Lessons from Wrestling

Lessons from Wrestling

Vanessa Rico (right), a student of East Boston High School and participant in Boston Youth Wrestling, at a February 2016 competition. Photograph: Jared Charney

Vanessa Rico (right), a student of East Boston High School and participant in Boston Youth Wrestling, at a February 2016 competition. Photograph: Jared Charney

The following was published in the Williams College Magazine Summer 2019 edition.

By José Valenzuela ’07
I’m standing on the sidelines of a middle school wrestling match, watching one of my students get beat. He’s a little guy—just like I was at his age—and I’ve coached him for a couple of years. To the best of my ability, I’ve shown him what he needs to know to win this match. But right now, he doesn’t believe he has what it takes. All I can do is stand over here and watch. If I call out reminders of the techniques we’ve gone over, he won’t be able to put them into action. And even if that were my style of coaching, he wouldn’t be able to hear me if I shouted at him. He knows as well as I do that everything he put in before he stepped onto the mat is exactly what he has access to right now.

In wrestling, as in school, we learn best when we are pushed beyond our comfort zone, as long as we have the support we need in place.

I have seen the same thing in my public school classrooms my entire career. My students are fighting to push through language barriers as recent immigrants, or they’re fighting the challenges of learning with a disability, or they’re fighting societal norms. Whatever they’re fighting, usually it means they’re not learning. People who observe my classes tell me I seem more like a coach than a teacher, and I always thank them. In my classroom, just like on the mat, my goal isn’t to teach at my students. My goal is to give them the tools they need to do the learning on their own.

In graduate school, I learned theoretical concepts, like Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, which never seemed like a concept with a practical application until I stood on the sidelines of a match. In wrestling, as in school, we learn best when we are pushed beyond our comfort zone, as long as we have the support we need in place. In the classroom, that means allowing students to explore deep and difficult historical concepts—a few steps beyond what they think they can do but with scaffolding that allows all students to access the curriculum and to be critically minded in an increasingly complex world.

On the mat, it looks like what I’m watching now: A 90-pound seventh grader being pushed outside of his comfort zone by a kid with a little more experience, but there’s scaffolding in place to help him along the way. The referee will blow the whistle if something looks unsafe, or someone will step out of bounds, or time will expire. By the end of the match, this kid will have a different look in his eye. There may be disappointment if he loses, but that won’t be all I’ll see. Wins and losses are not the only measure of progress and growth—and that’s a lesson he will learn on the mat, just like I did.

When I was his age, I was drowning. I was an immigrant kid. Moving to Boston, I was stuck between two worlds: the only Latinx student in my classroom in a school where all the other Latinx students were labeled “English Language Learners” and were given instruction in Spanish. I tested into an elite private school for sixth grade, and, surrounded by predominantly white, wealthy faces, my grades started to drop for the first time in my life. I felt isolated in that school, but it offered me a chance to play sports, a resource never offered in my under-resourced public school. So I joined wrestling. If I hadn’t made it onto the team, I would have drowned in that school. But instead, I got a coach who cared about me. He made practices fun, and he didn’t care that I wasn’t winning. During that pivotal year, before I left for Boston Latin School in seventh grade, I learned to associate the experience of developing and growing as the thing to strive for instead of focusing on the wins and losses. Pretty soon, I was able to apply those same lessons to what I was learning in the classroom. And, as a teacher and coach, those are lessons I want to teach all my kids—in school and on the mat.

When the whistle blows, I put my arm around this kid and tell him what my coach used to tell me: Winning isn’t the measure of growth. The measure of growth is how much you learned today and how to bring that self-reliance and confidence back to the mat next time—and into the classroom tomorrow, and into your heart for the rest of your life.

After Williams, José Valenzuela ’07 returned to his hometown and began a career teaching history in the Boston Public Schools. He’s been teaching seventh-, 11th-, and 12th-grade history and geography at Boston Latin Academy in Roxbury since 2014. In 2010, he founded Boston Youth Wrestling, which brings the sport into schools all over the city and serves more than 500 students each year.

BYW Makes Pitch at 2019 Social Innovator Showcase

BYW Makes Pitch at 2019 Social Innovator Showcase

Cambridge, MA — On May 14th in front of a crowd of 450 members of the nonprofit and business communities, Executive Director Bior Guigni shared her personal journey and the story of Boston Youth Wrestling as part of the 2019 Social Innovator Showcase presented by the Social Innovation Forum. BYW was one of eight Innovators that had the opportunity to pitch their forward-thinking and inspirational solutions to our region's toughest social issues to an audience of philanthropists, business leaders, and potential supporters. 

Boston Youth Wrestling helps students “wrestle with their circumstances,” specifically crime, poverty, lack of access to education, and obesity. Its programs aim to give all students the tools to succeed both on and off the mat. Boston Youth Wrestling is seeking an investment of $570,000 over the next two years to increase its impact for youth in the City of Boston.

SIF’s Executive Director, Susan Musinsky, started the evening at MIT by welcoming the room and acknowledging all the Social Innovators, past and present, for their substantial commitment to social change work. The 2019 Innovators took the stage to present their pitches, developed with the guidance of SIF consultants, coaches, volunteers, and in-kind partners. Each Innovator concluded their presentations by explaining their two-year plans for growth and inviting audience members to become involved in their work.

