Written by Michael LoRé
U.S. Olympic medalist Kyle Snyder competing at the 2018 Beat the Streets benefit at South Street Seaport in New York City.
Growing up in Maryland, Kyle Snyder didn’t have to worry about transportation to wrestling tournaments, when and if he could buy a new pair of wrestling shoes, or any of the other aspects of the sport that are typically assumed as a given.
Unfortunately many of those common components aren’t guaranteed to all aspiring wrestlers.
Founded in 2005, Beat the Streets is the largest grassroots inner-city wrestling program in the United States. The non-profit has hosted an annual benefit competition since 2010, raising more than $1 million at each to aid local youth wrestling programs and student-athletes in the New York City area.
“It’s really cool that the kids in the areas that might not have the means to be able to do all those things now Beat The Streets is providing that and the annual benefit event is a big reason why,” said Snyder, who won gold at the 2016 Olympics.
Beat the Streets works directly with the New York City Department of Education in a public-private partnership, bringing wrestling to more than 3,000 student-athletes in an effort to help them achieve personal and athletic goals. Not only does the organization aid wrestlers on the mat, but it also offers resources including SAT prep, tutoring, internship opportunities and more to help student-athletes succeed in the classroom as well.
Beat the Streets is hosting its 10th annual wrestling benefit event called "Grapple at the Garden" on May 6 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The 2018 event held at Pier 17/South Street Seaport, which raised more than $1 million, had approximately 1,200 attendees, while nearly 5,000 are expected at this year’s event.
“We’re trying to make a difference and wrestling isn’t just the hook, it’s also the vehicle,” said Brendan Buckley, Beat the Streets executive director. “This benefit event itself has really grown the brand and strengthened wrestling culture in New York City. Before Beat The Streets there were only 25 wrestling programs in the city, now there’s 150. We’re trying to create a high-level wrestling culture for the kids to be a part of.”
J'den Cox celebrates his win over Ivan Yankouski of Belarus in the final of men's freestyle 92kg category of the Wrestling World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (Tibor Illyes/MTI via AP)
Beat the Streets is far from a local non-profit. The organization is also partners with USA Wrestling, which brings an extensive list of star wrestlers to the annual benefit event highlighted by Olympic medalists and World champions including Jordan Burroughs, J’den Cox and Snyder.
The benefit is heralded as one of the top events on the wrestling calendar each year as world-class athletes from the United States, Cuba, Nigeria, Iran and Russia compete against one another.
For a participant like Cox, it’s more than winning or losing on the mat.
“A huge thing is we get to showcase our wrestling ability on the mat, but we can also show the kids how we are as people and how we carry ourselves, and have conversations with them to show them what it takes to get to the top,” said Cox, who won bronze at the 2016 Olympics. “We can be more than a show, we can be a lesson. There’s so much more we can be with this event.”