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!"


Wrestlers In Business Network Honors BYW Founder

Wrestlers In Business Network Honors BYW Founder


Cambridge, MA - On October 21, 2017, the Wrestlers In Business Network Boston Chapter honored BYW Founder and President José Valenzuela with the Leadership Award at their 2nd Annual WIBN Boston Awards Dinner. The event also celebrated the lifetime achievements and contributions to the wrestling and business communities -- Andy McNerney, Carl Adams, and David Wilson. 

After receiving the award, Valenzuela spoke to the 150 people in attendance about how WIBN and Boston Youth Wrestling could work together to create more opportunities for wrestlers in the Greater Boston area. Valenzuela spoke about how wrestling transformed his life, putting him on a path towards success after struggling with his grades and his emotions. Relating the impact of Boston Youth Wrestling, Valenzuela made an impassioned appeal to everyone about investing in creating more opportunities for struggling young people to use wrestling as a vehicle for unlocking their potential.

Additionally, Billy Watterson, the founder of Beat The Streets Providence, who also received the WIBN's Leadership Award, echoed Valenzuela's comments. "BTS Providence and BYW have been long-time partners," Watterson said. "And we hope to continue that partnership with more alignment of our core curriculum, trainings and development for our coaches, and working together to promote youth development in our respective cities."

Photo Credit: Joni 

Photo Credit: Joni 


Nobles School Wrestling "Pins For Charity" Nets BYW $7,000

Nobles School Wrestling "Pins For Charity" Nets BYW $7,000


Dedham, MA - For the last 20 years, since Coach Toubman instituted the annual pinathon fundraiser, the Nobles Wrestling Team has been raising money for various charities and collecting donations two ways. People either give a flat amount, or they donate an amount per pin recorded by any of the wrestlers on the team. Some people even pledge to multiple students. Wrestlers volunteer to undertake the project and manage the influx of pledges. This year, David Yeh ‘18 and Cam Camacho ‘18, who will also be next year’s captains, took on the challenge. They spent many hours organizing pledge sheets and tabulating results. The Nobles students, faculty, and parents helped out by making generous donations. In total, the pinathon raised $7,000. This year’s pinathon went to support Boston Youth Wrestling, an organization that Head Coach Charles Danhof has worked to develop a closer relationship with BYW over the last couple of years. This has included leading clinics at the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club and hosting clinics at Nobles for Boston Public School students that are on campus through the Inspire Program. Coach Danhof states that "given that Nobles 'is dedicated to inspiring leadership for the public good,' partnering with Boston Youth Wrestling made perfect sense." BYW President and Founder José Valenzuela when receiving the donation replied, "We are thrilled and honored to have the Nobles Wrestling community supporting the mission of BYW and humbly accept this donation on behalf of the organization."

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BYW Hosts Clinic With Pan-Am Silver Medalist Nestor Taffur

BYW Hosts Clinic With Pan-Am Silver Medalist Nestor Taffur

Boston, MA - On Saturday June 3rd, Boston Youth Wrestling was proud to host former Boston University standout and current Colombia National Team Member Nestor Taffur for a clinic at the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club in Dorchester. While at BU, Nestor was a 2x NCAA qualifier, EIWA Conference Champion, and finished as the all-time wins leader in BU history with a record of 119-47. Nestor was also named BU's Male Athlete of the Year. After graduating, Nestor took a job as Assistant Wrestling Coach at Franklin and Marshall University. Nestor has also been busy training and competing for the Colombian National Team. He recently took Silver Medal at the 2017 UWW Pan-Am Championships, which qualified him for the World Wrestling Championships being held in Paris, France in August of this year.

After the clinic ended Taffur remarked, "I'm thankful for the opportunity to work with the inner city kids and pay forward the guidance I was given at their age. Guidance for these young athletes is crucial for their development as student athletes and I enjoyed coming in to work with them."

Excel Academy Charter Schools and BYW Host Two Successful Boston Open Tournaments

Excel Academy Charter Schools and BYW Host Two Successful Boston Open Tournaments

East Boston, MA - On April 29th and May 13th, Boston Youth Wrestling and its partner Excel Academy Charter Schools hosted two wildly successful Boston Open Tournaments. With over 100 participants, the tournaments were a showcase for Boston's newest high school program at the sparkling, brand new Excel Academy Charter High School facility in East Boston. Wrestlers came from as far as New Bedford, MA and Providence, RI to participate in the action.

Tournament Director and Excel Academy Head Coach Brad Lewis said, "Our first wrestling season has been a tremendous success. From our first announcement of adding wrestling as a sport, kids have been energized and excited to compete. It was amazing to have over 50 kids at tryouts our first week, especially when considering that there are only about 280 kids at the whole school. While we wound up carrying a roster closer to 30 by the end of the season, it was a group of hardworking, incredibly dedicated athletes who I was incredibly proud to have as members of the team."

The tournament raised over $3,000 from registration fees and concessions. All funds raised from the tournament will be directed to future equipment purchases at the Excel Academy Charter Schools middle and high school wrestling programs. A huge thank you is due to our hosts (Excel Academy), our volunteers, and of course the parental and peer support for the wrestlers as they put their heart and soul on the mats.

BYW was also pleased to host the brand new "Hay Mac" Wrestling Program, an initiative started by Boston Public School graduate Joe Bordieri at the Hayden Mcfadden Elementary School at the New Bedford Public Schools. The program which started this spring, has received some technical support from BYW, and we all look forward to watching its continued growth in the City of New Bedford.


