Long Beach and Valley Stream Central High School wrestlers took a pledge against drugs at a dual meet at Long Beach Middle School on Dec. 17.
Friends of Long Island Wrestling — a Wantagh-based organization that uses wrestling to help to build character, leadership and discipline in teens — brought its anti-drug initiative to the school as part of its Wrestling Takes Down Drugs program.
The initiative was launched in February to promote wrestling, spread awareness about the dangers of drug use and tackle the growing opioid and heroin epidemic on Long Island and around the country.
Hilary Becker, a longtime wrestler and board member of the Friends of Long Island Wrestling, stressed the importance of the initiative before the meet and added that wrestling could be the catalyst to save lives.
“You get there on that mat and you get roughed up, you get beat up — that’s a tough thing to go through and that’s a good place for you to train for what’s going to come down the pipe in your life,” Becker said.
Becker was joined by Jerry Seckler, president of the Friends of Long Island Wrestling, to present the wrestlers with Wrestling Takes Down Drugs shirts, which include signatures of students who signed the pledge.
The Friends of Long Island Wrestling has raised money for anti-drug causes in the past. Becker also said that Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, a former Lynbrook wrestler, wanted to implement similar programs in other sports like soccer, baseball and lacrosse. Ryder has championed the intiave since it started in February.
Long Beach High School head wrestling coach Raymond Adams said that Long Beach has lost too many kids to drugs. He applauded the program and said he hopes it’ll make a difference in the lives of the wrestlers.
“We’re really trying to send a message to our young people that drugs are no good — we’ve lost too many kids to it here in Long Beach and around the county and certainly around the nation,” Adams said.
Adams — who has coached the Long Beach team for the past 22 years and currently has seven wrestlers ranked in the top five of their respective weight classes — said the dual meet matches were like outreach programs to help the youth stay on the right track. He praised his wrestlers for taking the initiative and said he hopes they can help other students
Chris Carvajal, the first-year head coach of Valley Stream Central’s wrestling team, also praised the program’s mission.
“This is a good program to build awareness and to make sure these kids don’t get caught up with those types of decisions, and getting hooked onto any type of drugs,” Carvajal said.“This is a good way to spearhead that and bring awareness.”