Marielys Lugo gains opportunities, sense of purpose with Beat the Streets
The Bathgate High School junior credits wrestling to helping her focus and improve in school.
This feature story is part of a two-part student-athlete series for the 2023 Beat the Streets year-end campaign. To help BTS continue to make a lifelong impact on student-athletes like Marielys, donate today at give.btsny.org/yearend2023.
Not many people know the exact date they began wrestling, but Marielys Lugo does.
It was March 3 – her 14th birthday.
“The most special thing about when I first went to tryouts was because it was my birthday and that’s where my nickname came from,” the Bathgate High School junior and Beat the Streets Academy student-athlete said. “Then my coach (Daniel Cyrus) after that, he gave me the nickname ‘Birthday.’ That’s like the most special thing about the first day.
“Here’s a girl who could be anywhere today, but she wants to be at a wrestling meeting, and I’m just going to call you ‘Birthday,’” Cyrus explained of that day. “That’s how it attached, and everyone just started calling her ‘Birthday.’ Even the school kids call her ‘Birthday’, – her classmates.”
Lugo, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was 5 years old, started to gain confidence in herself from wrestling. Her newfound confidence and sense of purpose translated to other aspects of her life.
“When I first met her, there weren’t a lot of smiles,” Cyrus said. “’Birthday’ had a very serious face. She was very reticent at first. She didn’t really open up, she didn’t really speak too much, but since she’s joined wrestling, it’s become part of her life. She wrestles every day. After practice, she goes to Beat the Streets, or she practices on weekends, or she’ll go to tournaments after the season’s over.
“Wrestling has become who ‘Birthday’ is.”
Part of wrestling for Lugo is participating in the BTS Academy. In this enrichment program, Lugo engages in life-skill sessions, academic workshops, wrestling clinics and college visits.
“Beat the Streets is really important to me because it gave me a lot of opportunities,” Lugo said. “It took me to places where I didn’t think I was going to. It helped me get involved in more wrestling, not just wrestling but academics, too.
“When I first started wrestling, I was really bad in school. But when I got more into wrestling, it changed my mindset. It helped me focus more in school because with bad academics you can’t wrestle. So, I’ve committed to my schoolwork and wrestling helped me with that.”
On the mat, Lugo is known as one of the best wrestlers in New York City. She took second place at the Public Schools Athletic League girls freestyle city championships as a freshman. The next year, she wanted to win the title. She entered the tournament undefeated but fell short in the championship match.
“I just felt like a failure because I got second,” she said. “I wanted to get first because it was a really special season for me. After that, I just felt really down. I felt like I let (Coach Cyrus) down, I let my parents down, I let everybody down.
“After (the loss), he told me to just let it go. He said just because I got second, (doesn’t mean) I can’t get first place next time.”
Lugo let the loss go but also used it as gas to fuel her fire to reach the top of the podium.
"One of my major goals is to win (a city championship), and I want to go to state and hopefully win that, too.”
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.