Nick Rubino-In Their Shoes

“Loss is a part of life. If you don’t have a loss you don’t grow. This isn’t tough, this is life.”

– Dominick Cruz

In my decade of experience in combat sports, I have always carried myself with a sense of self-confidence and always patted myself on the back for my ability to overcome & adapt. This was instilled in me through my years of training with my team at Martinez BJJ. Coach Will Martinez led by example and taught me what it meant to be committed through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. These qualities always shined during my training or martial arts competitions. I wasn’t always the most talented, however I felt I always was the most determined, no matter who stood across from me on the mat. As far as my determination has taken me in competitions, it is now taking me even further in life. 

During my freshman year at Central High School, I decided to expand my abilities as a martial artist and joined the wrestling team; one of 30 programs in Philadelphia supported by Beat the Streets Philadelphia. I learned quickly that the winner in this sport is decided through determination and their ability to overcome. The sport fit me perfectly; it made me feel electric! Not only did I like the sport, but it turns out I took to it pretty quickly too. In just my freshman season, I even won the individual Public League Championships! That left me hungry, I wanted to top that, so I set a long-term goal of becoming the first state qualifier and medalist in Central High’s history. Little did I know, however, that would never come to fruition due to matters out of my control.

During the summer, I poured my heart and soul into my training. I improved as a wrestler. When December of my sophomore year came, I felt like I was ready to make history. Then, just one week into the season, I grew ill with an illness that completely changed my life. I remember the week vividly. I won my first match, but felt horrible the entire time. Being the determined person I am, I chose not to listen to my body & continue on to my next competition. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t so lucky. I was gassed the entire match and actually collapsed due to exhaustion at the final whistle. I was later diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and I was forced both off the mat and out of school entirely. I visited numerous doctors and hospitals, continuing to get the same response; there was no viable treatment and that I may live the rest of my life like this, bedridden. After six months of fighting, finally, I was given hope. Using a combination of drugs, my cardiologist found an answer! In short order I was no longer bed ridden, and soon, I would be ready to wrestle again!

That offseason, I went to competition after competition, training 2-3 times a day. It was a rough start initially getting the rust off, but, eventually I was beating state medalists! Now, having regained my self-confidence to go along with my unwavering determination, I was ready to qualify for states my junior year! Just as I had come back, however, things took a quick turn when I tore my labrum during the first scrimmage of the season. For almost a month, I decided to wrestle through my injury & postpone surgery. However, I was left virtually unable to practice and instead would run up to 10 miles per day. Even with these limitations, I had compiled a 12-2 record. Then, my family and doctors decided that my season should end early and I received surgery to repair the ligament. I was heartbroken.

After a 7 month recovery with strenuous rehabilitation, my senior year was going to start soon. All of the adversity I had faced no longer mattered, I was ready to take what was mine! Then, the unthinkable happened. Just three weeks after being cleared by my doctor to wrestle, my shoulder dislocated and I tore the same ligament again. I trained so hard, I had wanted this for so long and now I could never achieve my goal. There was an eerie sense of devastation that I had never felt before, it felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I wasn’t sure I could go through it again. I seriously considered ending my wrestling.

After a few weeks I was off to see another surgeon. He gave me a few options and asked what my goals are. I told him I wanted to wrestle in college. He explained in order to do that I would need a complicated procedure called a Latarjet. It involves restructuring the anatomy of my shoulder. Also, if my shoulder dislocated again I wouldn’t have a choice in  continuing to wrestle.  I decided that I would have the procedure. I am still recovering from my most recent surgery, which will take 9 months to heal, with an even more intensive rehabilitation. I am hopeful my shoulder will never have a recurrence because of the stronger procedure.

