Wrestlers Compete in Times Square Showdown

  • Mon May 16th 2011

Olympic and world champions from Russia and the United States first arrived at the New York Athletic Club's Hall of Fame to alert the public about what they billed "The Battle on Broadway."

"The hairs are standing up on the back of my neck right now. It's, uh, it's going to be exciting, it's going to be awesome, it's going to be everything that wrestling is, " said Jake Herbert, 2009 World Silver Medalist - Freestyle Wrestling.

And it was more than just face-offs for the camera. For Olympic champion Henry Cejudo, wrestling was a way up, and out.

"I was one of the Beat the Streets kids. Not necessarily here in New York, but I was a "beat the streets" in Phoenix. What I mean by that is that I was a kid that had to beat the streets before the, before the streets beat me, " said Cejudo, 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist - Freestyle Wrestling.

And coach Bobby Douglas says "Beat the Streets" is making a measurable impact.

"If you take 8000 kids off the streets, you eliminate a big delinquent, delinquency problem, and I don't think your mayor understands that. This Beat the Streets program is, hey it's taking a bunch of kids away from the gangs, and it's keeping them out of prison, " he said.

And those who know wrestling say they know the sport brings discipline and focus to kids' lives.

"Once you've wrestled in life, everything else is easy. I mean if you go through a grueling hour and a half wrestling practice, these kids can do this....you know, doing their homework, you know, getting their, uh, doing their chores, you know, doing just the simple things, that becomes easier, you know," said Herbert.

"Once you don't have a guy coming at you trying to put you and pin you down on your back. I mean, taking out, taking out the laundry, taking out the trash, that stuff's easy...So it teaches you to make the right decisions. It shows you need to be determined, you need to be focused, you need to be smart, all on the wrestling mat. So all that stuff hopefully carries on into, you know, other things in life, " he added.

Now, you might think these young athletes from tough city streets would be excited to wrestle under the lights on Times Square -- and they are -- but for them, Beat the Streets is about a whole lot more.

"You become a better student, much stronger, much faster, everything about you is going to change," said Zimba Hamm, a student at I.S. 129 Middle School in the Bronx.

And the focus that wrestling brings is no longer just for the boys. Today, ladies are also hitting the mats, and reaping the benefits.

"I have a lot more discipline. I'm a lot more organized. Um, I'm better at speaking now, public speaking. I'm much more of a leader, much more of a leader now. I wasn't much before, but now I am. I know how to channel all of my extra energy, " said Nyasa Bakker from the High School of Public Service in Brooklyn.

"It's really added structure to my life. My grades have been up. They've gone up since I started, " added Amanda Jackson, a student at Scholar's Academy High School in Queens

Thanks to Beat the Streets, street-fighting has taken on a whole new meaning in New York and inner-city communities throughout the United States, so don't be surprised if you see wrestlers down on the mats, but looking up, here at the crossroads of the world.

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