BYW Girls Compete At Girls New England Championships

BYW Girls Compete At Girls New England Championships

Wayland, MA - On Sunday February 12th, BYW brought 6 female wrestlers from four Boston schools (Eliot K-8, O'Bryant, Frederick, City On A Hill) to compete at the MASCO Girls New England Wrestling Championships hosted by MASCO and Wayland High School. This was the second consecutive year that BYW brought a team to this all-girls tournament, and for the second year in a row, all wrestlers competing medaled in their respective weight classes.

For the first time, a BYW wrestler took home a first place trophy. Kaylalee Ortiz, a second year BYW wrestler and eighth grader at the Lilla G Frederick Middle School, was a reluctant competitor in her first year. Last summer, her coaches nominated Ortiz to intern in BYW's Junior Coaching and Youth Leadership Program which helped to develop her confidence and skills. This year, Ortiz was named her team's captain and throughout the season demonstrated perseverance and grit. In her final round match in the 137 pound weight class, Ortiz needed overtime to decide the match. In the first sudden victory, Ortiz scrambled out of a dire situation to preserve the tie 7-7. In the second sudden victory Ortiz came away victorious with a last gasp escape point with 0:14 seconds remaining in the match, and to take home the 1st Place trophy.

MASCO Girls New England Championships Place Winners

Middle School Division
Raquel Rico, 128 lbs, 2nd Place
Kaylalee Ortiz, 137 lbs, 1st Place
Meile Andrade, 106 lbs, 2nd Place

High School Division
Miyah Rivera, 106 lbs, 3rd Place
Mariama Savage, 150 lbs, 5th Place
Barbara Francois, 193 lbs, 5th Place

BYW next plans to take the girls team to the State Girls' Folkstyle Championships at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) on March 5th.

Quincy Upper School and Boston Latin School Clash In Annual Hoong Wei Speicher Memorial Match

Quincy Upper School and Boston Latin School Clash In Annual Hoong Wei Speicher Memorial Match

Damari Green (JQUS) and Jimmy Sullivan (BLS) compete under the lights at Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown.

Damari Green (JQUS) and Jimmy Sullivan (BLS) compete under the lights at Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown.

Boston MA - On Tuesday the Josiah Quincy Upper School Rising Phoenix played host to the Boston Latin School Wolfpack for the 7th Annual Hoong Wei Speicher Memorial Match. The dual meet pits the only two varsity wrestling programs in the Boston Public Schools in an annual contest that honors the legacy of Hoong Wei Speicher, an administrator at JQUS and the mother of a BLS wrestler. Speicher was instrumental in expanding wrestling opportunities to Boston Public School students. After some back and forth matches in the first five weight classes, Boston Latin was leading 17-9. But the Wolfpack, currently ranked #25 in the state in the rankings, ran away with the match with four consecutive pins (and a forfeit) to overtake the Rising Phoenix with a 53-27 final score.

At the conclusion of the match, JQUS head coach Malcolm Mitchell spoke eloquently about the legacy of the late Hoong Wei Speicher, and the impact that she left on the sport of wrestling here in Boston. As part of the tradition of the match, one wrestler was honored with the Speicher "True Grit" Award in recognition of their ability for determination and perseverance. Adrian Hernandez of Josiah Quincy, whose mother recently passed away in January, was honored with the 2017 trophy.

On the match, BYW founder José Valenzuela said, "It's nights like tonight that remind me about what makes the sport of wrestling so special. In the only dual meet of the year between two city public schools, we saw kids battling for every point, never quitting on themselves or their team, and when it was all done showing each other love and respect. This is what BYW is all about. These are memories that these student-athletes will cherish for a lifetime, and a bond between kids from neighborhoods all over the city that will surely never be broken."

The match was also broadcast live for the first time on Facebook Live. Watch the archived video on

106 lbs. James Le (BLS) WBF 5:59 Jason Tan (JQUS) | [0-6]
113 lbs. Damari Green (JQUS) dec. 9-4 Jimmy Sullivan (BLS) | [3-6]
120 lbs. Cam Nahim (BLS) WBTF 18-2 Edwin Perez (JQUS) | [3-11]
126 lbs. Nelson Wu (BLS) WBF 1:00 (JQUS) | [3-17]
132 lbs. Dahir Hersi (JQUS) WBF 2:20 Savar Palhanmthyh (BLS) | [9-17]
138 lbs. Andrew Nolan (BLS) WBF 4:15 (JQUS) | [9-23]
145 lbs. Eddie Sanchez (BLS) WBF 1:50 (JQUS) | [9-29]
152 lbs. #5 Michael Litto (BLS) WBF 5:00 William Lei (JQUS) | [9-35]
160 lbs. Julian Wise (BLS) Forfeit | [9-41]
170 lbs. Paul Curran (BLS) WBF 1:35 Ashvin Singh (JQUS) | [9-47]
182 lbs. Adrian Hernandez (JQUS) WBF 6:30 Caleb Hannon (BLS) | [15-47]
195 lbs. Jordan Correia (JQUS) WBF 1:20 Alex Kurpeski (BLS) | [21-47]
220 lbs. Larry Adeyeri (BLS) WBF 4:30 Sam Chang (JQUS) | [21-53]
285 lbs. Jahi James (JQUS) WBF 3:30 Johan Starvi (BLS) | [27-53]

BYW Among 53 Grassroots Organizations To Be Honored At Lenny Zakim Award Night

BYW Among 53 Grassroots Organizations To Be Honored At Lenny Zakim Award Night

BYW Board Member Nic Miragliuolo and BYW Program Director Bior Guigni alongside Founder & Director José Valenzuela received the $20,000 check from The Lenny Zakim Fund on February 6, 2017 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, MA.

