- Brandon Cain
Alexis Elson is ready to return from injury to make Mayor's Cup history - again
The Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy senior looks to become the first female student-athlete to win the tournament title.
This feature story is part of a three-part student-athlete series for the 2022 Beat the Streets year-end campaign. To help Beat the Streets New York continue to make a lifelong impact on student-athletes like Alexis, donate today at give.btsny.org/yearend2022.
Alexis Elson hears the whispers and sees people looking at her when she steps onto the wrestling mat.
The Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy senior is used to it as a female wrestler in a male-dominated sport.
"When I first started, people would doubt me. Like, 'oh, she's skinny, she's a girl, you know... She beats up guys.'" Elson said. "I kind of just fell in love with the feeling of when people came up to me and they're like, 'wow, you wrestle!'"
Elson started wrestling with Beat the Streets New York in seventh grade, and the sport has taught her self-discipline and built her confidence.
"Before wrestling, I was in a really dark place in my life," Elson said. "I feel like wrestling has brought me out of that and if it wasn't for wrestling and Beat the Streets, I don't know where I would have been."
Where is she now? Determined to claim the Mayor's Cup tournament title she had earned the right to compete for.
Elson made Mayor's Cup history this year by becoming the first female student-athlete to reach the finals. But she couldn't compete for the title after breaking her collarbone in her semifinal match.
"I feel like I was mentally and physically preparing for Mayor's Cup all of that week and not being able to wrestle in the finals was really sad for me," she said.
Tears poured down her face as she lay in pain, but she still wanted to continue despite the injury.
"I was like, 'No, I don't want to leave. I don't want to leave. I want to wrestle,'" she told paramedics. "My (collarbone) was sticking out and I was like, 'No, I want to stay,' and they're like, 'No, you have to go to the hospital.'"
Elson listened to paramedics and was taken out of the tournament on a stretcher.
"(PSAL Wrestling Coordinator Ken Bigley) announced I was the first female finalist ever in history and that made me proud," she said. "People were clapping for me on the way out, but I was still sad but I don't know. I was proud of myself."
Elson's injury caused her to miss six months. No New York City championships and no state tournament. She watched and supported her teammates and fellow Beat the Streets wrestlers as they competed. But she was out, wishing she was on the mat and competing.
"I was told to just take it slow when I got back into it," she said. "One of the coaches from Beat the Streets told me, 'The game will come to you, don't rush it and heal. The game will come to you. You'll know when you're ready.' I took that advice and I took it slow when I got back on the mat I was ready."
Elson took fourth place at the Journeymen Fall Classic, her first tournament back from injury.
"I feel like I just had to break the nerves and get back into the feel of things," she said. "I went out there ready, but I was also still kind of nervous. I didn't go out there with a winning mindset. I just wanted to break the nerves."
Elson's nerves are broken, but her spirit isn't. She's ready to claim what she believes is hers - a Mayor's Cup title.
"I want to be able to win Mayor's Cup next year and reclaim my title," she said. "I really am just keeping my eye on the prize."
Since being founded in 2005, Beat the Streets New York has pioneered a movement that now includes 150 individual wrestling programs, a youth league and the first girls high school league.
BTSNY works to develop the full human and athletic potential of the urban youth and strengthen the NYC wrestling culture. We aim to make a lifelong impact on student-athletes through the lessons learned on the wrestling mat -- discipline, perseverance, self-reliance, humility and a strong work ethic. Discover how you can make a meaningful contribution to our work at btsny.org/donate.