By Stephanie Meditz
When sixth grade English language arts teacher Victor Perry started a wrestling club with his students, he never imagined that it would catch the attention of the superstars who inspired it.
The Wrestling Club at KIPP AMP Middle School in Crown Heights is both a safe place for students to bond over their love for the sport and a learning opportunity that extends beyond the classroom.
Perry, a big fan of professional wrestling himself, got the idea to start the club when a student overheard him talking about WWE star Bianca Belair’s meet-and-greet in New York City.
Upon learning that this student was also a fan of hers, he took the student to the meet-and-greet, where they won tickets to see her fight at Monday Night Raw that same day.
The idea of The Wrestling Club was born once Perry returned to school and saw that many students were also interested in professional wrestling. The club currently boasts 37 members.
At club meetings, students watch wrestling matches, discuss their thoughts about the outcomes, and analyze the storylines behind each match, paying special attention to each wrestler’s goals and how they achieve them.
For example, after Bianca Belair lost her championship title in 26 seconds, the students wanted nothing more than to see her get her title back.
“When I took the kids to their first event at Madison Square Garden, they got to see Bianca [Belair] fight Becky [Lynch] and she lost, and the kids cried because they had been studying the storyline… and so when she finally got it back at WrestleMania on the biggest stage of them all in the biggest way possible, the kids just erupted,” Perry said. “They finally got to see the culmination of what hard work is and how life can throw us curve balls and catch us by surprise… but the right thing to do is just stay who you are.”
The club received significant attention on social media after Perry posted videos on his Twitter account, “@wallflowerperry,” of the students’ enthusiastic reactions to the matches they watched.
Famous wrestlers including Carmelo Hayes, Ricochet, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Big E have responded to Perry’s videos.
Among the many respondents was WWE superstar Sasha Banks, who expressed her wish to visit the school and meet the students, which she did on her next trip to New York.
“The kids went crazy when I told them,” Perry said. “They were like, ‘Is she really coming?’ and I was like, ‘I have no idea.’ I don’t have a connection to her or WWE in that regard… If she said she wants to come and she means it, she will. And she did.”
During Banks’ visit, the students got to ask her questions, hear about her experiences as a wrestler on the world stage, and even sing and dance with her.
“It was just such a cool moment because it felt like she was a part of the club,” Perry said. “It didn’t feel like it was a celebrity. It felt like she was like, ‘Hey, I’m here, I enjoy wrestling just like how much you guys enjoy it.’”
The “Wrestling Chat With Friends” podcast likewise applauded the club’s mission by giving them a real WWE championship belt, which the students cherish.
Perry hopes to continue bringing new experiences to the club’s members by bringing them to next year’s WrestleMania in Los Angeles, California.
He started a GoFundMe in collaboration with three podcasts, “Black Rasslin’,” “The A Show,” and “The Black Announce Table,” to send as many students as possible. The fundraising goal is currently set at $15,000.
The Wrestling Club not only helps students make friends by bonding over their shared interests, but it also makes them feel more comfortable expressing themselves in group settings and even exposes them to potential career paths.
“I’ve seen kids come out of their shell who I couldn’t get to speak in my class all year,” Perry said. “I think it’s beautiful how this one little thing has become a safe haven for my kids.”
“I think with the kids that I teach and in the area that I teach, they don’t know about the different opportunities that are out there because they haven’t been presented it,” he continued. “And so it’s my job to present to them different opportunities…When it’s time to make those decisions of figuring out what they wanna do in life, they can go back to this place.”
To contribute to Perry’s efforts of educating KIPP AMP Middle School’s students in fun, engaging ways, donate to his GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-wrestling-clubs-road-to-wrestlemania.