Newbies to prodigies: The journeys of Townsend’s wrestling stars

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High school is a time for great exploration, in terms of both academics and extracurriculars. Some realize their passion for chemistry; others decide literature is their life’s calling. For both seniors Tyler Tavares and Steven Ramkissoon, freshman year was when they discovered the Townsend Harris wrestling team and the sport itself.

This was not their first encounter with sports in general. “I had stopped boxing in my freshmen year, but did not want to let my passion for combat sports die out,” Steven recalled. “So, I decided to join the wrestling team and become part of something greater than myself.”

On the other hand, Tyler noted wrestling’s demand for physical fitness as a contributing factor. Often recognized as one of the most well-built people in the senior class, he believes that “athletics are integral for maintaining good health.” Attributing to his prior experience, Tyler elaborated, “I also have a mixed martial arts background, which motivated me to pursue a similar activity in school; wrestling was the next best thing.”

Tyler, from freshman year, and Steven, from sophomore year, have blossomed from newbies into team leaders touting several praiseworthy accolades of their own. Tyler received the MVP award in just his first year with the team and has maintained an impressive undefeated record over his years on the team. Tyler also won the PSAL city championship this year in the 160-pound weight class. At the same time, Steven has accumulated Coach’s Awards and Commendations for Good Sportsmanship from the head of the PSAL.

Today, both help lead the team in one form or another, from holding co-captaincies to occupying managerial positions. Unsurprisingly, the greatest cost of these accomplishments has been free time. Having never missed a practice in two years, Steven recounted, “On a day that I have practice, a match, or a tournament, which is basically everyday, I typically only see my parents and family for about an hour at home.” Nevertheless, Tyler argued, the otherwise strenuous culture of the student-athlete lifestyle is offset by the fact that “the wrestling team is like a [second] family.”

Evidently, for these budding athletes, the importance of wrestling extends beyond the glitz and glamour of wins and awards. In the classroom, Steven accredits wrestling for having taught him how to be “a better leader when it comes to things like group projects.” Similarly, from spending countless hours sparring with teammates on the padded cafeteria floors to competing in actual tournaments, Tyler believes that “being an athlete makes you well-rounded.” He went on to share that the need to constantly juggle multiple responsibilities, “has showed [him] the importance of staying dedicated to something and has taught [him] the important skill of time management.”

Even further, akin to Kobe Bryant’s coveted “Mamba Mentality,” winning matches requires a winning mindset prior to even stepping onto the pad. “I am a very anxious individual. There has never been a point in my career where I didn’t get nervous before a match; I tremble with anticipation every time. Strangely, I believe it is the reason I perform so well,” said Tyler. “Those who remain positive perform better than those who begin a match already defeated. Under pressure, I remind myself that winning or losing doesn’t matter; what matters is that I try.” Echoing this mentality, Steven recited his favorite mantra—“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water.”

With their high school careers coming to a close, both athletes reminisced upon the overwhelming sense of community as the defining aspect of their wrestling experience. Whether practicing in the cafeteria or hanging out at restaurants after tournaments, wrestling has allowed for the creation of close friendships and familial bonds. After all, Tyler said, “That is what makes it all worth it.”