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.

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.  

In Their Shoes – Tatyana

My name is Tatyana Ortiz, and I am a Beat the Streets female wrestler competing at 106 lbs for Mariana Bracetti Academy.

“ It is foolish to fear what we have yet to see and know. “ – Itachi Uchiha

Before I get to telling you about myself, I want to brag a bit about the people that inspire me most in life; my siblings. One of five kids, I have two brothers and two sisters. Julio is 13, Julissa is 10, Julius is 9, & Taylinn is 6. Aside from Taylinn, the youngest, we are all wrestlers. After seeing them follow in my footsteps and become wrestlers, I realize that I am a role model to them. Knowing this,  I’ve always done as much as possible to be the role model they deserve. I’ve witnessed my siblings grow up and overcome all the hardships of coming from a broken family and being bounced around in the foster care system. They always stayed positive during the rough transitions of moving around with different families, and I really admire that. My siblings mean the world to me; they give me the strength to face life’s worst hardships,  and they inspire me every day to be the best person I can possibly be.

Unfortunately life has been far from easy for my siblings and I. From the time I was a little kid up until I was 16 my life was a wreck; and I didn’t know what to do. Our home was an unstable living environment to put it lightly. Neglect, drugs, and abuse were prevalent in my home, and we were pressured to keep it a secret so that we wouldn’t end up in the foster care system. I constantly feared for the safety of my siblings, and that fear outweighed anything else.

When case workers came to look at our home a few years ago, they took us away right then and there. Finding someone to stay with was very difficult. Seemingly everyone either didn’t have space for us, or didn’t even answer the phone. The ‘resolution’ DHS came up with was barely a  resolution at all. Julius & Julissa were sent to my friend John’s house, Taylinn stayed with her father (we don’t have the same father), and I went with Julio to a strangers house. I sat there and cried with my siblings that night because all we wanted was to be together and live happily. I had felt depression before, but at this point I felt it worse than ever.

You might be wondering what the silver lining is in all of this? For me, wrestling in Beat the Streets has been the only thing that has helped me through these tough times, and gave me something positive to focus on. At practice, I could finally feel happy and be worry free of all my actual problems. Along with that, wrestling made me feel normal because I was able to interact with people who had similar interests and make friends. Wrestling has truly been an incredible outlet. It has taught me so many things such as discipline, self confidence, self accountability and trusting in my teammates (just to name a few). Believing and trusting in others was very important to me because I’ve never had people I could trust before I started wrestling. Above all else, wrestling has taught me fearlessness.

With my senior year still ahead of me, I’ve already become the 1st ever female wrestler to qualify for the District XII Tournament & Northeast Regional Tournament. I am extremely focused on achievement both on the mat and in the classroom so that my siblings can see how chase their own goals and dreams. I plan on wrestling in college, studying art, and pursuing a career in art and theatre. I apply all of the lessons I’ve learned in the sport in accomplishing every one of my goals. While the individual challenges I face may differ, the motive stays the same; to be the best role model I can be for my siblings and to show them that no matter what hardships life throws your way, you can rise up.

When life is painful, it helps me  to remember how to be grateful. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to compete all over the country and to meet amazing people. I am grateful for the support I have received from Beat the Streets in achieving my athletic and academic goals. I’m grateful for my school, Mariana Bracetti Academy for helping us put our home back together. I am grateful for my coach Matt McConnell for understanding what I went through and has always been there as someone to talk to. I am grateful for my very caring mentor, Marya Robinson, who has been like an older sister to me ever since she has entered my life.  I am grateful for everyone that has helped me get through my difficult journey. Lastly, I am grateful to everyone reading this, for giving me this opportunity to share my story. Without everyone I’ve met through the sport, through school, and through BTSP, I do not know where I would be in life.

Wrestling in Beat the Streets is something that will forever be in my heart. I will forever love the sport and the sport will forever love me.