Thank you to all of the staff at the Social Innovation Forum and the consultants that worked alongside Bior throughout the last 5 months and made this night successful for the organization. To read the full press release from Social Innovation Forum, click here.

$10,000 Match Challenge from The Good People!

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Please consider making a donation to Boston Youth Wrestling today!

Update (July 5, 2019) — Thanks to our generous supporters (which included 23 individual donors) and the Good People Fund, we were able to raise $20,000 in just TWO WEEKS! We thank everyone for their continued support of our mission and our programming.

Boston, MA — We are thrilled to announce a $10,000 match challenge from The Good People Fund to be matched by $10,000 in unrestricted gifts from individual donors to Boston Youth Wrestling. BYW hopes this match challenge will inspire gifts from first-time donors as well as re-engaged donors. Gifts of any size will be matched 1:1.

Founded in 2008, The Good People Fund provides financial support and management guidance to small and mid-sized, highly effective non-profits, headed by dynamic Good People who are devoted to tikkun olam (repairing the world). The Good People Fund help donors achieve a maximum of good with each dollar spent by connecting them with the Good Person whose work best realizes their personal goals for tzedakah (to do the right thing by giving). We also welcome undesignated gifts that we direct to projects where the need is greatest.

They target inspired non-profit entrepreneurs who operate with low overhead and on a personal scale, who have developed creative solutions to poverty, hunger, disability, trauma recovery, social isolation and other significant challenges—but whose work would otherwise go unsupported. Most of our grantees are based in the U.S. and Israel, but our Good People reach out to communities beyond, as well. Their goal is to strengthen their grantees as they grow into self-sustaining organizations.

In keeping with our philosophy that the vast majority of donor dollars should support those being served, we maintain a lean operating budget. Most of the salaries for our small staff are underwritten, as are a significant proportion of other operating costs.

Building on their mission of tikkun olam, we go beyond the act of giving to educate future donors about the meaning and power of tzedakah—and how they can best use their own talents and resources to do good works.

Started in 2012 by founder José Valenzuela, a veteran BPS classroom teacher of 10 years, Boston Youth Wrestling has grown today to serve 500 youth in Boston, Chelsea, and Lynn across 17 program sites throughout the school year and the summer. Using wrestling as a tool and motivator, BYW teaches youth to successfully overcome socio-economic challenges that lead to educational gaps, poor health and negative community relationships, imparting skills such as self reliance, discipline and commitment to others that apply both on and off the mat, in school and beyond. Today BYW offers three core school-based wrestling programming partnership levels called “Engage,” “Enrich,” and “Evolve.”

We are thrilled to have been selected by The Good People Fund, and thank them for the confidence in our organization and our mission and work.

Bior Guigni Named Executive Director

Bior Guigni Named Executive Director


Boston MA — In an unanimous vote of the Board of Directors of Boston Youth Wrestling last week, Bior Guigni was promoted as the organization’s first-ever full-time Executive Director. Bior becomes the nation’s first female Executive Director leading a wrestling-based youth development organization.

Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and the second oldest of 11 siblings, Bior began wrestling at the age of 14 at Norwich Free Academy (CT), the only girl on the boys wrestling team. Before wrestling, Bior struggled with grades and staying in school, and was bullied for being an immigrant and an English language learner. Wrestling gave Bior a safe space to grow and thrive — and thrive she did. After four years of wrestling on the varsity team, Bior was recruited to wrestle with a full scholarship at one of the nation’s first collegiate female wrestling program at Menlo College (CA). She would continue her wrestling career after Menlo training with the Olympic Team, until injuries forced an early retirement. Bior began her post-collegiate career in hospitality and event management, before finding her way back to the sport of wrestling when volunteering for a Boston Youth Wrestling tournament that was being held in 2013.

Bior (pictured here in middle) with volunteers, board members, and coaches at the conclusion of the Boston City Championships on January 20, 2013 at TechBoston Academy (Dorchester).

Bior (pictured here in middle) with volunteers, board members, and coaches at the conclusion of the Boston City Championships on January 20, 2013 at TechBoston Academy (Dorchester).

Bior was tapped as the first Girls Head Coach in 2014 with funding provided by the Dicks Sporting Goods Foundation. Her success in that role led to her promotion of the organization’s first Director of Programming in 2015, which became a full-time position in 2016. Bior’s fingerprints are all over the DNA of programs run in Boston, Chelsea, and Lynn, including the successful “E3” program, the Wrestl(H)er initiative for girls empowerment through wrestling, and M.A.T. Time, BYW’s signature mentorship program.

“I speak for everyone on the Board of Directors, when I say how thrilled we are to have Bior take on this role as our first-ever Executive Director,” said founder José Valenzuela. “The work that Bior has done since 2016 is nothing short of amazing. As an organization, BYW would not be where we are today without the incredible dedication from Bior on a daily basis over the last 3+ years.”

