When Beat the Streets NYC Head Girls Coach Jacque Davis began a women’s wrestling club in Columbia University’s facilities a few years ago, she had some very clear goals in mind.
“I’ve been running the club for about three years - it’s open to any girl, any age group,” Davis said. “The point was to get girls and young women on an Ivy League campus. There are no women’s teams at Ivy schools or really Division 1 schools, but we wanted to get them in that wrestling room to see it and feel it. The idea is to let them know that these places are accessible if they work hard and if they get in, they can work toward building a women’s wrestling club or a women’s team. As soon as one Ivy starts, it trickles down.”
So, Davis was extremely excited when an Ivy coach decided to run an all-girls wrestling camp in the summer of 2017 (August 2-6).
“[Cornell’s] Rob Koll wanted to do a girls camp and reached out to Jessica Medina, who was on the USA women’s national team and now is at Beat the Streets Philadelphia [as Women’s Head Coach]," Davis said. "She got me looped in as well. It’s not on the Cornell campus, but it’s with the Cornell coaches and wrestlers. It’s pushing a new barrier. For the Cornell staff to put time and energy into women’s programming - it’s one step closer to getting something going at the Ivy League level where girls don’t have to pick between the sport they love and the education they want — they can do both.”
It’s the first all-girls event for Koll’s C Brand Wrestling Camps.
“Rob hasn’t done something like this before, but he really wants to provide the opportunity and wants it to be awesome,” Davis said. “He’s relying on Jessica [Medina] and I to build the women’s curriculum. We decided on an all-freestyle camp, which is different than what he’s done before.”
Davis said there are other ways it will be different, starting with the location - Camp Maple Lake in Forksville, Pennsylvania where, according to the website, “campers are housed in bunkhouse style cabins and all sessions are taught under large open-air pavilions. Campers can enjoy all the fun Camp Maple Lake offers."
“Camps are usually grinding, grinding, grinding in the wrestling room and then going back to the dorms at night,” Davis said. “This is like a summer camp with hard work in the wrestling room. It will be technique-based, exposing the girls to counselors who they look up to and follow. But it’s also about building community, meeting girls from all over and spending time outside the wrestling room with kayaking, hiking, making smores, swimming and other outdoor activities. There will be movies at night, talent shows and cookouts and oh yeah - a lot of high level wrestling. Young athletes are burning out at a young age instead of loving the sport and being around others they care about in the sport. We want to have high level wrestling and fun at the same time.”
Building both skill level and community has been a focus for Davis at Beat the Streets NYC. She began the Gotham City Girls Open Championship with the vision that it would allow local wrestlers to get top notch competition without having to travel long distances.
Four years ago, she said the first tournament took place at a local high school gym in Brooklyn “with only New York City girls with the exception of maybe five girls from upstate New York.”
Fast forward to this past May, when around 400 girls participated, ranging from elementary school to World team members. Wrestlers came from 19 states and three countries and the event was sponsored by Cliff Keen Athletic, which provides finalist singlets and bags for the first 200 entrants.
“Each year, there’s relentless effort to get exposure and recruit for the tournament,” Davis said. “Initially, I was hoping for a big national presence with international participation kind of a dream. But I met a Mexican wrestler when I traveled to Cadet Pan Ams as an assistant a few years back and two years ago 20 girls from Mexico came. Next year, there will be a big international camp and it looks like Italy, Russia, Mexico and Canada will be involved. This upcoming one will be exciting.”
Davis also is excited about the future, and the present, of New York girls wrestling. Beat the Streets member Michaela Beck recently took second place at the Cadet World Team Trials after winning a national championship (as well as a silver medal) at Fargo last summer. In addition, New York saw Staten Island’s Hailey Cancelleri capture gold in North Dakota in 2016.
“Four years ago when I moved to New York City, Michaela hadn’t started wrestling yet,” Davis said. “Her work ethic is crazy. She works with Mike Torriero, Valentin Kalika, goes out to VHW on Long Island, and is at the senior camp at the Olympic Training Center now among other things. She travels a lot with USA Wrestling. She’s one of the spearheads for our city and state. And there are others in the city, like Hailey Cancelleri, who are constantly working hard and pushing for a World team. The future is really bright too. We have some sixth graders in New York City … when they get into the high school age group, look out. They’re throwing around high school girls now. On Long Island and upstate there are girls who are outstanding. New York has a lot of girls wrestlers to watch out for."
Bringing together girls from all over the country to opportunities like C Brand Wrestling Camp at Maple Lake August 2-6 will only help that process. The camp has a limited number of spots and is anticipated to sell out quickly. [More information is here].
“We’ve had Beat the Streets camps just for girls in the past, but pretty much only Beat the Streets members were there,” Davis said. “This is the first girls-only one around here that I know of that is open to every girl in the Northeast region or really around the country. It’s super exciting - something that’s been long awaited.”
From the website: "Camp Maple Lake in Forksville, Pennsylvania will host a 5 Day Competition and Technique Camp in a beautiful outdoor setting. This camp is for individuals and teams seeking advanced techniques. New skills will be tested during live wrestling sessions. Each day features three sessions with a portion of time dedicated to live wrestling.
Camp Maple Lake offers a unique and natural setting for athletes to develop their skills. These camps offer wrestlers the ability to learn new technique and the opportunity to wrestle in an outdoor setting. Campers will enjoy this wonderful camp setting with breathtaking views of the pristine Maple Lake which is nestled in the endless mountains of Pennsylvania. Campers are housed in bunkhouse style cabins and all sessions are taught under large open-air pavilions. Campers can enjoy all the fun Camp Maple Lake offers – swimming in the Olympic sized swimming pool with double diving boards, canoeing or fishing in the 17 acre lake or roasting marshmallows in the campfire. Each night brings more fun as campers can hang out in the Snack Shack where they will find music, ping pong, air hockey and more fun!"