BYW Board Member Nic Miragliuolo and BYW Program Director Bior Guigni alongside Founder & Director José Valenzuela received the $20,000 check from The Lenny Zakim Fund on February 6, 2017 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, MA.


Boston MA - As we enter a time of significant uncertainty, with increased signs of discrimination and active bigotry, supporting the individuals and communities most affected has become more vital than ever.  That call to action speaks directly to the mission of The Lenny Zakim Fund (LZF). Today that mission is reinforced as we announce fifty-three community-based social-justice organizations that will receive $625,000 in grants in 2017.  All we present at the Award Ceremony on February 6th.

The grantee list is extremely diverse and will help to change the lives of thousands in MA communities. There are many good stories here. For example:

The Muslim Justice League is one of LZF’s new grant recipients, and an example of the many LZF grantee organizations with a focus on civil rights. Their mission has become more pertinent as the human and civil rights of Muslims in America continue to be threatened.

Resilient Coders is another new LZF grantee, and one of seventeen who fulfill LZF’s mission of supporting youth development and education in underserved communities. By teaching technical software coding skills, Resilient Coders offers hands-on experience to help young people thrive in this growing field, providing more than a job, but the skills needed to build a career.  

Sibling Connections helps to reconnect sisters and brothers separated by foster care.  Adaptive Sports New England provides opportunities for young people who have visual or mobility challenges to participate in a wide range of sports. In New Bedford, Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores organizes immigrant workers to protect them from abusive working conditions.  

The work being done by the organizations funded by The Lenny Zakim Fund represents commitment, creativity and activism at its best.  They will be honored at The LZF’s annual awards ceremony on Monday, February 6 at The Four Seasons Hotel in Boston.  As founder Lenny Zakim said “They have the will. They have the creativity. But they lack the means. We give them the means.”

Please click here for a complete list of the 2017 Lenny Zakim Fund grantees.

ABOUT THE LENNY ZAKIM FUND  The mission of The Lenny Zakim Fund is to identify, listen to, support and connect grassroots community organizations and programs operating "below the radar screen" of many large charitable groups and government grants. The Lenny Zakim Fund provides assistance to those who demonstrate the will and potential to make a difference but lack the necessary resources.

Contact: Jude Goldman, Executive Director, The Lenny Zakim Fund, 617-794-7314

BYW Qualifies 15 Wrestlers For 2017 State Youth Championships

BYW Qualifies 15 Wrestlers For 2017 State Youth Championships

The Boston Youth Wrestling at the 2017 MYWA North/East Sectional Championships at Salem High School.

The Boston Youth Wrestling at the 2017 MYWA North/East Sectional Championships at Salem High School.

Salem, MA - Super Bowl Sunday wasn't the only big event on Sunday February 5th, as BYW brought 30 wrestlers to participate in the Massachusetts Youth Wrestling Association (MYWA) North/East Sectional Championships. Boston's team qualified 15 wrestlers in the Novice and Middle School Divisions, and finished in 8th place out of 31 teams.

Lilla G Frederick coach Patrick Harris said of the tournament, "This is one of the toughest sectional tournaments we have ever attended, and our wrestlers competed hard. They should all be proud of how they finished. We even had a coach from Mercury Rising come over and shake our hands to tell us how far we have come as a program and was impressed with how our kids wrestled."

The State Youth Championships will be held on Sunday February 19th at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, MA. More information on the tournament can be found here.

Wrestlers That Qualified For The State Championships (Name, Weight, and Place Finish):

Novice Division
Raquel Rico, 138 lbs, 3rd Place
Simon Brown, 111 lbs, 5th Place
Eddie Brodney, 111 lbs, 7th Place
Marc Peña, 123 lbs, 8th Place

Middle School Division
Matthew Mitchell, 124 lbs, 1st Place
Damari Green, 118 lbs, 3rd Place
Edwin Perez, 118 lbs, 4th Place
Malcolm Chrispin, 118 lbs, 5th Place
Ricky Sun, 118 lbs, 7th Place
Jacob Gonzalez, 130 lbs, 4th Place
Michael Egan, 154 lbs, 6th Place
Edwin Casey, 154 lbs, 5th Place
Jaseed James, 112 lbs, 7th Place
Raymond Liang, 154 lbs, 7th Place
Tommy Chen, 81 lbs, 7th Place

BYW Student-Athletes Visit Harvard University For Clinic And College Match

BYW Student-Athletes Visit Harvard University For Clinic And College Match

BYW student-athletes gather together alongside some of the Harvard Wrestling team's wrestlers and coaching staff for a picture at the Maklin Athletic Center in Cambridge, MA.

BYW student-athletes gather together alongside some of the Harvard Wrestling team's wrestlers and coaching staff for a picture at the Maklin Athletic Center in Cambridge, MA.

Cambridge, MA - On Saturday January 28th, a group of 25 wrestlers had the incredible opportunity to visit Harvard University to train with the Crimson Wrestling team on their home mat at the Maklin Athletic Center. Student-athletes participated in a clinic led by Harvard's wrestlers and coaching staff, working on technique and drills in all three phases (neutral, top and bottom). BYW student-athletes also had a chance to listen to some encouraging words about how the skills learned in wrestling can be used in the classroom and beyond. After a lunch donated by The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. our student-athletes were treated to a tightly contested match between the host Harvard University Crimson versus the Columbia University Lions in an Ivy League rivalry matchup. In the end, the Crimson prevailed 24-14.

