dream scholarship, an award created by BTS board member Hooman Tavakolian that goes toward a NYC student-athlete who has overcome hardship, graduated from high school, and plans to wrestle in college. This year’s Become Your Own Dream scholarship went to Leonard Merkin, who attended the Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. The other award winners were:
Junior League Girls Wrestler of the Year: Chloe Cabrera
Junior League Boys Wrestler of the Year: Jayden Cardenas
Female Student-Athlete of the Year: Dennielle Phillip
Male Student-Athlete of the Year: Evan McFarland
GRIT Award: Rachel Koltsov
LADY LIBERTY Award: Aileen Gonzalez
ATLAS Award: Leonard Merkin
Once the awards were given, the main show was underway. The Brooklyn Marching Band set the mood with a riveting display. Announcer Robby Smith, an Olympian who will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, served as the emcee of the event, welcoming the wrestlers on stage. He also drew attention to honorary Team USA coach and Lifetime Achievement award recipient Ray Lewis, best known for his successful football career with the Baltimore Ravens, who just gave Team USA an inspirational pre-match pep talk before things began. Lewis was also a state champion wrestler from the state of Florida. The athletes walked out following a flag procession led by kids from Beat the Streets NY.
The first match was the Greco-Roman bout between Kim Hyeon-Woo of South Korea and Andy Bisek of USA. Woo won the match by a 3-0 decision, but the rest of Team USA stepped up to establish a strong trend of home-field victories. Americans Helen Maroulis and Adeline Gray both handily defeated their respective opponents from Canada, Samantha Stewart and Justina Di Stasio. In the Junior Men’s matches, Daton Fix, Mitchell McKee, and Mark Hall all won their matches for Team USA. Iran’s sole victory for the evening was 2015 Junior World champion Mojtaba Goleij, who showed a real reversal and maintained superiority over Zahid Valencia for a 10-1 win.
When it came time for the Senior Men’s freestyle matches, J’Den Cox made a powerful showing against Meisam Mostafa Joukar, winning with a 10-5 decision. At last, the final match of the evening showed Jordan Burroughs, who has remained undefeated at each Beat the Streets event he has attended, facing down 2015 Asian champion Peyman Yarahmadi. It was a match with a fair exchange and some explosive action on Burroughs’s behalf, resulting in his 11-2 victory.
The gala celebration in the PlayStation Theater took place immediately after, carrying the fun and festive atmosphere in a wide-open club setting. Mike Novogratz, Chairman of the BTS Board, thanked everyone for coming out and showing their support for youth wrestling in NYC. Kyle Snyder was presented with the Man of the Year Award and then helped present the Beat the Streets Coach Awards:
Junior League Coach of the Year: Michel Wurmbrand
High School Assistant Coach of the Year: Anthony Mirra
Girls High School Coach of the Year: Theodore Cook
Boys High School Coach of the Year: Peter Cardone
Volunteer of the Year: David Prado
The crowd was further blown away when J’Den Cox, presented with a guitar by Novogratz, performed a song in front of the audience, wowing guests with his vocal skills. The night was a big success, raising over $1 million for youth wrestling in New York City.
Beat the Streets also wants to thank the sponsors who helped make this event possible: Azad Watches, Cliff Keen, EZ Flex Sports Mats, and Fusion Physical Therapy and Sports Performance.