I have learned when facing adversity a support system is essential. The unwavering confidence I had in achieving my goals was disrupted by reality. When injured, isolation occurs from your sport. You miss the day to day activities and your team moves on without you. I tried to stay connected to the team as much as possible. I ran some summer practices and contributed as best I could. Beyond friends and family, there was a small group of people that supplied the needed encouragement to move forward. They talked to me as if I still had something to look forward to in wrestling if that is what I wanted to do. It meant a lot. Beat The Streets always kept in contact and asked how they could help. The disappointments of the past were slowly replaced by excitement for the future. I am currently in discussion with a few college coaches and deciding where would be the best fit for me both academically and athletically. While I haven’t yet made up my mind on where that is, I do believe collegiate wrestling is in my future. While not always easy, wrestling teaches us how to get up off the mat. And I’m going to continue to do just that.

PIAA State Championship Preview

This past weekend, a record-high 40 Philadelphia Public League wrestlers took to Bethlehem Liberty High School for the 2020 PIAA NE Regional Tournament. We are so proud of the kids’ hard work & dedication to the sport. To see that hard work result in another record-setting season is just a bonus!

Following an absolute bear of a tournament, we are proud to share that two extremely deserving student-athletes advanced to the PIAA State Tournament this coming weekend in Hershey, PA!

Before we continue, however, I’d like to acknowledge a few guys who had strong tournaments. Aboubakare Diaby (138), Reynaldo Garcia (138), Naseen Pennington (152), & Ahmir Ragsdale (160), & John Colbourne (195) all had strong showings, and although they came up short, each of these guys impressed us greatly!

Now…on to our 2020 PIAA State Qualifiers!!!

Angel Garcia (US #10 / PA #4) Mariana Bracetti Academy 

What more can we say about Angel at this point? As he prepares to make his 3RD (Yes, 3RD) trip to the PIAA State Tournament, Angel has already solidified his position as the most accomplished wrestler in Philadelphia Public League history. The PPL’s all-time leader in wins (124) is gearing up to take on one of the most talented weight classes in the nation. Don’t believe me? Just ask FloWrestling! The PIAA AAA 170lb weight class features an astounding 5 top 12 wrestlers nationally & 6 DI commits. While the challenge of the weight class has forced some to drop down or bump up, Angel has embraced the challenge. Angel is looking forward to being tested & seeing just how high he can climb on the podium.

Off of the mat, those close to Angel are incredibly proud to see how the young, scrappy kid from Rizzo PAL has grown into the young man he is today. Angel prides himself on his loyalty to his family and his teammates, coaches regularly take notice of his leadership, and his relentless pursuit of excellence in all phases of his life is abundantly clear. Congratulations Angel, now take care of business!

Daishawn Tilghman (PA #14) Overbrook

 A 4x regional qualifier, Daishawn Tilghman, is FINALLY a PIAA State Qualifier. Few wrestlers have shown the Grit that Daishawn Tilghman has throughout his wrestling career. I could write about his trials & tribulations this kid has faced for hours, but I’ll try to keep it brief. In the last 12 months alone, Daishawn suffered a disappointing end to his season at regionals in 2019 (despite being favored to qualify for the state tournament). He lost at NHSCA’s deep into wrestle backs. He had a blood round loss at Fargo in Greco-Roman. To top it all off, dropping a 1st round loss at regionals this past weekend (he was the #2 seed). After such a string of heartbreaking defeats, most wrestlers would have likely packed it in and called it a career, but not Daishawn. With tremendous support from his teammates and his coaches, Daishawn managed to rattle off three consecutive wins by fall, followed by a 1-0 decision to avenge his first-round loss in the consolation finals!

As proud as we all are to see Daishawn finally “get over the hump” he is far from finished. Having been ranked as high as #6 in PA this season, Daishawn is completely capable of climbing the podium in Hershey & now has the confidence to believe he can do just that.

Daishawn has always been an absolute joy to coach/mentor, and everyone lucky enough to know Daishawn would tell you that. Daishawn is consistent, smart, funny, & studious; he’s the total package. I can say to you both personally & on behalf of BTSP that he will be missed as he graduates from Mastery Shoemaker this spring. While his plans are not officially set just yet, Daishawn has a number of exceptional options in front of him & he plans to continue wrestling in college. Great work so far Daishawn, now finish the mission!