Click here to see more photos from the clinic and match at Harvard University.

Motivational Speaker Rohan Murphy Gives Inspiring Talk to BYW Middle Schoolers

Motivational Speaker Rohan Murphy Gives Inspiring Talk to BYW Middle Schoolers

Rohan Murphy speaks to a classroom of BYW student-athletes at the Lilla G Frederick Middle School in Dorchester, MA.

Rohan Murphy speaks to a classroom of BYW student-athletes at the Lilla G Frederick Middle School in Dorchester, MA.

Dorchester MA - On a chilly January afternoon, BYW middle schoolers from two sites (the Lilla G Frederick Middle School and the Quincy Upper School) gathered in a classroom to listen to the amazing story of Rohan Murphy, a former wrestler now youth motivational speaker. Murphy, who lost both of his legs shortly after birth, recounted what it was like to be a disabled African American boy growing up his predominantly white community on Long Island, NY. He spoke about the incredible relationship he built with his eventual high school wrestling coach, who persisted in encouraging Murphy to learn how use his athletic potential to do pull ups, push ups, and other exercises. Eventually, his coach encouraged him to come out for the wrestling team. On his first day of the team, Murphy realized something about the sport of wrestling: that it was INCLUSIVE, not EXCLUSIVE. This lesson would stick with him for the rest of his life, as he dedicated himself to being the best wrestlers in the state. One story that had the BYW student-athletes recounted how his camp counselor Brock Lesner (yes, THE Brock Lesner of WWE and UFC fame) at the Jay Robinson Intensive Camp in Minneapolis, MN challenged Murphy to walk the length of a football field (100 yards) on his hands, complete 10 pyramid push ups, and then return 100 yards back. Not thinking he could complete it, Murphy impressed Lesner by successfully beating his challenge! Murphy later encouraged the student-athletes that college should be their vision and goal for themselves, and said nothing should get in their way. Murphy himself was a "walk-on" for the Penn State Wrestling team, one of the elite programs in NCAA Division 1 wrestling.

At the end, BYW wrestlers got a chance to get on the mats with Rohan, who showed some wrestlers his technique for turning an opponent. 

Kaylalee Ortiz, a second year wrestler for the Frederick MS, said of the visit, "One thing I liked about Rohan's speech is that even though he has no legs, he does anything as any other human being and that's one thing that I respect, and as a wrestler I'm going to work hard to do [as well]."

To read more about the life and work of Rohan Murphy, check out his website here.

BYW Receives $30,000 From State Funds To Prevent Youth Violence In Boston

BYW Receives $30,000 From State Funds To Prevent Youth Violence In Boston

BOSTON, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Today, Mass. Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary of Public Safety and Security Dan Bennett announced the release of $5.7 million in competitive grant funds to communities and local partners to bolster their efforts combatting gang violence. The awards were made to 15 communities and 11 research partners through the Shannon Community Safety Initiative, which targets gang violence in the Commonwealth.

CAPTION: Governor Charlie Baker announces Shannon Grant awards during event at the Statehouse in Boston. Behind him stand legislators, local officials, members of law enforcement (including Boston Police Commissioner William Evans), and other stakeholders. Courtesy Gov. office/website.

CAPTION: Governor Charlie Baker announces Shannon Grant awards during event at the Statehouse in Boston. Behind him stand legislators, local officials, members of law enforcement (including Boston Police Commissioner William Evans), and other stakeholders. Courtesy Gov. office/website.

“Shannon Grants support critical programming that provide education, training and employment direction for young people at risk of becoming involved in youth violence or gang activity,” said Governor Baker. “Our partnership with cities and local organizations enables crucial outreach to vulnerable youth, diverting them away from gangs and towards positive and productive futures.”

“The Commonwealth’s cities are on the frontlines of combatting gang violence, and the state-local collaboration supported by Shannon grants is an important tool to help them impact the lives of at-risk youth,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “We all have a role to play in protecting our young people from gang activity, and this funding supports important outreach that can keep teenagers on a path to success.”

“This funding enables my department to continue working with at risk youth and make a difference on the impact of gang violence in Boston,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. “I want to thank Governor Baker and Secretary Bennett for their continued support of the Shannon Grant Program and the work of the Boston Police Department.”

The grants provide funds to communities that demonstrate high levels of youth violence and gang problems, a comprehensive plan to work with multi-disciplinary partners and a commitment to coordinated prevention and intervention strategies. Funded strategies include social intervention and opportunity provision programs, as well as gang task force personnel costs and overtime.

“The communities and partners who take part in this program have given themselves the tools necessary to make a serious impact on youth violence and gang activity,” said Secretary Bennett. “The disruption of illegal activity makes these communities safer while getting young lives back on track.”

Sites chosen by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to receive an award demonstrated high levels of youth violence and gang problems within their locality, submitted a comprehensive plan to work with multi-disciplinary partners, and committed to providing a coordinated prevention and intervention strategy.

As part of this funding, Boston Youth Wrestling will receive $30,000 to support its efforts to prevent youth violence in Boston's most critically challenged communities. BYW was one of 16 organizations chosen to share in the $1.11 million that the Boston Police Department received as a Shannon Community Safety Initiative Grant site.

