Lorain High (Ohio) senior Isaiah Margheim imagines what his life would be like had he not pursued wrestling. He’d still be running with the wrong crowd, getting into trouble, drinking, smoking and being distracted from school.
He certainly wouldn’t be working toward earning an athletic scholarship.
Now, he’s received interest from Appalachian State, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois and Kent State. And he credits his involvement with the Beat the Streets USA Wrestling Program for helping him realize his priorities.
“Beat the Streets has put me around good people and has helped me mature,” Margheim said. “It’s opened my eyes to opportunities in life. I know I’ll never continue my old life.”
Margheim, a two-time state qualifier at 195 pounds, has a supportive group of friends that influence him to maintain good grades and stay focused on wrestling instead of being, as he described, “blind and stubborn” about his actions.
Beat the Streets (BTS) aims to teach young athletes to take ownership of their lives for the better. Tony Black, USA Wrestling director of state services, says the mission is to provide structure and discipline through sport, build confidence and a positive self-image.
“Beat the Streets has puts me around good people and has helped me mature.” – Isaiah Margheim
The BTS program started in New York City in 2006 with 16 high schools. It has expanded to about 15 other cities, including, Toledo, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Baltimore.
In Toledo, the wrestling program is offered in 53 high schools, according to executive director Matt Moos, who established the chapter in 2011. As with the other BTS cities, the Toledo program operates as a non-profit organization.
Moos said the biggest expense, often paid for through fundraising, is a wrestling mat, which can cost up to $10,000 but also lasts for several years. The cost for athletes to get involved is nominal, if anything, as one of the program’s goals is to make the sport easily accessible for anyone looking to occupy his or her time in a positive way.
“If someone is interested, he or she doesn’t have to invest anything into the equipment to figure out if they like the sport. The barriers to entry are very minimal,” Black said.
Jim Fallis, executive director for Beat the Streets in New York City, said grants and donor support have helped the program expand into more than 75 high schools, 18 of which offer girls wrestling programs. He anticipates growth will continue because athletes understand the value the sport can bring to their lives.
In addition to keeping at-risk teens such as Margheim off the streets and active, the program also teaches athletes to be good role models. Fallis said the New York City program established an anti-bullying campaign last season through a two-week camp.
“We want them to be a positive influence in school and in the community,” he said.
It’s all part of the BTS mission of positive transformation.
“I didn’t want to be that one guy in high school who fell off,” Margheim said. “The program has made me do a 180 on everything. It’s shown me what wrestling can do for me.”