From Beat The Streets To Breaking Olympic Barriers | Tamyra Mensah-Stock Remains Black Magic On The Mat

I first met the living legend Tamyra Mensah-Stock — the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling — back in 2017 at the international wrestling extravanganza, “Beat The Streets, which took place in the middle of Duffy Square and 47th street in Times Square.

Back then, she wasn’t yet married to fellow wrestler Jacob Stock and it was just a brief eight years after she lost her father in a tragic car crash coming home from one of her competitions. In addition, she had no idea that COVID-19 would defer her dream for an entire year as the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games got pushed back to 2021.

She always knew, however, that she had the skills to pay the bills and was on the cusp of changing the sport of wrestling forever.

 

 

The annual Beat The Street benefit was the perfect platform to hone her skills and prepare the wrestling world for her historical rise.

Wrestling is not a sport typically associated with African-Americans, but Team USA had two dynamic sisters in Victoria Anthony and Tamyra Mensah, who were creating Black Magic on the mats as strong Olympic hopefuls for 2020.

They represented the changing face of amateur wrestling.

The mission of Beat the Streets is to develop the full potential of the urban youth and to strengthen the culture of New York City wrestling. According to its website, Beat the Streets served 7,366 youth this year and has 257 wrestling teams created and sustained by its program since 2006.

Beat The Streets is becoming a major tool in expanding diversity in wrestling at the grassroots level on up. Its mission is to pave a better life for youths they serve.

Mensah, who at the time, was already the 2016 US Olympic Trials winner and 2017 World Team Trials winner, was born in Chicago and raised in Texas.

Her rise to a Team USA Ranking of No. 1 in her 69kg/152 Ibs. weight class was swift. She accomplished that by her second year of being on the national team.

As an African-American woman in a predominantly and historically white sport, she totally understands the significance of Beat The Streets.

 

 

 

“It’s definitely important,” she told The Shadow League at a May press conference in 2017. “Every time I see an African-American on the mat, they start off using nothing but brute strength and athleticism like I did during matches… they tend to wane in their stamina as the match progresses,” said Mensah, breaking down the obstacles African-Americans face in accessing the correct wrestling training.

So I’m hoping that programs like Beat The Streets can enhance their technical understanding of wrestling and let them know the importance of other aspects like stamina … Also so they know that there are more opportunity and sports out there for African-Americans besides the most obvious ones.”

Back then, she was already a mouthpiece for the advancement of diversity in wrestling. Tackling the hard truths in order to help bridge the racial gap.

Mensah-Scott started her athletic career in Track & Field, but after trying wrestling on the urging of her twin sister, who first discovered the sport, Mensah realized that she was supernatural at it. She defeated a state champion in her first major match.

“It’s unnatural to see an African-American on the mat,” Mensah told the Shadow League. But it’s so perfect and fun for us. We have agility. We have speed. Compared to basketball, it’s very natural. I suck at all other sports except this. Wrestling was my most natural fit.”

She adds:

“My dad was from Africa (Ghana). He came here at age 30 so maybe I have some tribal warrior in me. But I had no idea how far I could take it. I thought my athleticism went as far as Track — the normal things that one might associate with an Arican-Americans athlete.”

At first, she hated the five mile-a-day practices, the touching, the pushing, the bullying.

“I came from a non-contact sport, Mensah reflected. The most touching we did was passing the baton.”

Mensah continued to work towards her goal of being an Olympic champion. 

 

 

Now she’s reached the pinnacle of her sport and broken barriers, not only becoming the first Black woman to win a wrestling gold medal, but just the second Team USA women’s wrestler  ever to grapple to the gold.

She’s legendary.

 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.