After just three years as a club sport, the Dorchester High wrestling team will be a varsity squad this winter.
The club was started by Tech Boston Academy eighth grade history and government teacher Jose Valenzuela, who last year founded Boston Youth Wrestling. The nonprofit raised about $30,000 in one year to promote youth development through wrestling at both the middle school and high school levels in Boston Public Schools.
For the first time, Madison Park and West Roxbury High Schools will have club-wrestling programs this year. Boston Youth Wrestling also supports the Josiah Quincy Upper School’s varsity wrestling program as well as six BPS middle school programs.
The team will not be affiliated with a league this year but Valenzuela hopes this season plants the seed for a true Boston City League for wrestling.
Valenzuela said a four-team city league could hypothetically start as soon as Madison Park and West Roxbury received varsity status.
“That’s been talked about but nothing has been put onto paper yet,” he said. “We’d be excited about the possibility of doing that. With Madison Park and West Roxbury in the wings I think it would be feasible. If you look at the schools with football programs that would be a great way to get kids excited to participate in both sports. Get those schools involved.
“But that’s a conversation for the future.”
Dorchester will have 12 regular season meets this season. The school also hosted its first home football and volleyball games this year. The volleyball team as well both girls’ and boys’ soccer also qualified for the state tournament this fall.
“It is a cool year as far as athletics and we’ve seen that change over a few years,” Valenzuela said. “We’re kind of seeing how athletics in general is changing the culture in the school.”
The team has 26 wrestlers and will host three home meets this year. Valenzuela believes that the Jan. 14 match at 5 p.m. against BC High will be the first home match in school history at the varsity level.
“It is really exciting,” he said. “It’s cool. The team we are hosting is another Dorchester team. Maybe it will become an annual tradition.”
This year Valenzuela has stepped down as Dorchester’s head coach so he can concentrate on running Boston Youth Wrestling, which he says has grown so fast and so quickly he has had to turn down middle schools that want to participate this year.
He will serve as an assistant coach for Dorchester along with Brian Coakley, while Frank Mahoney will take over head-coaching duties. Just like tennis splits the city in half between Latin Academy and O’Bryant’s co-op teams, Dorchester will draw wrestlers from the schools in the southern part of the city while Josiah Quincy draw from the north.
“Any wrestler will tell you that it draws form a different crowd of kids,” Valenzuela said of the sport. “It’s usually kids who don’t have the opportunity to play other sports or are rough around the edges so other sports are not appropriate. Wrestling rewards you for being physical.”
A Jamaica Plain native, Valenzuela, 28, wrestled for Boston Latin before wrestling for Williams College.
“Wrestling made me stronger to get through that experience,” he said of attending Williams.
He said Boston Latin was the only wrestling program in BPS when he graduated in 2003. Josiah Quincy started its program about a year later and Valenzuela started his club with middle school students in 2009. He expanded to high school as his kids grew with the program.
He said before this year the athletics department was reluctant to start varsity wrestling programs because in the past schools started programs only to fold after a half season or one season.
Valenzuela’s solution was to start Boston Youth Wrestling as an umbrella organization to support school-based wrestling programs so the school district wouldn’t be on the hook to fund the teams entirely.
The nonprofit helps programs procure mats, headgear, shoes, uniforms and other equipment.
In September Boston Youth Wrestling received its federal tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service and it raised $12,500 at its first Back-to-School Fundraising Dinner at Filippo’s Ristorante in the North End.
Valenzuela also took two of his wrestlers to speak in front of the Boston School Committee in September to make the case for a varsity program.
He said New Mission junior Elivs Alvarado and O’Bryant junior Ayomide Olumuyiwa spoke so eloquently that it wasn’t long before Interim Superintendent John McDonough was calling Valenzuela on his cell phone to see how he could help get the varsity program off the ground.
“They are the ones who spoke more clearly and passionately than I ever could have,” Valenzuela said of the students. “They are the ones who got people to pay attention when nobody was. If the kids didn’t respond the way they have we’re not going anywhere.
“More than anything that gets me excited. I want the best for these kids.”
This weekend is also a big one for Boston Youth Wrestling. On Friday night the program is taking about 40 students to see the No. 1 ranked college wrestling program in the country, Penn State, take on Boston University.