Over the past several months, BYW has been working on accreditation with Beat the Streets National, which cultivates youth development in underserved communities by encouraging a desire for excellence, respect, teamwork, leadership, integrity, and perseverance through the instruction of quality wrestling programs nationwide. Their network, which BYW hopes to be a part of soon, includes New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Providence, and Cleveland. BTS National’s Executive Director Jeffrey Marsh had this to say about Bior: “To see her leadership and passion for the cause over the past year has been inspiring. As far as I am aware, she is the first female Executive Director of a major wrestling organization. Bior and Jacque [Director of Girls Development], through BYW, are leading the way for female careers in the sport of wrestling and setting an example for their students.”

In addition to her role at BYW, Bior is also the first female President of the Massachusetts Wrestling Association, the first female State Director for Massachusetts USA Wrestling, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Boston Chapter of the Wrestlers in Business Network. Bior recently completed a certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice at Tufts University, and is a 2019 Lead Innovator with the Social Innovation Forum.

2018-2019 Season Wrap Up

Boston, MA — In March, Boston Youth Wrestling concluded its sixth winter season as a program with some outstanding individual performances on the mat, and a lot of hardware collected on the way. On January 19th, during MLK Weekend, BYW hosted the X Annual City Championships at the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club in Dorchester. With over 100 participants, the tournament was a great example of the community that BYW has built in the city amongst groups of kids and families that are typically divided from each other in everyday life. With attendees from Boston’s private, public, charter, and parochial schools, all wrestlers competed in a fun and respectful atmosphere that embodied the vision that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. espoused so many years ago. To see photos for the event, click here.

On January 15th, Josiah Quincy Upper School played host to Boston Latin School in the annual Hoong Wei Speicher Match. The dual meet honors the late Hoong Wei Speicher, an administrator at the Quincy Upper School and the parent of a Latin School wrestler, who helped create opportunities for young people to grow and thrive. Speicher’s son was on hand to watch the match, which was hard fought at many weight classes. In the end, Ricky Sun was honored with the “True Grit Award,” an honor chosen by the match referee for the wrestler that best exemplified the characteristics that Hoong Wei Speicher taught to her students.

Ricky Sun was awarded the “True Grit Award” given annually to the wrestler who displays the grit exemplified by Huang Wei Speicher. Pictured with Ricky are Coach McKoy (JQUS), Coach Gibbons (BLS), and Josh Speicher.

On February 10h, for the second year in a row BYW hosted the MWA Big East and Girls New England Championships at Madison Park High School. To read about that tournament and to see more photos from that day, click here.

We are excited to celebrate the successes of our wrestlers in postseason tournaments. Some of the highlights include the first ever sectional placers for two schools (Boston Latin Academy and John D. O’Bryant) and the first-ever state qualifier for one of our high schools (Boston Latin Academy). At the youth level, our Boston wrestlers continued our tradition of postseason success at the Mass Wrestling Association tournaments. For the third consecutive year, BYW qualified multiple wrestlers to the Youth New England Championships in March. Although our program measures the success of our wrestlers in their progress in the classroom and in life, the success of these student-athletes on the wrestling is a testament to their dedication and hard work, and the great coaching they receive. Congrats to all our wrestlers this season!

MIAA Sectional Placers (High School) [Names in BOLD Qualified for State Championships]

  • Nick Centeio, John D. O’Bryant School, 6th Place

  • Malcolm Chrispin, Boston Latin Academy, 3rd Place

  • Ray Liang, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 5th Place

  • Ricky Sun, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 6th Place

  • Jaseed James, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 6th Place

  • Julian Wise, Boston Latin School, 3rd Place

  • Joe Prior, Boston Latin School, 6th Place

  • Max Sonderegger, Boston Latin School, 5th Place

  • Olamadide “Larry” Adeyeri, Boston Latin School, 1st Place

  • Owen Kirkpatrick, Boston Latin School, 6th Place

  • Paul Curran, Boston Latin School, 2nd Place

  • RJ Petrucelli, Boston Latin School, 4th Place

  • Theo Sawyers, Boston Latin School, 5th Place

  • Will Sobchuk, Boston Latin School, 6th Place

MIAA State Placers (High School)

  • Olamadide “Larry” Adeyeri, Boston Latin School, 5th Place

  • Paul Curran, Boston Latin School, 6th Place

MIAA All State Placers (High School)

  • Olamadide “Larry” Adeyeri, Boston Latin School, 8th Place

MWA Sectional Placers (Youth/Middle School) [All Wrestlers Below Qualified For States]

  • Keon Austin, [School], 5th Place

  • Navid Hodjat, Unattached, 6th Place

  • Aydin Hodjat, Unattached, 5th Place

  • Graeme Dierks, Boston Latin School, 8th Place

  • Henry Stratman, Boston Latin School, 3rd Place

  • Hiolng Wong, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 8th Place

  • Julius Fontiello, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 5th Place

  • Vincent Wong, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 2nd Place

  • Vismark Melo, Dearborn STEM Academy, 4th Place

MWA State Placers (Youth/Middle School)

  • Julius Fontiello, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 3rd Place

  • Vincent Wong, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 2nd Place

Youth New England Championships Placers (Youth/Middle School)

  • Julius Fontiello, Josiah Quincy Upper School, 8th Place

Malcolm Chrispin (Boston Latin Academy) places 3rd at the MIAA Division 3 Central Championships, becoming the first-ever state qualifier for his school.