BYW Celebrates Fourth Year at The Beehive on June 22nd

BYW Celebrates Fourth Year at The Beehive on June 22nd

On Wednesday June 22nd, from 6:00-9:00 PM, Boston Youth Wrestling will celebrate alongside its staff, coaches, volunteers, Board of Directors, and our donors and supporters another successful year of making a difference in the lives of young people through the sport wrestling. We invite you to join us. Simply RSVP using the link below. Although there are no tickets, we are asking for a suggested donation of $25. We look forward to seeing our amazing community and family that continues to make BYW the program it is today!

Lynn Item Features BYW Wrestlers In Competition At Marshall Middle School

PHOTO: BOB ROCHE   Victor Morales has his arm raised for a Marshall win on Thursday afternoon.

Victor Morales has his arm raised for a Marshall win on Thursday afternoon.


LYNN — Victor Morales stepped off the mat after pinning his opponent during Thursday’s exhibition wrestling match with a member of the Boston Youth Wrestling Program to the sounds of gleeful applause from the crowd at Marshall Middle School, and exuberant palm slaps and hugs from his teammates.

Morales, at that moment, was a barometer of how far the Lynn middle school wrestling program has come since Frank Vieiraand his daughter, Samantha Nelson, began teaching the sport to the Lynn middle school students in January.

An equally exuberant Morales ran to the far end of the spacious gym at the new middle school to high-five his parents and friends. It was a moment to celebrate, Vieira said.

“This was our first match ever,” he said, “and the kids were extremely nervous. Afterward, they were on Cloud 9, especially when we started getting some wins.

“They were so afraid to get out there,” he said, “and then it was like, ‘hey, we want to do it again.’ I’m thrilled for them, to see how hard they’ve worked, to see them pull out some wins.”

In all, six Lynn kids won, four on pins: Morales, whose opponent had been undefeated in regular-season play; Jose Lagares, who got his pin in 15 seconds; Zari Amaro and Sidney Cocchia. Other victories came from Francisco Bortillo, who won 7-2 on points; and Robert Delangis, 11-7.

The program germinated in the mind of Lynn School Committeeman Jared Nicholson last year. Nicholson, a state champion wrestler at Lincoln-Sudbury while he was in high school, later wrestled at Princeton. Thursday, Nicholson, an attorney for Northeast Legal Aid, was all over the gym, exhorting the students and encouraging them all evening.

“A lot of people have worked hard to make this happen,” said Nicholson. “This is a great outlet for kids, and a positive experience.

“It’s also great for a city like Lynn,” he said. “It doesn’t cost a lot. You don’t need a lot of space for it, and it’s a great compliment to other sports.”

The city is also ambitious about the sport going forward. Lynn Tech athletic director Joe Skeadas, on hand to watch Thursday’s match, is already talking about combining his school with Classical and English to make wrestling a regular varsity sport come December.

“It’ll be a mixed-gender program,” he said, which is undoubtedly a relief to the Lynn wrestlers, several of whom are girls. “We would be hosting it, and we’d compete in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference (which is Tech’s home league).”

The goal, says Nelson, is to expand the program at both the middle and high school levels.

“I hope it catches on and grows,” she said. “I’ve already had a lot of kids tell me they want to do this next year. This year, it was new to a lot of kids.”

Nelson credits Nicholson for the work he did getting the program off the ground.

“He got sponsors and donations, and without him, there wouldn’t be program,” she said.

Marshall principal Molly Cohen, also in attendance, watched a match involving student Arianna Cardanca, and marveled at how quick the wrestlers had to be, both with their feet and with their minds.

“Wrestling is an excellent example of moment-to-moment decision-making,” she said. “It’s one of the many ways sports can benefit students.”

Mass Chapter of Wrestling Hall of Fame Honors BYW Founder With Award

Mass Chapter of Wrestling Hall of Fame Honors BYW Founder With Award

BYW Founder/President José Valenzuela (pictured fourth from right) alongside other honorees from the Massachusetts National Wrestling Hall of Fame at the 2016 SpringFest at Belmont Hill School.

BYW Founder/President José Valenzuela (pictured fourth from right) alongside other honorees from the Massachusetts National Wrestling Hall of Fame at the 2016 SpringFest at Belmont Hill School.

Sunday May 1, 2016

Belmont, MA - On Sunday May 1st, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored BYW Founder & President José Valenzuela with their Bay State Pride Award. Alongside the top coaches and top wrestlers in the state, Valenzuela was recognized for his contributions to the sport through his efforts to expand wrestling for urban youth in Boston, Chelsea, and Lynn. In 2015-16, Boston Youth Wrestling served 400 youth, its largest number yet, and expanded its offerings to Lynn at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School, a partnership with the Lynn Public Schools and BYW, with generous support from Jared Nicholson, Matt Picarsic principal at RCG LLC, Biondolillo Associates, the Gilberg family, Edison Realty LLC, Seabay Realty LLC, and Eastern Bank. At the award ceremony, Valenzuela spoke passionately about how wrestling continues to transform the lives of so many young people, and how the efforts of BYW is making a difference in the Commonwealth. As an example, Valenzuela announced that through the efforts of BYW, the Lynn Public Schools had recently announced the resurrection of the varsity wrestling program for Lynn Technical High School, which will act as a co-op for all Lynn high schoolers next season.

Boston Youth Wrestling would like to thank the members of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame who work tirelessly to fulfill their mission of preserving the history of Massachusetts wrestling, recognizing our excellence and inspiring future generations to learn from our great sport.