And from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday the program is hosting a clinic with the Boston Scholar Athletes program at Madison Park High that will draw about 75 wrestlers from across the city.
“I don’t think there have been too many events in city wrestling history this big,” Valenzuela said. “That has had this many city wrestlers in the city at the same time.”
Valenzuela was just as excited to see Penn State, the two-time defending national champions, wrestle.
“To see it in person is cool,” he said. “Our kids see wrestling at the high school level or middle school level so sometimes its difficult to grasp the full excitement of the sport. When you see it live you get the sense in person. It’s one of the most exciting sports to watch.
"It’s just made that way.”
Boston Youth Wrestling will host its first-ever fund-raiser at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Filippo Ristorante in the North End.
All ticket sales will benefit Boston Youth Wrestling, a program founded by Jose Valenzuela dedicated to supporting youth development across the city while expanding wrestling throughout BPS schools.
“The Sept. 6 event gives us a chance to celebrate a new school year, and thank the people who have been supporters of our program,” Valenzuela said. “And we’re raising money to support some of the programs we want to bring to the city this year.”
So far this year, the program has raised 20 percent of its fund-raising goal and has secured four wrestling mats for four new teams.
The program's past work includes direct support of BPS middle and high school wrestling teams, offseason clinics, a Roxbury/Mission Hill training facility for year-round training, and even scholarships for wrestlers entering college.
This summer, Boston Youth Wrestling had wrestlers from 19 schools practicing in its training facility, and was able to send 15 to compete in the Bay State Games in July. Out of the 15, four placed in the top four of their weight class.
“I think the big thing for us is to get as much community support as possible,” Valenzuela said. “What that means is to get the teachers and parents to believe in what we are doing. And then obviously to get the student wrestlers to believe in the program and what it brings to their lives.”
Food will be served starting at 6:30 p.m. There will be a cash bar and a raffle with various prizes. Tickets are $50 and can be bought here.
To learn more about Boston Youth Wrestling click here.
Globe correspondent Dennis Membah contributed to this story.
Ryan M. Butler covers Boston Public School athletics. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @butler_globe or @BPSspts.
Boston Youth Wrestling has two wrestlers headed to the Youth New England Championships after a busy, and successful, weekend.
Both Kelvin Santiago (160 lbs) and Danny Paulino (175 lbs) from the Frederick school will be heading to Lowell to compete in the tournament after placing sixth and fourth place respectively, in the youth state championships.
“It’s the most premier wrestling at the youth level for New England,” said Jose Valenzuela, director of Boston Youth Wrestling. “It will be a big challenge for Kelvin and Danny, but a big reward for them as well.”
Valenzuela described how this tournament had a foreign environment after his wrestlers won the South Sectional tournament in the previous weekend. Even though neither Santiago nor Paulino have wrestled for more than a year, they were getting attention from various players and coaches upon entering the state championships.
Valenzuela gave all the credit to their coaches.
“It really shows the great coaching at Frederick, the fact that they take these two kids who never wrestled and turn them into decent wrestlers,” Valenzuela said.
Santiago in particular showed a lot of potential in his match with the first place winner of the state championship, Benton Whitley. Valenzuela described how Santiago nearly pinned the springfield youth wrestler in the semifinal round.
Just a day before Sunday’s state championship, 12 other city wrestlers competed in the Big East tournament, a competition for less experienced wrestlers.
Dorchester’s Enockson Jacques (160 lbs) took home the first place honors after beating Frederick’s Josue Deleon.
“You always just tell your kids to have fun,” Valenzuela said. “Whatever happens, they’re still teammates.”
The Youth New England Championships will be held at Lowell high school on March 9.
“You just have to get it in your kids' minds that we’re going to compete, Mitchell said. “We’re going to show up, we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to go hard, we’re going to put our nose to the grind. We’re going to do what we do and if that’s good enough, we’re going to win.”
Mitchell, who has chosen eight seniors to compete in the sectional tournament, said the leadership of the upperclassmen was essential to the program's rise.
