Beat the Streets Wrestling (BTS) – the largest grassroots inner city wrestling program in the United States – and USA Wrestling will hold their 10th annual benefit competition (Grapple at the Garden) at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden this evening. Thirteen matches are scheduled, several will feature former NCAA champions against current members of the U.S. World Team. The money generated from the non-profit wrestling showcase (goal is $1.2 million) will go towards covering expenses associated with youth wrestling in New York City.
Howie Long-Short: The Beat the Streets Benefit competition (began in ’10) was the brainchild of former Princeton wrestler and Wall Street titan Mike Novogratz (formerly: Goldman Sachs, Fortress Investment Group) and long-time coach Al Bevilacqua (formerly: Massapequa H.S., Hofstra). It was their belief that to grow the sport, it needs to gain popularity within urban centers with a demographic “atypical to the wrestling community; most wrestlers are from rural blue collar towns, not cities.” In 2005, BTS and the NYC PSAL formed a partnership that led to the introduction of 40 new programs across the city (there were 25 at the time) and as BTS executive director Brendan Buckley explained “from there it just continued to grow and grow. Now there are +/- 150 programs, a girls-only league and a league for middle school age kids.”
The money BTS raises – most of which comes from their annual benefit competition – funds all 35 middle school teams and covers many of the ancillary charges incurred by the city’s high school wrestlers. Buckley said that the organization “operates 3 training centers so wrestlers can receive year-round training and mentorship from coaches. We also cover all costs associated with tournament travel for the kids trying to pursue collegiate careers and the program includes off-the-mat enrichment, like SAT prep, too.”
Few associate urban areas with wrestling – granted, there aren’t many cities capable of raising the money needed to build the program NYC has – but “Wall Street is loaded with past wrestlers, many of whom wrestled in the Ivy League.” Those individuals remain supportive of the sport and it’s their backing that enables BTS to act on its mission to “help the city’s kids achieve their full athletic and human potential.” Buckley estimates that 90% of the $1.2 million they hope to raise this evening will come from the “New York financial services industry.” Josh Harris (co-founder, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Penn) and Stephen Friedman (former Goldman Sachs CEO, Cornell) are among the highest profile finance executives to have wrestled at the collegiate level.
Fan Marino: Jordan Burroughs (won gold at the ’12 London Olympics) is facing Ben “Funky” Askren in tonight’s main event. Askren was a 2x NCAA champion (’06, ’07) at 174 pounds during his time at Missouri, but he’s spent the last 9 years fighting inside of a cage. After stops in Bellator MMA and One Championship, Askren made his UFC debut with a controversial first round stoppage over Robbie Lawler in March. His next fight is scheduled to be against Jorge Masvidal on the undercard of the Jon Jones/Thiago Santos PPV event on July 6 (UFC 239). Not in NYC, but want to check out the action? FloSports is broadcasting the card live.
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