The Philanthropic Initiative Names BYW Founder José Valenzuela 2016 Boston Neighborhood Fellow

2016 Boston Neighborhood Fellows pictured with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

2016 Boston Neighborhood Fellows pictured with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Author: Suzanne Dolan

Apr 28, 2016

Theme: The Philanthropic Initiative

On Tuesday, The Philanthropic Initiative was joined by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other local community leaders to celebrate five of Boston’s unsung heroes at the 26th annual Boston Neighborhood Fellows program (BNF) award ceremony.

TPI designed this program 26 years ago for one of its clients. This anonymous donor wanted to support individuals who often go unrecognized—the change agents who quietly make vital contributions to the quality of life in and around Boston. The program provides support and recognition to individuals who have done extraordinary community service in the Boston area. Each Fellow is nominated by a group of anonymous “spotters,” and nominations are then reviewed by a selection committee before the winners are selected. Each Fellow receives a $30,000 grant over three years to be used however they choose. To date, 154 outstanding individuals have been recognized as Boston Neighborhood Fellows, with more than $3,600,000 awarded as grants.

BNF Fellows’ work, dedication, and selfless attitudes may not be in the spotlight in the larger Boston community, but each Fellow has the potential to inspire others to hold themselves to a higher standard. Many, if not all of this year’s winners are leaders in an unofficial capacity, committing their personal time to serving others. They pledge their time to helping others lift their communities up in any way they can. As BNF architect and volunteer coordinator Melinda Marble noted at Tuesday’s ceremony, “change is a set of tiny baby steps that over time, add up to something.”

Every one of this year’s Fellows, along with those who came before them, has transformed the fabric of the neighborhoods in which they live. Take for example, Elsa Flores de Membreño, who has been crowned by her peers as the unofficial “Mayor of East Boston,” or Jose Valenzuela, who founded Boston Youth Wrestling as a way to mentor Boston area youth. Then there’s Wilbur Brown, who has dedicated his life to helping young men transition to life after prison; Bashier Kayou, an activist who has helped at-risk youth stay on the right track through activism and social engagement; and Patricia Larts, a literacy volunteer at the Trotter elementary school, where she has played a pivotal role in the school’s remarkable transformation. One thing became evident last night as the Fellows accepted their awards: they all do this work because of the joy it brings them and their communities. Wilbur Brown said it best, “One of the things I’ve learned is to do my work with passion and with love.”

Since its inaugural year, BNF has given so many of Boston’s most exceptional citizens the recognition that they have in fact made a significant impact in their communities, though it may slip under the radar of the general public. The program has become an integral part of this city’s DNA, inspiring so many over the years to take notice when everyday people go above and beyond what is asked of them, moving their communities forward in powerful ways, and motivating everyone that comes in contact with them to become agents of change in ways both big and small.


Congratulations to the 2016 Boston Neighborhood Fellows:

Wilbur Brown, Transitional Remedies Solutions

City employee and social entrepreneur, Wilbur Brown is a natural community builder who has dedicated his life to helping others who have been perpetrators or victims of crimes. His dependable and unflinching support has helped many young men successfully transition to life after prison. Whether working with the family of a homicide victim or a prisoner, Wilbur helps others discover and build upon their strengths, resilience, and the gifts they have to offer.

Elsa Flores de Membreño, Union Capital

The unofficial “Mayor of East Boston,” Elsa Flores de Membreño is an outstanding volunteer who has made community improvement her full-time job. With a genius for building relationships of trust, Elsa brings neighbors together to advocate for quality education, to push for affordable housing, to celebrate holidays, and to support each other, always with the goal of a better, stronger, neighborhood.

Bashier Kayou, Freelance

Bashier Kayou is an educator and organizer, with justice work in his DNA; he devotes himself to Jamaica Plain, healing its traumas and celebrating its activism. As tenant organizer, youth worker, or in his many volunteer roles, his dependable and caring presence and principled leadership inspire others, who refer to him as both tireless freedom fighter and activist caregiver.

Patricia Larts, Generations Incorporated

Warm, inclusive, dedicated, and passionate, Patricia Larts gives her all to the team of literacy volunteers she manages at the Trotter elementary school. A volunteer herself, Patricia is beloved by students, teachers, and her team. She has contributed greatly to making Trotter a better place; her buoyant and gracious presence makes all who know her want to do better for the children.

Jose Valenzuela, Boston Youth Wrestling

The founder of Boston Youth Wrestling, Jose Valenzuela devotes countless volunteer hours to bringing wrestling back into Boston Public Schools. Through his commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm, “Mr. V” inspires personal, academic, and athletic success on and off the mat in countless students.

BYW Featured On Front Page Of Boston Globe

BYW Featured On Front Page Of Boston Globe

Boston’s vulnerable youth wrestle problems away

By Bob Hohler GLOBE STAFF  APRIL 07, 2016

Their futures at risk, they were struggling at a Boston middle school. Kayla Lee Ortiz was coping with anger issues. Mason Houston’s grades were slipping. John Smith felt close to “getting caught up in dumb stuff’’ on the streets.

Those children at the Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester and hundreds of others needed more help — including athletic opportunities — than the Boston Public Schools were providing.

“For a lot of these kids, there was nothing for them in the Boston schools,’’ said William Houston, Mason’s father.

Aiming to fill gaps in Boston’s underfunded school athletics, a group of citizens — led by a teacher who grew up in Boston public schools — has launched a privately subsidized wrestling program to provide an outlet to vulnerable students.