Edwin Morales – In Their Shoes

Growing up wasn’t easy for me. Between being bullied, exposed to an environment ridden with drugs, and losing friends to street violence, life was just flat out difficult. For some reason, however,  I find myself standing before you all today. I found a way to rise up, to persevere. Before I continue, I want to thank my family, friends (who chose a positive path), and Beat the Streets Philadelphia. Specifically, I want to mention Coach Ed from PAL, James Mangan, Ben Reiter, Matt McConnell, Ben Greer, Chris Hanlon, and Max Tannenbaum!

Thank you for helping to “save me from becoming just another statistic.”

I first began wrestling with BTSP 8 years ago, as a member of the Mariana Bracetti Academy wrestling team when Coach Tannenbaum, my teacher at the time, asked me to give the sport a try. Although I wasn’t great at the start, seeing my younger brother Luis stick with it challenged me to do the same. 

Early in my high school years, school wasn’t quite ‘my thing’. I did a lot of my homework ‘on the fly’, I didn’t have big goals for myself, and for the most part l saw school as something I had to do in order to pursue a military career. With help from my mentor, Penn wrestler Lorenzo Thomas, all of that changed for me. I learned to balance my time between the mat and the classroom, the importance of goal setting, and the fulfillment that comes with helping others! Pretty quickly, I saw my grades jump from C’s/D’s to A’s/B’s; ‘just okay’ stopped being enough, and I even began to get excited about school!

Before I knew it, my improvements in the classroom began to translate to success on the mat. I continued to take advantage of all of the opportunities BTSP had to offer. I wrestled year round, competed around the country, and made strides quickly! After 4 years of grinding, I finished my career with over 100 wins & became the 1st state qualifier in school history!

I focused my time on simultaneously helping myself & others. While I took classes at Community College of Philadelphia, I continued to give back to BTSP as much as possible. I helped coach wherever I was needed, mentored high school wrestlers, and continued to give back. I refused to be deterred. Eventually, I finished the school year at CCP with a 3.7 GPA; opening the doors for me to attend a 4-year college and wrestle at Bridgewater State University.

Today, I am proud to share that I’ve been successful at Bridgewater State. Not only am I on track to earn Academic All-American status; I’m also doing very well on the mat as I continue to chase my dream of becoming a National Champion!

Looking ahead, I know that I want to dedicate my future toward helping kids like me. I want to show kids who might feel stuck like I did that there is always a way out of the hood; and it’s is not by getting involved in the streets, by skipping class, or thinking negatively. It’s about going to class, studying, thinking positively about the conflict we find ourselves in, and most of all, not being afraid to ask for help when it’s needed. Not enough students had the opportunity I did; and I want to make sure that continues to change. My name is Edwin Morales, and I am a proud student athlete who grew up through the Beat the Streets Philadelphia program.  

Changing of the Guard, PAL Officer Ernie Rehr Retires

Few people in this world spend their working lifetime committed to one single institution. For Officer Ernie Rehr, a 35 year veteran of the Philadelphia Police force there was rarely any doubt. Once Ernie was selected as the Rizzo PAL Center Officer in 1990 he quickly became a part of the fabric of the surrounding communities of Port Richmond, Fishtown, and Kensington. With a big smile and an even larger heart, Ernie played a vital role on coaching multiple generations of boys and girls. As a mentor to many and a role model to all, his service over the years is appreciated on a level words can not do justice.     

Over the decades Ernie fostered a wide range of youth development programs out of the Rizzo Center: Perhaps most notably the PAL Wrestling Club. From 1990 to 2009, this program was the only youth wrestling program that operated within the city limits that did not charge participants a registration fee. Eliminating the cost-barrier of entry introduced thousand of youth that would never have been accessible otherwise. Without any prior experience in the sport Ernie embraced the effort of coach Ed Schneider. Unbeknownst to them at the time they laid the groundwork to ensure a legacy was created. In 2009 Beat the Streets partnered with PAL as the leader in their respective space to expand wrestling throughout Philadelphia. 

Ernie’s official retirement is scheduled for Friday November 7th, 2019. Please join us in congratulating Ernie on a tremendously successful career. Ernie plans to enjoy retirement spending time with his loving wife Robin, and spoiling his beautiful grandchildren.

