Learn how to combat drug addiction on the wrestling mat

By Sean Kennedy

Kevin Glenz, a star lacrosse player at Lynbrook High School and the son of Larry Glenz, a longtime wrestling coach at the high school, died in 2010, at 27, of a heroin overdose.

Last week, Long Beach High School hosted a camp for dozens of wrestlers in an effort to take on this problem, which has had an impact on scholastic wrestling.

Over 150 wrestlers in all grades, from across Nassau County, gathered at the Wrestling Takes Down Drugs summer wrestling camp on June 28. The program was funded by Friends of Long Island Wrestling and the New York downstate chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“It’s important for us to be here, helping these kids,” said co-organizer Hilary Becker, a coach of Lynbrook High’s wrestling team and a National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee. “Hopefully they can take two things away from this — for one, they learn about the sport they love, but they can also take with them the meaning of saying no to drugs.”

“We want to eliminate this problem in the wrestling community,” added Kevin Murphy, the other co-organizer, a member of the Hall of Fame’s downstate chapter and a fellow inductee. Both Becker and Murphy have received the hall’s Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award — and both were coached by Glenz at Lynbrook High.

The pair founded Wrestling Takes Down Drugs in 2018 with the hope of impacting young lives not only in their community, but also across Long Island. They received the support of a fellow former Lynbrook wrestler, current Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

“When we were starting the Wrestling Takes Down Drugs program, we called Pat and asked if he wanted to help,” Murphy said. “Not only was he helpful, but he was able to elevate it to the level we are now, and we couldn’t have done that without him and the Nassau County Police Department’s help.”

Since its inception, the program has run events around the county, including a match between the Long Beach High and Valley Stream Central wrestling teams at Long Beach Middle School in 2020. It has also organized events at Nassau Community College featuring Baldwin native and former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, in the interest of presenting young wrestlers with drug-free role models.

“All it takes is one time,” Ryder told the young athletes. “You will be confronted in your lifetime with somebody that offers you drugs. Unfortunately, it’s the reality of life. Only you can make the right choices. Only you can control what you want to do. Dream big. You have to dream big, but dreams without goals are just dreams.”

In addition to taking part in Wrestling Takes Down Drugs’ featured matches, Ray Adams, the head wrestling coach at Long Beach High, said he was proud to help organize and instruct in the summer camp in his community.

“It’s a great program, and I’m so glad to be a part of it,” Adams said. “Drug addiction is something that affects everyone, and we hope we can teach these children how to protect themselves.”

Murphy explained that the campers take a pledge to say no to drugs, so that when they’re offered drugs in the future, they’ll remember what they promised themselves when they were younger.

“With the pledges, we just want to plant seeds,” Murphy said. “We want to tell the kids that it’s OK to say no, and that saying no to drugs can save your life someday.”

For Murphy, it’s not only a way to spread a message through the sport he loves, it’s also about potentially saving the lives of wrestlers across the county.

“Even if it’s one more life we’re able to save, that life that’s saved is invaluable,” he said. “But it all starts with them — and the courage to say no.”

Our Mission: To honor the sport of wrestling by preserving its history, recognizing extraordinary individual achievements, and inspiring future generations