In all, eight schools have wrestling teams in the city funded by the nonprofit Boston Youth Wrestling. More than 250 students are participating in the program, which started in 2012.

The early results appear promising. Ortiz, catching her breath after a hard-lost tournament match last month against a boy from Cohasset, said wrestling has given her a healthy way to channel her aggression.

William Houston said the program has helped his son improve his grades and confidence. Smith’s mother, Cereada Cannady, credited his immersion in wrestling with her not needing “to worry about him being out in the streets’’ near their home in Grove Hall. And similar stories are playing out in schools where the wrestling teams are taking root.

“The city hasn’t done much for them, but now some of the toughest kids in Boston are getting off the streets and growing because of this program,’’ said Steve Maher, a wrestling coach at Dedham Middle School. “Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, boys and girls — they’re all coming together as teammates. It’s fabulous to see.’’

Major gaps remain in Boston’s school athletics. The city still provides no access to sports such as lacrosse, field hockey, and golf. Only limited opportunities exist for students to participate in ice hockey, tennis, cross-country, and swimming on citywide co-op teams. And the system’s strained budget has all but eliminated hope that public funding will improve access.

But private benefactors have stepped in. With its districtwide ambitions, Boston Youth Wrestling has joined a multimillion-dollar campaign by nonprofits such as Scholar Athletes and the Play Ball! Foundation to shore up what critics say is a substandard system.

“A lot fewer kids are going to fall through the cracks because of it,’’ Houston said.

In 2009, Scholar Athletes, backed by Suffolk Construction chairman John Fish, began enhancing academic support for Boston’s student-athletes after a Globe series detailed deficiencies in the city’s school athletic system.

The same year, Play Ball!, founded by Michael Harney, a managing director of FBR Capital Markets in Boston, confronted a critical shortage of athletic opportunities in the middle schools. In 2009, only two sports were available to Boston’s 11,300 middle schoolers: basketball and track. Now, they can also participate in football, baseball, soccer, girls’ volleyball, Double Dutch, and a budding ice hockey program, thanks largely to Play Ball!

But wrestling went unfunded, except for city-supported programs at Boston Latin School and the small Josiah Quincy Upper School, which draws students from across the district to a co-op team.

Mary Tamer, a former Boston School Committee member, said initiatives like Boston Youth Wrestling’s are vital for many at-risk students.

“We need to pursue every avenue possible to keep those kids in school,’’ said Tamer, now the director of strategic projects for the Boston Charter Alliance of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. “Wrestling is the kind of value-added program that is essential to keeping them engaged.’’


Wrestling coach Jose Valenzuela, center, is a teacher who founded a nonprofit wrestling program for city kids.

A teacher takes action

Tamer was an early supporter of Jose Valenzuela, the founder of Boston Youth Wrestling. A seventh-grade history teacher at Boston Latin Academy, Valenzuela credits wrestling with transforming him from a struggling middle schooler, much like Ortiz, Houston, and Smith, into a graduate of Boston Latin School and Williams College.

He created the nonprofit with several of his former wrestling teammates at Williams.

“I’ve seen lots of kids go through the Boston public schools without ever having a positive experience,’’ Valenzuela said. “They never have a taste of success. They feel like school is not for them. Then wrestling comes along and they feel like they’re good at something. You can see what it does for them.’’

Valenzuela was 26 when he launched the foundation on a shoestring budget in 2012. Lacking fund-raising experience, he tapped his wrestling and teaching expertise to show charitable organizations he could change young lives. Soon, he began receiving support from the Lenny Zakim Fund, the Boston Foundation, the New England Patriots Foundation, and Josh Kraft, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, enabling his nonprofit to build an annual budget of more than $100,000. Valenzuela does not receive compensation.

Many suburban schools have chipped in, donating wrestling shoes and gear. So have private schools such as Roxbury Latin and Boston College High School. And the Boston Police contributed a wrestling mat, now used by a club team at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester.

But growth has not come easily. Boston school officials have rejected requests by several high schools, including Brighton and West Roxbury Academy, to launch varsity wrestling programs.

The city’s athletic director, Avery Esdaile, said he is not opposed to expanding access to wrestling. The chief impediment is money, he said. He also cautioned against launching varsity teams before they can sustain adequate participation levels.

“We’re all for having more opportunities for the kids,’’ Esdaile said. “We just need to figure out how that would look and how we would make it work.’’

Challenges remain

For his part, Valenzuela views wrestling as more than an athletic opportunity. His top academic priorities include addressing a racial disparity in admissions at the city’s three exam schools: Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.

School department data show that while 56 percent of the white males and 55 percent of the Asian males of exam school age (grades 7 to 12) in the Boston Public School system attend one of the elite schools, only 10 percent of the African-American boys and 10 percent of the Hispanic boys do so.

“We can do much better,’’ Valenzuela said.

His nonprofit, in addition to providing academic mentors for its wrestlers, has secured a grant from the Boston Foundation to launch a pilot educational enrichment program at the Frederick school, whose student population is about 88 percent black or Latino.

Tommy Simmons, the school’s wrestling coach, said he’s encouraged by early signs of improvement among students who have joined the wrestling team.

“Earlier in the year, about half of our kids had at least one failing grade,’’ said Simmons, who teaches eighth-grade humanities. “Now every single kid is passing.’’

Valenzuela hopes to expand the enrichment program to the other middle schools his nonprofit supports: the McCormack, Mildred Avenue, and the Eliot K-8 and Orchard Gardens K-8 schools.