BYW and Beat the Streets Host All-Star Dual Meet at Harvard University

Cambridge, MA — On February 20th, Boston Youth Wrestling and Beat the Streets Providence hosted an All-Star Dual Meet at Harvard University for student-athletes from both cities. The match was hosted at Maklin Athletic Center prior to the Harvard and Brown University dual meet.

Nikan Hodjat, a teacher and wrestling coach at the John D. O’Bryant School was thrilled to be a part fo the event. “Wrestling on Harvard's iconic crimson mat delivered a powerful message of belonging to all the youth who participated in the All-Star match. Just as the sport of wrestling teaches that you won't know your limits unless you keep stretching them, so too do these events inform our kids that they have the capacity to go anywhere and do anything, from taking the mat at an Ivy League institution to earning a spot at that same school as a scholar in the future. BYW and Beat the Streets continue to demonstrate that they create invaluable, incomparable opportunities for youth development.”

Brad Lewis, a teacher and wrestling coach at Excel Academy Charter High School agreed. “When we first started, our goal was to get kids on the mat and introduce them to wrestling. Now that we're established, it isn't enough to just get them on the mat -- we want them to pursue excellence on it. Bringing our kids to an elite university and getting to watch high-level D1 college wrestling gives them that opportunity to see how high they can reach. Some of those kids take that experience and can see themselves one day wrestling for a school like Harvard or Brown. They start setting those goals now, and we can help them put the work in to make it happen.”


BYW Hosts 2019 Big East and Girls NE Championships

Roxbury, MA — On February 10th, Boston Youth Wrestling hosted the Big East and Girls New England Championships at Madison Park Vocational & Technical High School in Roxbury. The tournament saw a dramatic rise in participation, particularly for the girls divisions, which saw a 100% increase from last year’s historic numbers.

See below for all the day’s placers:

Big East Novice Division (5-6th Grade)

91 lbs Lamont Cuff - 3rd Place

Big East Middle School Division (7-8th Grade)

100 lbs Alexander Greene Barrios - 4th Place
118 lbs Dexin Ma - 5th Place
169 lbs Jomar Lopez - 5th Place
215 lbs Vismark Melo - 1st Place
136 lbs Xavier Polanco - 8th Place
103 lbs Juan Oachoa - 3rd Place
100 lbs Jamie Nuñez - 3rd Place

Girls New England Middle School Division (7-8th Grade)

136 lbs Tess Clabaugh - 3rd Place

Girls New England High School Division (9-12th Grade)

91.5-99 lbs Jennifer Martinez - 2nd Place
109.5-117 lbs Litzy Ayala - 3rd Place
140-142 lbs MiAsia Stokes-Haith - 3rd Place
143-150 lbs Carolyn Gilmore - 1st Place
143-150 lbs Jessica Barco Guerra - 4th Place
167-168 lbs Mireyda Perez Hernandez - 3rd Place
169-172 lbs Lesley Baez - 2nd Place
169-172 lbs Aria Kelley - 3rd Place
153-166 lbs Eliza Nuestro - 3rd Place
200-206 lbs Taylor Phillips - 2nd Place

Shannon Grant Awards $40,000 to BYW for Youth Violence Prevention

Shannon Grant Awards $40,000 to BYW for Youth Violence Prevention

Photo credit: Governor’s Press Office

Photo credit: Governor’s Press Office

Boston, MA — For the second time in three years, BYW has been awarded funding from the competitive Senator Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative (Shannon CSI) Grant Program for 2019. The grantees were honored on February 11th at the Massachusetts State House at an event with Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and Secretary of Public Safety and Security Thomas Turco. The grant of $40,000 awarded by the Boston Police Department will support the organization’s Coaches in Training (CIT) Mentorship and Leadership Program, as part of the Department’s multidisciplinary approaches to curb youth violence through coordinated prevention and intervention programs. In 2019, BYW plans to hire 10 youth through our CIT program to work over the course of the year as trained mentors and coaches with youth at local community programs around the city including the Boston Centers for Youth and Families, Girls Inc., and United South End Settlements, among others.

BYW was in attendance at a November 27, 2018 press conference with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Police Commissioner William Gross, and other community leaders, to announce the winners of the Shannon CSI Grant. “In Boston, we work every day to make sure our young people are lifted up, and given every opportunity to succeed. That means through education, through development programs, and through having a safe, stable environment that will give them the resources and opportunities they need," said Mayor Walsh.

Also in attendance at the November press conference was City Council President Andrea Campbell. "I was thrilled to…support the…Shannon Grant to help dozens of programs expand their capacity to serve, empower, and educate our young people," said Campbell. "The jobs, skills, and relationships young people build through these programs are critical to breaking cycles of inequity, especially for young people of color, and ensuring they reach their God-given potentials."

“Boston Youth Wrestling is thankful for the support of community leaders like Mayor Walsh, Commissioner Gross, and City Council President Andrea Campbell. We are honored for the grant amount and the confidence to use the funds to be a part of this special initiative to pro-actively reduce youth violence in the City of Boston,” said Founder José Valenzuela.