“We have a ton of freshmen and new kids and it was good to have seniors that are not the most heralded guys but at the same time they work hard," Mitchell said. "They always work like champions. They work through injury, they work through pain and they set the proper examples."
Quincy Upper's eight seniors are brothers Corey Crowley (230 pounds) and Jake Crowley (145), Muhammid Muhammid (180), Adrian Shelton (170), Ray Zalentin (113), Joseph Gonzalez (138), Nelson Kedey (220), and Josiah Cassiani (132).
Mitchell said that while he expects all of his wrestlers to do well, he would like to see veterans Kedey and the Crowleys win their classes. Mitchell said they exemplify his squad's unity and teamwork.
“They really like one another, they get along, they work together and they support one another, which I think is really important,” Mitchell said. “Wrestling’s a tough sport. You got to have a friend that knows how to be hungry with you.”
Mitchell has seen many of his newcomers improve throughout the season, and two will be going to the sectional tournament. lSophomore Darius Hale (195 pounds) has earned one spot. Mitchell said the next two days of practice will determine who gets the last spot.
No matter what happens in Saturday’s sectionals, Mitchell is confident that the future of wrestling within the city is bright.
“There’s a youth program in Boston being run by Jose Valenzuela and we’ve been on some things and we have plans for next year to do some things together and things look really good for the city in terms of wrestling,” Mitchell said.
The tournament will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Wayland High School.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.
This past weekend was another successful one for Boston Youth Wrestling.
The city team, represented by the Frederick, Dorchester/TechBoston, Quincy and McCormack schools, won the Massachusetts Youth Wrestling Association (MYWA) South Sectional Tournament.
Twenty four city wrestlers represented the four schools with 10 qualifying for the Youth State Championships at Algonquin Regional high school on Sunday, Feb. 17. While Boston Youth Wrestling director Jose Valenzuela was proud of the success of the city team, that was not his focus in the tournament.
“The main goal for this weekend was to bring as many wrestlers from Boston as possible, to give them all an opportunity to compete at the state-wide level,” Valenzuela said. “I would have been satisfied with any outcome from our wrestlers, but winning the tournament title was just an added bonus that really exemplifies the hard work and dedication of the wrestlers and coaches at practices around the city and the willingness of our teams to work together towards one mission.”
Wrestlers from the Frederick school did well in the tournament. Clayton Rodrigues (76 lbs) and Danny Paulino (175 lbs) placed first place for their respective weight classes. Jaraiel Wiggins (130 lbs), Tyreece Jeffreys (136 lbs) and Kelvin Santiago (160 lbs) all took home second place awards. Jahi James (195 lbs), from the Quincy school, also landed second place.
The other 14 wrestlers will be competing in the Big East Tournament at Reading high school, an end-of-season competition on Sunday, Feb. 10.
While the number of participants was a great sign for wrestling in the city, Valenzuela said there is a much deeper meaning in the success of the tournament.
“We certainly have a lot of talented wrestlers that proved they’re as good, or for some better, than other kids that have grown up on youth clubs or teams,” Valenzuela said.
The second annual City Junior Wrestling Championships will be Saturday, at the TechBoston Academy.
In addition to TechBoston/Dorchester and Frederick, the participants from last year’s championship, Boston Youth Wrestling has also expanded to the Irving and McCormack middle schools. Along with the four BPS schools, private and parochial schools are also expected to join in the action.
Jose Valenzuela, the founder of Boston Youth Wrestling, started the organization with a team of just a couple Dorchester high school students. Since then, the organization has grown to having 110 participants in four middle schools and three high schools.
“The main idea is to support the coaches at these schools and get these kids on the wrestling mat,” Valenzuela said. “We want to expand the opportunity for wrestling but we're also trying to give them the skills they need for life.”
Valenzuela added that while these students are improving in wrestling skills, they are also increasing their perseverance, gaining strong discipline and learning how to put effort in everything they do.
The championship this Saturday should be another opportunity for an abundance of students to improve on these life skills while improving their overall wrestling game.
The founder is inviting anyone who wants to see the great wrestling in the city, as well as anyone interested in volunteering as a referee, scorer, or concession worker.
Details on the tournament are below:
Location: TechBoston Academy, 9 Peacevale Rd
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