On behalf of the BTSP Board of Directors and Executive Staff we would like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to Officer Ernie for his decades worth of service.          

Felicia Wong Joins BTSP

Beat the Streets Press Release – University of Penn Practicum Partnership

Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) is pleased to welcome Felicia Wong as a part-time consultant from the University of Pennsylvania’s Leadership Practicum through the School of Social Policy & Practice. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (NPL), and hopes to share the skills and knowledge from the program with the people and communities in need of those resources. At BTSP, Felicia will develop fundraising strategies and offer input on diversity initiatives, putting classroom theory to practice in service of the organization.

This is the first year BTSP has hosted an NPL Practicum consultant, though partnering with Penn and universities in Philadelphia at large is not novel to the organization; BTSP believes in the power of collective impact and seeks to continually deepen relationships with others invested in serving Philadelphia and its surrounding populations. Through this new partnership with NPL, BTSP continues to grow and learn with Penn students and alumna hearkening back to the foundations laid by Penn graduates in 2009.

“Stepping into Beat the Streets’ office, I immediately knew I was in a space where students are truly valued and supported, and I can’t wait to serve with and alongside the BTSP team.”

-Felicia Wong

Though new to Philadelphia and the world of wrestling, Felicia is familiar with the core values of Grit, Compassion, Service, and Team which are central to BTSP’s mission. Having grown up with military communities in Stuttgart, Germany and the Filipino American community in Virginia Beach, VA, she carries with her a global understanding of how community support shapes individuals. Prior to BTSP, Felicia graduated from the College of William & Mary then worked for two years in Washington, DC as the Programs Manager at the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL), where she worked to connect Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students with careers in public service. In the same vein, she hopes to continue honing her advocacy and leadership skills at Penn and BTSP.

Grant to Fund Collective Impact

Beat the Streets Philadelphia in collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Athletic League have been awarded a transformative grant by Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation!

The funds will be used to renovate a wrestling room for a new program at the Southwest PAL center while also replacing mats at the existing program at the Rizzo Pal center. The gift will also cover the operating costs for the first year of wrestling at Southwest PAL.

Rizzo PAL Wrestling Club coached by Ed Schneider has played a key role developed some of the very best wrestlers over the past three decades. PIAA State place winners, Joey Galasso (Father Judge), Miles Lee (South Philadelphia), Jameel Coles (Northeast) and Angel Garcia (MBA) all spent countless hours getting better at Rizzo PAL. In addition to producing talented wrestlers, the PAL wrestling program has helped hundreds of other young men and women become productive members of society, including Beat the Streets executive director, James Mangan.

This generous gift will position Beat the Streets Philadelphia to continue providing programming that alters life’s trajectory for the youth at the Rizzo and Southwest PAL centers for another generation. On behalf of the entire BTSP organization, we would like to thank Deputy Commissioner Joseph Sullivan, Founder Mark O’Connor as well as the entire Leadership team of Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation for entrusting us in delivering on our aligned mission of supporting Philadelphia youth.

Our Partner Organizations Missions

The Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation (FBBCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to improving the lives of children in the Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey area. We do this in three ways: by supporting the families of first responders who are killed or severely injured in the line of duty, by improving relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and by encouraging our children through education and recreation.

PAL is “Cops Helping Kids.”  We aspire to be the premier youth-serving organization in the city, by reducing crime, promoting character development, and improving educational outcomes. We do this by having Philadelphia Police Officers, supported by civilians, offer sports and other programs to youth in PAL centers in some of the city’s highest crime and lowest income neighborhoods. PAL Centers are safe havens, offering a variety of programs and other events to attract, engage, and develop an active membership base of more than 10,000 Philadelphia youth.

Opportunities to get involved as a coach, a mentor, or a donor exist right now. If you would like to learn more about any of those please contact us.