BYW Selected For 2019 Social Innovator Cohort

BYW Selected For 2019 Social Innovator Cohort

Boston MA — On December 7th, it was announced by the Social Innovation Forum that Boston Youth Wrestling had been selected for the 2019 Social Innovator Cohort. After a highly competitive application process over the course of the last 6 months, BYW and 7 other organizations were chosen from over 165+ nonprofits that had applied. In attendance for BYW were Founder José Valenzuela, Director of Programming Bior Guigni, Board Member Nic Miragluolo, and BYW volunteer Brittany Clark.

After the event, Founder José Valenzuela had this to say about the award, “We are so honored by this selection by the Social Innovation Forum. Everyone at BYW, including the staff, board, and volunteers, are really thrilled for Bior Guigni who was chosen as Lead Innovator. She is incredibly deserving and we are excited to be working with SIF over the next 24 months to learn and to help grow our organization, which will in turn help us to have an even greater impact on kids.”

Read the full press release from SIF below.

SIF Announces 2019 Social Innovator Cohort

Eight nonprofits welcomed into 24-month capacity-building program

The Social Innovation Forum (SIF) is excited to announce the selection of eight nonprofits for our 2019 Social Innovator cohort. Over the next two years, the Social Innovators will receive financial and capacity-building support valued at more than $150,000 to help them gain visibility, expand their networks, and strengthen their impact.

Each year SIF works with a group of funding partners to define social issue topic areas or "tracks" for that year's nonprofit accelerator program, and after a six-month evaluation process, one Social Innovator is chosen on each track.

“We warmly welcome these eight organizations into the Social Innovator Accelerator program,” said Susan Musinsky. “They are about to embark on an intense 24 month journey of organizational growth and learning, and the SIF team, consultants, volunteers, and in-kind partners are excited to begin working with them.”

2019 Social Innovators


Boston Youth Wrestling
Closing the Opportunity Gap Through Out-of-Classroom Engagement
Track Partner: Inspire Boston Funder Collaborative

Disability Policy Consortium
Ensuring Long-term Success for Young People with Disabilities
Track Partner: Edith M. Ashley Fund at the Boston Foundation

Dream Out Loud Center, Inc.
Promoting Access to Arts and Culture in New Bedford
Track Partner: Schrafft Charitable Trust

English for New Bostonians
Supporting and Advancing Health and Stability of Immigrant Families
Track Partner: Shipley Foundation

LEAP for Education
Building the Path to Success Through Workforce Development for Youth
Track Partner: Amelia Peabody Foundation

Paige Academy
Early Childhood Education: Building a Foundation for the Future
Track Partner: Wellington Management Foundation

The Urban Farming Institute of Boston, Inc.
Creating Equity Through Leadership in Environmental Justice Communities 
Track Partner: Cedar Tree Foundation

Y2Y Network
Pathways to Success for Young People Experiencing Homelessness
Track Partner: Liberty Mutual Insurance

2018-2019 Season Kicks Off With Over 100 Wrestlers At Annual Scrimmage

2018-2019 Season Kicks Off With Over 100 Wrestlers At Annual Scrimmage

Boston, MA — For the second consecutive year, over 100 wrestlers from across Boston came together in fellowship to practice and scrimmage with each other as part of the 2018-2019 wrestling season kick off. The event was a celebration of the growth of the sport of wrestling in the city and an opportunity to receive technical instruction from a variety of coaches. The event was sponsored by KIND Snacks, who provided healthy snacks for our wrestlers at the conclusion of the practice. Special thanks to Boston Latin School for hosting the kick off for the second year in a row.

Nikan Hodjat, a teacher and coach at John D. O’Bryant, though the event was part of something bigger than just a practice. ”Lots of things make wrestling unlike any other sport, but one of the most important is community. When my students joined a community of over 100 wrestlers to drill, to practice and to scrimmage, they were hard-pressed not to feel like they were part of a movement. Wrestling has a foothold in the City of Boston and it is here to stay.”

The wrestlers represented a variety of schools and teams including: Boston Latin School, Josiah Quincy Upper School, John D. O’Bryant, Excel Academy Charter High School, Boston Latin Academy, and Parkway Youth Wrestling Club.

BYW Homecoming Fundraiser Celebrates Recent Program Successes

BYW Homecoming Fundraiser Celebrates Recent Program Successes

Boston, MA — On Thursday October 18th, staff and supporters of Boston Youth Wrestling gathered at Filippo’s Ristorante to raise funds for the upcoming wrestling season and to celebrate the successes of the program. BYW is profoundly thankful to our event sponsor Barrales Law and Filippo’s Ristorante for generously donating the food and space for the event. Thanks to our sponsorships and donations from the night, BYW raised $10,000 that will be directed to programs this winter season.

BYW Founder and President José Valenzuela spoke to the crowd at the end of the night, “When we started this organization, we were figuring out so much about how to run a nonprofit, and how to get started. I had a lot of doubts back then as the director of a new nonprofit, but one thing I never doubted was the impact the sport of wrestling could have on the youth of Boston to break the cycle of violence, poverty, and low achievement in school and to change the narrative -- this mission has been driving us since Day One, and continues to drive us now.”

