Wrestlers spread knowledge and joy of sport with middle schoolers

Originally published on May 29, 2015

Wrestler sophomore Christopher O’Neil wrestles during practice. Photo by Kelley Grade

Although the wrestling season is over, the Lowell wrestling team stays in shape by helping their coach with a new six-week wrestling program designed to expose the sport to kids at an earlier age.

The new program, which runs on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4–6 p.m. at A. P. Giannini Middle School, is part of the San Francisco Bay Area branch of the organization Beat the Streets, a program that originated from New York City in 2005 to motivate middle school students through wrestling. According to March 26 email from head coach Michael Wise to the Lowell’s wrestling team members, the head of Beat the Streets San Francisco Bay Area contacted Wise, asking him to manage a new program in the Sunset District. Wise then asked wrestling team members to come help out with the program. The program at A. P. Giannini is one out of three Beat the Streets programs located in San Francisco.

The new program is part of the organization Beat the Streets, a program to motivate middle school students through wrestling.

At the start of the club, Lowell wrestlers, supervised by Wise, introduce concepts of wrestling to the middle school students, showing them basic skills and explaining the sport. They also have live exhibition matches in order to show members what an actual match looks like. “We try to have them get used to it and make sure they feel comfortable,” sophomore wrestler Christopher O’Neill said. Towards the end of the sessions, the club plays a few games, like Queen Bee, where two teams must find and pin the opposing team’s “queen bee” while wrestling on their knees. The club finishes with clean up.

While the club is open to kids from fourth to eighth grade, most of them are sixth graders. All the kids found out about the club via an assembly in the A.P. Giannini cafeteria. “I was interested and so I signed up,” seventh grader Steve Shi said. “Not only am I stronger and faster, I feel like I’m a different person.”

Some kids in the club also find wrestling a useful skill. “I thought it would be fun, and if someone bullies me, then I have some self-defense,” sixth grader Cole Wuttison said.

“No matter who you are, wrestling is a fun sport for everyone.”

Club leaders hope that the after school sessions will introduce wrestling to students at an earlier age, as most wrestlers in San Francisco do not learn the sport until after they enter high school. “[The main goal of the club is] to hopefully make wrestling a more popular and understood sport,” sophomore Anne Chamberlain said.

While the sessions are slightly challenging, the kids are enjoying themselves, and the club’s message is getting through. “The warm-ups can be kind of tough, especially when you have to keep running even if you are out of breath, but it’s pretty fun,” Steve said. “No matter who you are, wrestling is a fun sport for everyone.”