College Knowledge – Bucknell Campus Visit

In the city of Philadelphia just 68% of Freshman will go on to graduate on time: of that group of graduating seniors only 55% will enroll in college during the following fall semester. Compare that to the Pennsylvania graduation rate of 86% and college enrollment of 70%. Percentages are showing that Philadelphia is clearly under performing in these key areas of education outcomes. Another way to look at these percentages is by looking at a sample size of 100 freshman students. In Philadelphia 68 will graduate on time with 37 out of the original 100 enrolling in college the following fall semester: compared to 60 out of 100 freshman from Pennsylvania. In other words a freshman from a school in Pennsylvania is almost twice as likely to attend college after graduation as a freshman from the city of Philadelphia. The good news is BTSP student athletes are already outperforming their peers in these performance measures. 98% of BTSP student athletes graduate on time with 71% post secondary enrollment rate! Unfortunately that isn’t the end of the story, because despite these compelling statistics there are other challenges that need to be considered.

As a youth development organization, BTSP has the unique ability to serve young men and women, of all ages and athletic abilities. With 28 locations throughout the greater Philadelphia region and our BTSP Mentoring Center located in the heart of Upenn and Drexel campuses in University City. Using the sport of wrestling as a shared experience, deep relationships are formed. Thanks to our strong partnership with Penn and Drexel Wrestling programs the majority of our 1:1 mentoring matches are created between Division I college wrestlers and BTSP High school student-athletes from vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds. As these relationships are fostered individuals often discovered they have much more in common than wrestling, while also realizing some things were absolutely different. 
A majority of BTSP students-athletes come from schools that are not fully equipped to handle guidance counseling and many families do not have the necessary experience and or resources to explore their post secondary options properly. Unlike BTSP student-athletes, it’s very common for the Penn and Drexel wrestlers to have visited multiple campuses before making a final decision on where they would pursue their post secondary journey. To the contrary many BTSP student-athletes report making their final decision without ever formally visiting any campuses! 

BTSP is committed to address the limited access by offering ten trips to fifteen college campuses during the 2019-20 school year.

The first of which occurred this past week with a private tour of Bucknell University, by the University’s Head Wrestling Coach Dan Wirnsberger, Alumni William Graham and active Bucknell wrestlers Zach Hartman and Brandon Seidman. Thanks to the compassionate network of wrestlers throughout Pennsylvania and across the nation, BTSP is positioned to continue creating unique experiences catered to the individual needs of BTSP student-athletes. These formal college campus visits when aligned with quality athletic programming and academic mentoring including SAT / ACT prep will ensure we can continue to push the mission of positively altering life’s trajectory forward for each and every student we serve.If you are interested in getting involved in the mission please consider supporting our annual fund, or by becoming a volunteer.  

To make a one time or recurring gift please visit our Donate Page.

More on William Graham’s Blog on From the Mat to the Boardroom: Wrestling Lessons for Business Success
More on Bucknell’s Wrestling Program

This is not Goodbye, but See You Later

Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) has been working with South Philadelphia High School for six years. Throughout those years we have worked closely with Athletic Director Roscoe Natale, who has been nothing but determined to help impact the lives of the students around him. Throughout his time at South Philly High, he has worked tirelessly to improve their athletic programs and facilities. He even played a role in the creation of South Philly High’s wrestling program, who went undefeated during their 2016-2017 season.
BTSP’s core values of grit, compassion, service, and team are qualities that staff and program participants aim to live by, having strong community partners that also embody those values is of great importance. Roscoe has been one of those partners for quite some time. He exceeded his duties as an athletic director, not only serving and helping the kids at his school, but the youth as a whole in Philadelphia by opening the gymnasium, providing space for BTSP events. Every year BTSP hosts an annual “Philly Youth Wrestle Day” tournament at South Philly High. The tournament features 16 teams, with boys and girls ranging from K-8th grade. For years this event has brought young athletes and the surrounding community together. Roscoe sacrificed his weekends to help with the planning and logistics that go into running the tournament. Dan Altomare, director of wrestling has worked closely with Roscoe the past two years and expressed how vital Roscoe’s involvement had been, “He went above and beyond to help out with our youth events, getting his hands dirty rolling up mats and whatever else needed to be done.”
Roscoe intends to carry on what he started by making sure that someone who knows wrestling is present at South Philly High. That someone is the current wrestling and football coach, Rob Schloss. Roscoe will forever be remembered for what he has done for BTSP as we continue to work with South Philly High to make a positive impact on the Philadelphia wrestling ecosystem.