Jeff Marsh, the Executive Director of Beat the Streets National, who was in attendance that night, said of the event, “Finding a way to make the sport and the experience better for the kids is key to the future. Being able to share the night with so many passionate youth supporters, brilliant minds, and to discuss future further collaboration and to talk about how we can learn from one another is exciting. I am excited for Bior, José, their board and all of the schools, coaches and kids they work with. BYW already has a very deep impact on the children in their program, I can’t wait to see them expand that.”


BYW Hires Director of Girls Development Jacque Davis

BYW Hires Director of Girls Development Jacque Davis

Boston, MA — BYW is pleased to announce the hiring of Jacque Davis as the new Director of Girls Development. In a landmark partnership with Beat The Streets Providence, Jacque Davis will oversee the development and empowerment of girls through the sport of wrestling in Boston and Providence.

In the burgeoning realm of girls wrestling, Jacque has few peers. For the past five years, Jacque was Director of Girls Development for Beat The Streets New York. She leaves behind a program that has flourished and excelled both on and off the mat. In her time in NY, she coached 47 National All-Americans, five USA National team members, three Pan-Am Team selections and a pair of Fargo National Champions. She has been a USA Wrestling Women's volunteer coach since 2013, was the first woman to be named Director and National Team Coach for New York State, and earned a pair of prestigious coaching honors in 2016 – the USA Wrestling Developmental Coach of the Year and the Dan Gable "America Needs Wrestling" Award.

BYW Founder and President José Valenzuela had this to say about Jacque: “In her short time at BYW, she has already made her presence known here in the region. The hiring of Jacque is a signal to the wrestling community in Massachusetts and across New England about the growing role of girls in the sport. Jacque also is an example of the leadership that Boston Youth Wrestling has shown in the world of sports-based youth development that in order to reach the most marginalized youth in Boston, we must have the best talent in front of our kids. Jacque is an incredible talent, and we are excited for the opportunity to expand opportunities for girls in our area.”

To learn more about girls wrestling in Boston, click here for our offseason freestyle wrestling training opportunities.

Coaches In Training Empowers Youth In Leadership and Community Service

Coaches In Training Empowers Youth In Leadership and Community Service

Boston, MA - This summer, Boston Youth Wrestling employed seven high school student-athletes to work as Coaches In Training (CIT). Thanks to funding from the Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF), CITs were able to engage in mentorship and leadership training before putting those new skills to use running wrestling camps in the community at BCYF centers in Mattapan and Roxbury. In addition to their coaching responsibilities, the CITs completed community service hours by cleaning up and revitalizing the BCYF Mattahunt community garden, organized by Empowering Generations of Leaders.

When asked about his time in the CIT program, Ifatayo Onifade, a student-athlete at the John D. O’Bryant School, said, “Coaches in Training helped me develop as a better student by allowing me to develop more abilities, and now I can help other people by spreading my knowledge.”

Meily Dandrade, a teammate of Ifatayo at O’Bryant, and of three female CITs this summer, saw the benefit of participating in the CIT program beyond just the wrestling mat. “I can use the skills I learned in the program for future school presentations and meeting new people…because I have more confidence in myself.”

“I can use my skills I learned in the program for future school presentations and meeting new people…because I have more confidence in myself.”

— Meily Dandrade, 2018 CIT and Student-Athlete at John D. O’Bryant School

To learn more about our CITs, you can read their profiles here.

Wrestlers Conclude With Huge Postseason Performances at State and New England Championships

Wrestlers Conclude With Huge Postseason Performances at State and New England Championships

North Andover, MA - On Sunday March 11th, Boston wrestlers concluded the winter season with strong performances at the 12th Annual Youth New England Championships held at North Andover High School. With over 880 wrestlers in this year's tournament, our Boston wrestlers competed against the best competitors in the six-state region. This year, BYW qualified seven wrestlers through their placement at the Massachusetts Youth State Championships. Three wrestlers this year placed in the top 7, an impressive haul for the program, and two secured medals for finishing in the top 5 in their weight classes.

Youth New Englands Middle School Division (Grades 7-8)
130 lbs Edwin Perez (Quincy Upper School) - 7th Place
136 lbs Matthew Mitchell (St. John's Prep) - 4th Place
169 lbs Raymond Liang (Quincy Upper School) - 5th Place

On February 18th, BYW brought 17 wrestlers to compete at the Massachusetts Youth State Championships at Reading Memorial High School. By placing six wrestlers on the medal stand, BYW finished the tournament in 5th place as a team (with 74 points), its highest team finish in program history. In addition, BYW had two state finalists, a record for the program. Aydin Hodjat finished runner-up in the 103 lbs weight class, in a tightly contested match, while Vincent Wong finished runner-up at 188 lbs.

