New Haven (Conn.) A.D. Allows Wrestling Program For At-Risk Youth To Use Facilities

August 23, 2011 / Wrestling
The Hartford Courant, Joseph Adinolfi

Beat the Streets Wrestling, a volunteer-run program that began in New York City as a safe haven for at-risk public school students, is making its Connecticut debut this fall in New Haven — and possibly Hartford as well.

Nathan Stadig, the executive director for the program’s Connecticut branch, said Joe Canzanella, athletic director for the New Haven public schools, has agreed to let the organization use the district’s wrestling mats and the gymnasium at Barnard Environmental Magnet School every Monday and Friday during the coming school year.

The organization’s associate director, Julia Paigo, the chief organizer of the program’s Hartford branch, says she is pursuing a similar deal with the Hartford school system.

Paigo, a junior at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford and state editor for WrestlingUSA magazine, said she has approached administrators at the Achievement First Hartford Academy but that so far, the program’s Hartford branch does not have a permanent home. She is hoping that a Hartford program will begin this September.

Stadig — who has been the wrestling coach at Joseph Melillo Middle School in East Haven for the past five years — first discovered Beat the Streets while perusing a wrestling forum online last winter. He contacted the New York City program’s executive director, Al Bevilacqua, and quickly received his blessing as well as advice about how to advertise the program and establish it as a non-profit.

Once launched, New Haven would be the ninth U.S. city to adopt a Beat the Streets program.

The program is geared toward children ages 6 to 16. According to Stadig, practice in New Haven will be held after school on Mondays and Fridays from 4-6:30 p.m. and will include a 45-minute mandatory homework session. Volunteers will coach boys and girls of varying age groups and weight classes in three popular wrestling styles: folk style, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

In addition to the biweekly practices, Stadig said he would like to organize scrimmages between New Haven and Hartford squads and encourage his athletes to participate in area tournaments organized by USA Wrestling, America’s largest amatuer wrestling organization. A total of 10 coaches, five in each city, have offered to volunteer, he said.

Stadig said he hopes the program will remain active during the summer.

Canzanella, the athletic director in New Haven schools, said the district plans to support Beat the Streets “as much as possible.”

“This is a great program for us,” said Canzanella, who anticipates it will prepare athletes for the district’s high school wrestling program.

Although Beat the Streets has attracted several sponsors, including the Wallingford-based Fosdick Fulfillment Corporation and Branford’s Kevin Sullivan Building and Remodeling, the organization has yet to raise the money to support programs in both New Haven and Hartford.

Stadig said it will cost $15,000 annually to support a total enrollment of 30 youths in New Haven and Hartford. The costs include paying for equipment such as tape, helmets and other protective gear, shoes, uniforms and cleaning supplies.

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