“Definitely going to be missed as someone who cannot easily be replaced”- James Mangan

After many years at South Philadelphia High, Roscoe is finally retiring. Roscoe will definitely be missed, but we know wherever you go you will continue to make a positive impact on those around you. You’re truly one of a kind, thank you for all you have done for us at BTSP, the kids, and the surrounding community. We wish you nothing but success in the future!

Ernest Holland – In their shoes

Hey my name is Ernest Holland, Aka Ernesto. I’m from West Philadelphia, I’ve been a Beat the Streets wrestler since 2010, and I’m currently a freshman at Temple University. I just want to start by saying thank you all for taking the time to read this and for helping to create and support a great organization like Beat the Streets which has really become a family to me.
In elementary school, I grew up with a single parent who was in charge of 8 kids total. As you can imagine I didn’t have access to all the new toys or gadgets other kids had at my age. Yeah I had the obama phone and it was dang good too but the point is that we had a hard time as a family. Even though I had very little, I cherished my mom and grandma, and when grandma passed away it was one of the worst times of my life. My grandmother was my best friend and her passing made it nearly impossible to stay engaged in school and to stay out of trouble. My grades began to slip because I didn’t want to do anything. I was sad…and i just wanted to give up. On top of that tragedy, I was witnessing shootings, robberies and other types of violence in the neighborhood on a regular basis. All of this made me feel angry which led me to get in trouble for fighting frequently. I felt horrible about slipping grades and getting in trouble, because I could see that I was letting my Mom down.
It was like a spot of light came through a tunnel of darkness when Coach Mccabe told us that there was going to be a wrestling team added to the school. I remember it like it was yesterday because we were the first program to ever be a part of Beat the Streets in Philadelphia. It was so exciting because it was the first time this sport was brought to life in our area…it was amazing! When we had our first practice Coach Mccabe said first thing “you guys are gonna keep your grades up and you cannot get in trouble if you want to wrestle”. Instantly I knew that if I wanted to do this sport, I had to be the best that I could in the classroom and in life.
My 9 years with Beat The Streets have been full of incredible memories. I got to travel with the All-Star wrestling team, competing in Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey…etc. I got to lead the way for Belmont wrestlers by being the first state placer for my middle school. I had the opportunity to wrestle in the big Time Square New York, and even meeting Olympic Gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. I wrestled in the Cadet Duals for freestyle. I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best wrestlers and coaches in the country, like Olympic coach Brandon Slay. We went on college tours and did summer camps which definitely gave me the college experience and helped me figure out my path. I feel grateful to have had these experiences and to have built friendships that I never thought I would make. This eventually influenced my decision of my college career choice. Which was studying with the major of entrepreneurship and eventually traveling all over the world trying to expand a business that has relations with film production,thanks to Pooya, my mentor for helping me with my essay for college. He helped craft it together to making it a masterpiece. That’s what I called it…he helped me get into to one of my top schools, receiving an academic scholarship and having to pay less money and this semester no money due to grants and scholarships.
My years as a wrestler for Beat The Streets has made me wise, like the owl I am today…get it guys…cause I go to Temple (crowd laughs). During those times in middle school I’ve learned a lot of things. The program has made me the way I am today  because it not only helped me learn the sport of wrestling but it also taught me how to keep my composure, show sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility, believe in myself and so much more. Thanks to Mccabe I’ve really realized that you have to work hard, and you have to grind in order to really reach your goal. That lesson was very impactful and I’m truly grateful for having somebody like him guide me throughout my journey. I would probably not be here talking to you guys if it wasn’t for him.
Maybe the most important lesson that I learned is to be selfless, to think about others that need help and that it’s not just about me; because even with what I have been through, there’s always someone going through worse. This lesson is what motivates me to help out the younger BTS wrestlers in the mentoring center and on the mat. I went from being bad little knucklehead from West Philadelphia in a not so good neighborhood that gets into trouble all the time, to a guy who is striving to make a positive impact on society.
Reflecting on all of those great memories makes me proud to have been a part of the first BTS program in Philadelphia; I got the chance to see how we started with supporting a couple of local schools, to building our mentoring center from the ground up, and to helping out nearly every school in the Philadelphia area to prevent local kids from getting hurt on these streets.   There are millions of kids just like me who need your help, so thank you to everyone for supporting this organization, for supporting this family.