Massachusetts Youth State Championships Novice Division (Grades 5-6)
103 lbs Aydin Hodjat - 2nd Place

Massachusetts Youth State Championships Middle School Division (Grades 7-8)
124 lbs Malcolm Chrispin (Latin Academy) - 4th Place
130 lbs Edwin Perez (Quincy Upper School) - 4th Place
136 lbs Matthew Mitchell (St. John's Prep) - 3rd Place
136 lbs Connor Kewley (Latin Academy) - 6th Place
169 lbs Raymond Liang (Quincy Upper School) - 3rd Place
188 lbs Vincent Wong (Quincy Upper School) - 2nd Place

Congratulations to all of our place-winners, their coaches, and their teammates for the incredible effort they all put into their training and preparation this season. A special shout out to our families, volunteers, and donors that continue to support this amazing group of young men and women that use the sport of wrestling to alter the trajectory of their lives.

BYW Hosts MYWA Big East and Girls Championships

BYW Hosts MYWA Big East and Girls Championships


Roxbury, MA - On Sunday February 11th, Boston Youth Wrestling hosted over 230 wrestlers from across the state for the MYWA Big East and Girls Championships tournament at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School. BYW had a strong showing at the tournament with 23 place winners.

The tournament was also yet another reminder of the growing strength of girls wrestling in Boston and the state of Massachusetts. As part of Boston Youth Wrestling's new #WrestleHer campaign, each female champion was awarded a #Wrestl(H)er t-shirt to help spread awareness for the growing sport of girls wrestling. The girls were a major part of the success on the mats for BYW with the girls accounting for 16 of the 23 place winners.

As a fundraiser, the tournament helped to bring over $4,000 to support new programs in Boston. BYW was pleased to host Fine Designs and Sub Zero Ice Cream (Nashua, NH) as vendors to provide our wrestlers and parents the best options, in addition to the BYW merchandise and concessions for sale. BYW would also like to thank Mattapan House of Pizza, Whole Foods, and Barrales Law for their contributions to the menu items at our concessions stand.

Congratulations to all of the medal winners and participants in Sunday's tournament, which included three gold medals: Jason Deshernes, Anthony Chen (Josiah Quincy Upper), and Taylor Phillips (Excel Academy Charter). See below for all the day's placers:

Big East Novice Division (Grades 5-6)
97 lbs Keniel Ureña - 6th Place
160 lbs Jason Deshernes - 1st Place

Big East Middle School Division (Grades 7-8)
81 lbs Siddharth Bagmar - 6th Place
94 lbs Alan Diec - 8th Place
124 lbs Anthony Chen - 1st Place
169 lbs Sergio Gonzalez - 8th Place
202 lbs Jason Moreno - 3rd Place

Big East Girls Division (Grades 5-8)
116 lbs Destiny Goerrant - 3rd Place

Big East Girls Division (Grades 9-12)
118.5 lbs Meily Dandrade - 2nd Place
              Litzy Ayala - 3rd Place
              Bien Lawutz - 4th Place
124 lbs Mariela Macia - 3rd Place
            Ashily Lara - 4th Place
142 lbs Kateline DeJesus - 2nd Place
145 lbs Tania Chavez - 3rd Place
152.5 lbs Eliza Nuestro - 4th Place
168.5 lbs Mireyala Perez - 3rd Place
               Aria Kelley - 4th Place
               Mariama Savage - 5th Place
               Karyn Padilla - 6th Place
193 lbs Taylor Phillips - 1st Place
            Abby Castillo - 2nd Place
            Naisha Sola - 3rd Place


Boston Wrestlers Take Second Place at Youth Sectionals

Boston Wrestlers Take Second Place at Youth Sectionals


Methuen, MA - On Sunday February 4th, BYW took a team of 22 wrestlers to Methuen High School to compete in the MYWA North/East Sectional Championships. After a day of hard fought wrestling in a competitive tournament, BYW finished as team runner ups, and in the process qualified 15 wrestlers for the State Championships!

We are pleased to congratulate the following wrestlers, including our two Sectional Champions, for qualifying for the State Championships at Reading High School on February 18th.

69 lbs Navid Hodjat - 7th Place
103 lbs Aydin Hodjat - 1st Place 
138 lbs Neth Kurukulasuriya - 5th Place 

Middle School
124 lbs Malcolm Chrispin - 4th Place
130 lbs Edwin Perez - 3rd Place  
            Hakeem Drayton - 8th Place
136 lbs Connor Kewley- 2nd Place
            Matthew Mitchell - 3rd Place
154 lbs Gary Mei - 4th Place
            Anthony Montes - 8th Place  
169 lbs Raymond Liang - 1st Place  
            Julius Fontinello - 4th Place
188 lbs Vincent Wong -  2nd Place
215 lbs John Triantafillidis - 4th Place 


BYW Hosts 7th Annual City Championships

BYW Hosts 7th Annual City Championships


Dorchester, MA -- On Saturday January 13th, BYW hosted their 7th Annual City Championships at the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club. BC High's "Arrupe" (Middle School) team took home the 1st Place Team Trophy, with Josiah Quincy Upper School finishing as team runners up. Full results and photos can be found on BYW's Facebook page.

Boston College HS Head Coach Grant Heller was clearly excited about how this year's event turned out, "Our middle school program has attended the Boston City Championships for the past seven years. Every year this event is one of the top highlights of our wrestling season. Our wrestlers value the opportunity to compete against tough competition from schools like Roxbury Latin and Josiah Quincy. This tournament provides them an opportunity to grow and develop as wrestlers. However, the City Championships is much more than an opportunity for individual growth. It is a celebration of the wrestling community within the City of Boston. It is an opportunity to recognize the substantial growth of the sport within the city and to be a part of something bigger: a truly diverse community with a shared value of youth development through the sport of wrestling. As a coach, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this tournament, but it allows my wrestlers the opportunity to make connections and grow as a team, and to be a part of something much bigger than themselves - the family that is, Boston wrestling."

Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers, which included the high schoolers from the O'Bryant Wrestling Team, who made the tournament such a success. BYW's next hosted tournament will be the Big East Championship and Girls' K-12 Championship both being hosted at Madison Park High School on Sunday February 11th. We hope to see you there!


100 Wrestlers Make Season Kick Off Jamboree A Huge Success

100 Wrestlers Make Season Kick Off Jamboree A Huge Success


Boston MA - On Saturday December 2nd, 100 wrestlers from schools across Boston joined together to participate in the annual season kickoff jamboree. The event has become a tradition in the city to showcase the unity and friendship between schools as part of BYW's motto "One City, One Mission, One Team." Hosted by Boston Latin School, student-athletes participated in technique drills by skill level (middle school, novice high school, and experienced high school), conditioning drills, and simulated wrestling matches.

Founder José Valenzuela shared a few words to conclude the jamboree to help inspire the wrestlers as they embark on their seasons: "This has been my dream for a long, long time, ever since I was in high school. As you go back to your schools to continue your seasons, don't forget what today means. We are all here to support each other, and whether your goal is to make the varsity lineup, or qualify for the state championships, every one of us plays a part in helping to grow this sport. Thank you for making part of my dream come true by stepping on these mats today and taking part in this journey with us together."


Takedown Tournament Concludes 2017-2018 Fall Season

Takedown Tournament Concludes 2017-2018 Fall Season


East Boston, MA - On Sunday November 19th, over 160 wrestlers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire participated in the 1st Annual November Takedown Tournament at Excel Academy Charter High School. BYW participants came from schools across the city including Excel Academy, Josiah Quincy Upper School, Boston Latin School, John D. O'Bryant, Latin Academy, Washington Irving Middle School, and Lilla G. Frederick Middle School. After a clinic from BYW President and Founder José Valenzuela, wrestlers were placed in 4, 5, 6, and 16 competitor brackets in both middle school and high school divisions. BYW also welcomed the following programs to join in the day's competition: Beat the Streets Providence, Manchester (NH) Police Athletic League, and Cambridge Youth Wrestling.

BTS Providence Executive Director Steven Keith enjoyed how the tournament brought together the blossoming urban wrestling community around New England: "What a great day for the New England wrestling community, and in particular, our students. It was the first competition of the year, and for many [them], their first competition ever. Thank you to the BYW staff, coaches, and community for the wonderful experience."

The Program Director for BTS Providence Ed German agreed. "The Boston Youth Takedown Tournament was a huge success. Our Providence youth had a chance to get great mat time and learning opportunities that will increase their success throughout the regular season. Many walked away feeling successful and confident in their growth within the sport and some brought back some pretty cool hardware to show parents, friends, educators, and supporters."


BYW Travels To Princeton University

BYW Travels To Princeton University


Princeton, NJ - On November 5, 2017, 21 students and 4 coaches traveled to Princeton University to participate in the first college visit of the 2017-18 school year. As part of the NWCA All-Star Classic, hosted by the Wrestlers In Business Network, BYW students would join over 100 student-athletes from other affiliate "Beat The Streets" cities, including Providence (RI), New York City, Philadelphia (PA), and Trenton (NJ). Our incredibly dedicated students met at the BYW offices at 3:30 AM to get on the road in order to arrive on time for the first activities of the day. The day began at 9:00 AM with a campus tour led by current Princeton wrestlers. Students were awed by the picturesque campus, as were the coaches. Brad Lewis, Head Coach for Excel Academy (East Boston), knew that this experience was special for his kids. Lewis said, "I like that we can take advantage of an opportunity to show our kids the absolute best. They were able to tour one of the best colleges in the country, and learn from the best wrestlers in the world. That experience is absolutely invaluable."

Students then returned to the Jadwin Gymnasium to get on the mats and participate in an absolutely star-studded wrestling clinic led by 2016 Olympic Gold Medalists Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis, 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Brandon Slay, and Associate Head Coach Joe Dubuque of Princeton University. Students worked on fundamental techniques from each of the clinicians, and all left the two-hour clinic with new skills to bring to the mats this school year. Jason Nuñez from Excel Academy (East Boston) paid particular close attention to what each of the coaches had to say: "I think I'm going to do what Coach Slay said. He talked about how you need to put the work into be good at something, and work hard in all areas of your life. I'd heard that before, but it felt like it meant more coming from someone like him"

After an organized lunch with all of the participating urban programs in attendance, our BYW wrestlers were ready to watch some terrific collegiate wrestling at the NWCA All-Star Classic with some of the top male and female collegiate wrestlers participating. The event did not disappoint. Taylor Phillips, a first year wrestler from Excel Academy (East Boston) said, "I felt like it was really fun and educational. I liked learning all the new moves, and I'm excited to perfect some of them this season!"