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Monday, May 9, 2011

Wrestling Program Builds Character, Teaches Discipline

Wrestling Program Builds 
Character, Teaches Discipline:
“Beat the Streets” targets inner-city kids
(for East Haven
By Mike Lauterborn

East Haven, CT – An East Haven coach stumbled across a New York-bred afterschool wrestling program to help inner city kids, and is now bringing the program to New Haven. It promises to keep at-risk youth safe and pointed in a positive direction.

The program is being steered by Hamden resident Nathan Stadig, a wrestling coach who has taught for the past five years at Joseph Melillo Middle School in East Haven.

“I had wrestled for four years in high school, at both Killingly High in Danielson, CT and Branford High in Branford,” he said, with regard to his own interest in wrestling. “My father influenced me to pursue the sport – I was a little guy and was getting my butt kicked. It was a good way to gain some self-confidence. Once I started, I said, ‘This is the sport for me.’”

Following high school and a five-year tour in the Marine Corps, Stadig landed the coaching position in East Haven. “I immediately took to the work and enjoyed teaching these suburban kids the skills I had learned back in high school,” he said.

At the time he began teaching, he also initiated a relationship with USA Wrestling, the governing body of the sport. “Membership is not a requirement for teaching wrestling, but is a requirement for competing off-season, which I was doing outside of teaching, in the New England region,” he said. “Back in March, as I was browsing their website, I learned about a new program called ‘Beat the Streets Wrestling.’ The main objective is to get inner-city kids off the streets and involved in something productive.”

The program was started in New York about five years ago and has spread to five major cities in the U.S. “I thought it was an awesome idea, spoke with chairman Al Bevilacqua, and we agreed to establish a program in the New Haven area,” he said. “It would serve as a bridge between Boston and New York, with me as executive director for the branch,” Stadig said.

Stadig secured a partner, Julia Paigo, who had the same dream for the Hartford area, and together they started getting the word out in their local communities. “The initial response was huge, prompting us to locate respective facilities,” he said. “I approached New Haven’s Athletic Director Joe Canzanella, and he was very enthusiastic. Thus far, he has offered the use of mats and facilities, though he has yet to define a school location.”

Canzanella said the program fills the missing link between the pre-high school student athlete and high school wrestling program. “We’re excited about the possibilities. It can help build fitness levels in our urban students,” he said.

Program sponsorships are being offered and already two slots have been filled, by Kevin Sullivan Building and Remodeling of Branford and As Seen on TV in Wallingford. “Their support will cover non-profit application fees with the IRS,” said Stadig. “In return, they will receive recognition on our online sites.”

Stadig said the next step is filing their non-profit paperwork. Then, at the end of May, Stadig will meet with Canzanella to hopefully secure a spot with the goal of a summer launch.

“In the meantime, in New Haven, we are starting to hang up registration posters in schools to drive enrollment,” he said. “We’re also looking for additional sponsors, to pay for uniforms, gear and cleaning supplies.”

Summing up the program, Stadig said, “It’s a tough sport for tough kids in local inner-city areas, and a great character builder, teaching discipline, self-control and self-worth.”

For more information about Beat the Streets Wrestling, visit:
Twitter: @beatthestreet

Interested sponsors can Nathan at 203-500-2650 or email:

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