BTSP Student-Athletes Making History

BTSP Student-Athletes Making History
During Penn Wrestling’s long and storied history it has recorded many firsts; including crowning the first national champion, joining the first intercollegiate wrestling association as an inaugural member, and playing host to the first collegiate wrestling tournament. So, on Sunday December 2nd, as Penn hosted Maryland for a dual meet inside the historic Palestra it seemed only fitting that another historic moment took place.
On Sunday, two young men in Jon Guevara (Penn) & Idris White (UMD) suited up on either side of the mat; both of whom learned to wrestle through the Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) program. Idris & Jon are both outstanding role models and fantastic examples of BTSP student-athletes continuing on a path of altered life trajectory.
Like many BTSP student-athletes Idris White grew up in an under resourced, economically depressed section of Philadelphia. At the time, opportunities to participate in sports-based youth development programs were limited to more popular sports like football, basketball & baseball. Idris wasn’t particularly interested in those sports, however. In 2007, his father found a small wrestling program operating in the basement of a Police Athletic League recreation center in Port Richmond. At the time this was the only free wrestling club available in a city of nearly 1.5 million. Coincidentally, 2007 was also the year that the formation of BTSP began (we would later become officially established in 2009 and partnered with PAL shortly thereafter). As he tells it, Idris fell in love with the sport of wrestling almost immediately. Idris’ talent & passion for wrestling opened up scholarship opportunities for him to attend private high school at Father Judge. As a junior he finished 7th at the PIAA state championships, an accomplishment that garnered interest from a number of Division I wrestling coaches.
For Jon Guevara, wrestling didn’t enter his life until his freshman year at Central High School. By that time, BTSP had grown to develop a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia; supporting all of the teams competing in the Philadelphia Public League. Despite Jon’s incredible work ethic and dedication to the sport, his season always ended at the NE Regional Tournament, one round shy of the State Championships. Jon’s goals were always bigger than wrestling. As a first-generation American, Jon was determined to be the first in his family to attend college; and not just any college. Jon was fully intent on attending the University of Pennsylvania. He took the initiative to enlist the help of mentors at Beat the Streets Philadelphia. Those mentors helped him with SAT/ACT test prep and helped him to navigate the college application process. In 2015, Jon received his acceptance letter from the University of Pennsylvania; that’s when he raised the bar even further and set his sights on becoming a Penn Wrestler. Last month, during the 2018 Keystone Classic, Jon recorded his first collegiate win in a Penn singlet!
With Idris and Jon having different journeys, their paths rarely crossed in high school despite graduated from Philadelphia high schools in the same year. However, their common experience of being Beat the Streets wrestlers linked the two together as they made history being the first two BTSP wrestlers to suit up for opposing Division I wrestling teams. Idris and Jon represent the mission and goals of Beat the Streets Philly as their participation has positively altered life’s trajectory. Both young men have exemplified the BTSP core values of grit, compassion, service and team. Idris and Jon are pioneers and role models that current and future Beat the Streets program participants, proving that bold goals can be accomplished. When passion meets purpose the outcome is life altering!
The Beat the Streets Wrestling Program of Philadelphia is committed to establishing youth wrestling programs in the Philadelphia metropolitan region. The organization fosters the holistic development of student-athletes by providing the resources to support wrestling and an academic mentoring programs throughout the greater Philadelphia region.
Beat the Streets Philadelphia was founded on the principle that all children have the potential to become productive citizens when provided the proper support. This belief has endured since the establishment of our first program in 2008 located in the city of Camden, NJ. To this day, the organization remains laser focused on running wrestling and mentoring based youth development programs for underprivileged student-athletes that alter the trajectory of their lives.