When Victor Perry, a teacher at KIPP AMP Middle School in Crown Heights, started an after school wrestling club, he was just hoping to have some fun with students who shared his love of wrestling.
Much to his surprise, word of the wrestling club started spreading rapidly online. The club went viral and caught the attention and praise of wrestling superstars like like Sasha Banks, Carmelo Hayes, Becky Lynch, Ricochet, Bayley, and more.
Sasha Banks, star World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, even made a surprise appearance at the middle school earlier this year, shocking the students.
“Social media can be a wonderful thing at times,” said Perry. “I had been posting videos of my kids reacting to matches, and in March, it went viral. Sasha tweeted that she wanted to come to this school. It wasn’t until late April, that I received a [direct message] from a WWE official who said that Sasha was going to be in New York and would love to come visit the school.”
Banks was thrilled to surprise the students.
“If I had this when I was a kid, I would’ve had so many friends growing up,” she said. “Just that there’s a wrestling club at this school can bring so many people together because you can see yourself in any superstar.”
But the attention didn’t stop there. In May, the hosts of the podcast “Wrestling Chat With Friends” bought a WWE championship belt for the club and shipped it to them.
Now, the wrestling club is fundraising to be able to take two or three students to WrestleMania 2023 in Los Angeles. To raise money for the trip, Perry has started a GoFundMe with the hope of raising $15,000. As of July 11, the fund had already raised more than $6,000.
“We’re a big fan of storylines and following the character,” said Perry. “To be able to go to WrestleMania and experience that on a grand scale would be such an honor. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. And I want them to be able to see so many other people that look like them, be celebrated.”
Beyond the social media recognition Perry’s group has garnered, the wrestling club is making a positive impact on the middle school club members. The club has become a refuge from the otherwise tough environment of middle school and is helping the students grow their reading and writing skills.
“I’ve taught these kids for two years,” Perry told Brooklyn Paper. “Some of them struggle with reading and writing. But in the wrestling club, it’s like they have become a whole new person. They speak eloquently and they speak with so much passion. It’s a safe haven for kids. Middle school is a weird time and the wrestling club allows these kids to be themselves and let their hair down.”
Donors on the crowdfunding site have said they’re giving to the club “for the students” and “for the culture.”
“Wish I had a cool teacher like this growing up,” one donor wrote in a comment attached to their gift. “Let’s get these kids to Mania!”