July 11, 2022

By Gina Perry

On June 27th, about 200 Beat the Streets athletes from grades 7th-12th, hailing from nine cities across the country came together to meet in Chicago, Illinois for the very first Beat the Streets National Duals! Student athletes from nine accredited chapters enjoyed four action packed days of sightseeing, educational programming, high level clinics taught by some of the countries best elite wrestlers, team building exercises, and of course, to battle it out on the mat during a friendly competition. This successful event was a community-building experience exclusively for Beat the Streets boys and girls. The goal was transformational for our wrestlers, most of whom live in under-resourced urban communities, with limited opportunity to travel, let alone travel to compete.

While providing a safe and meaningful experience, all of the athletes were excited to represent their chapters and mingle with athletes from other cities; some of which formed life long bonds in just a matter of days. Day one began with a technique session, followed by lunch and a “Financial Literacy & Cyber Security,” presentation in which the student-athletes heard from various experts who discussed, among several topics, the importance of not sharing personal information on social media, and the importance of choosing a strong password, and changing it often. The educational series was followed by another technique session from elite athlete Erin Golston and D1 coach, Angel Escobedo. After an invigorating first session, our youth enjoyed a catered dinner and eventually free time for the athletes to interact with one another. Day two once again commenced with an excellent technique session lead by senior level all stars, Haley Augello and Kyven Gadson, followed by free time, lunch, an educational seminar discussing the importance of nutrition, and a second training session, social time and a catered dinner that allowed all of the athletes and staff to connect over a variety of Chicago food staples. Day three of the trip included two technique training sessions from senior level standouts Becka Leathers and Ed Ruth, a catered lunch and a field trip to explore the beautiful downtown sights of Chicago. Day four was the pinnacle of the trip as athletes were eager to show off their skills on the mat and compete for the BTS Championship Trophy.

With athletes weighed in and wrestlers warmed up, the first whistle blew at 9am and the first ever Beat the Streets National Duals began. Athletes went toe to toe battling it out on the mats for three sessions leading up to the finals. Those not competing cheered their teammates on with excitement and pure joy. It was Beat the Streets New England who clinched the championships for the girls, as they earned the first ever BTS Girls National Championships, and Beat the Streets Chicago saw victory as they claimed the BTS Boys National Championship.

As a spectator, watching the athletes give their all during the competition, bond with their teammates and coaches through the trip, learn from wrestling greats like Angel Escobedo, Haley Augello, Becka Leather, Ed Ruth, Kyven Gadson and Erin Golston during the technique sessions, all while experiencing Chicago during sightseeing experiences and meals, was a life changing experience in itself. Surrounded by supporters, consumed by the positive energy, coaches and advocates were able to revel together in the labor of their hard work and dedication as the positive impact Beat the Streets has on all of the youth involved was on full display; Everywhere you looked, kids were laughing with one another, smiling ear to ear enjoying time with their friends, while also creating new friendships and bonds with student athletes from across the country. Because of the collaboration across the chapters and our generous sponsors, our youth were empowered and able to experience a trip that will leave a lasting impact on their lives.

This experience was made possible in large part to ASICS, our event sponsor who matched $25,000 of donations our donors generously gave. Our support from each one of our donors sends a powerful and meaningful message – the Beat the Streets community believes that our young wrestlers from all around the country deserve dedicated opportunities to enjoy the ultimate athletic experience of traveling to represent, compete, and develop meaningful bonds with new teammates and advocates. As the day came to a close and the coaches, athletes and advocates all said their goodbyes, it was apparent this experience was one for the record books, and surely one the athletes will never forget.