The 250 students who competed this year came from a number of programs around the city, including high school club teams at West Roxbury Academy, TechBoston, and Madison Park. Most of the coaches are compensated with $1,250 stipends that are earmarked for BPS teachers who provide extra support for students.

But challenges remain. West Roxbury coach Brad Lewis said he raised an additional $1,000 from the community to equip his team. A chemistry teacher, Lewis said the contributions were necessary for the school to provide an athletic alternative for students who are coping with an array of hardships.

“A lot of our kids come from very challenging backgrounds,’’ he said. “They have limited parental support. Or they are new to the country and staying with relatives. Some have very unstable home lives. It’s huge for them when they find something they care about and gives them some consistency.’’

It has worked for Ortiz, one of six girls on the Frederick team. Her grades have improved. She is stronger physically and emotionally. She has made new friends and has begun embracing the value of sports and education.

“I feel like I can focus a lot better now,’’ she said. “If I lose a match, it’s OK because it’s still good to learn from my mistakes.’’

She hopes to wrestle in high school, if there is a team for her.

Bob Hohler can be reached at

BYW Set To Host MYWA South Sectional Championships

BYW Set To Host MYWA South Sectional Championships

February 5, 2016

Boston, MA - On Sunday February 14, 2016, Boston Youth Wrestling will host the Massachusetts Youth Wrestling Association (MYWA) South Sectional Tournament at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School (75 Malcolm X Blvd, Roxbury MA 02120). With 250 wrestlers in grades 5-8 from throughout the "South" region of the State expected to hit the mats throughout the day, the tournament will be the largest wrestling tournament ever held in the City of Boston. Wrestlers must use the link below to pre-register, no wrestlers may sign up at the door on the day of. Spectators (12 years old and up) will be charged $5 admission fee. Full concessions and merchandise will be for sale!

Register my child

Interested in volunteering? BYW is still seeking dedicated volunteers to help throughout the weekend with setup (on Friday and Saturday evenings) and running the tournament on Sunday. To volunteer, simply complete the form at the link --> Tournament Volunteer Form

Questions? Email our Program Director Bior Guigni at or call (617) 297-8079, for more information.

BYW Awarded 2016 Lenny Zakim Fund Award

February 2, 2016

Boston, MA - On Tuesday, February 2nd, for the second year in a row Boston Youth Wrestling was awarded a grant by The Lenny Zakim Fund and was honored together with other grantees at an Awards Ceremony held at the Revere Hotel, in Boston.

Boston Youth Wrestling was one of 53 grassroots, community based organizations that received 2016 grants from The Lenny Zakim Fund at the Awards Ceremony. Grantees include many youth serving organizations and organizations working for social justice in diverse ways. The mission of Boston Youth Wrestling is to promote youth development in inner city Boston by inspiring personal, academic, and athletic success through the sport of wrestling. Today, BYW serves over 200 youth across 16 school and community center program sites. Boston Youth Wrestling is honored to receive a grant in the amount of $12,500 from The Lenny Zakim Fund to support general operations and staffing.

BYW's Board of Directors accepts the The Lenny Zakim Award on February 2, 2016.

About Boston Youth Wrestling
Embodied in the word “family” the BYW model pairs youth with coaches who help these budding wrestlers dedicate themselves to improving relationships, and striving for personal, academic, and athletic achievement. This year, 300 youth have been served through this program which creates the necessary networks for success in middle and high school and beyond. Students partnered with the program are paced in the disciplined environment of a wrestling team, as well as the supportive environment to encourage at-risk youth and equip them with lifelong skills.
About Lenny Zakim and The Lenny Zakim Fund
Lenny Zakim believed that one person can change the world.As the executive director of the New England Region of the Anti-Defamation League, he fought tirelessly to put an end to prejudice, civil rights violations, anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry of all kinds. After Lenny was diagnosed in 1995 with multiple myeloma, he created, with the help of friends and supporters, a philanthropic organization that would transform his vision of social justice into an enduring legacy: The Lenny Zakim Fund.
The mission of The Lenny Zakim Fund is to identify, listen to, support and connect grassroots community organizations and programs operating “below the radar screen” of many large charitable groups and government grants. The Lenny Zakim Fund provides assistance to those who demonstrate the will and potential to make a difference but lack the necessary resources.

Contact: Jude Goldman, Executive Director, The Lenny Zakim Fund

BYW Awarded Taste of the North End Funding

December 15, 2015

Boston, MA - On December 14th, the Taste of the North End presented more than $20,000 to North End non-profits and charities this week after a successful fundraising year, including its namesake event held last Spring at the Steriti Skating Rink. [See 2015 Taste of the North End Honors Angela Menino, Filippo Frattaroli & Joseph Giangreggorio]

Organizations receiving TONE funding include NEW HealthNorth End Against Drugs, NEMPAC, North End Athletic Association, Saint John School, Eliot School, ABCD Center and Boston Youth Wrestling.

TONE co-chairs Donato Frattaroli (Lucia Ristorante) and James Luisi (NEW Health) presented the awards at a reception this week.

“Every penny raised by Taste of the North End is given back to non-profit organizations in the community. We are proud to have given out over $20,000 this year to local charities,” said TONE founder, Donato Frattaroli.

In addition to the non-profit groups, several TONE restaurant and vendor supporters received thank you certificates from TONE organizers.

Thank you to Rosario Scabin, Ross Photography, for these event photos from the Taste of the North End award reception.