Beat the Streets Detroit
Board of Directors
President Mark Churella
Churella was raised in Farmington, Michigan. As a student at Farmington High School, he was selected as a High School All-American in wrestling in 1975 and won was a state champion three years. He has been inducted into the Farmington High School Sports Hall of Fame. Churella attended the University of Michigan where he was a member of the Michigan Wolverines wrestling team from 1976 to 1979. As a wrestler at Michigan, Churella compiled a record of 132–13; his .910 winning percentage is the second highest in University of Michigan wrestling history. He won the NCAA national championship in 1977 and 1978 and as a senior in 1979. His freshman year, he placed third in the tournament. Churella was selected four times as a collegiate wrestling All-American and was also named the most outstanding participant in the 1978 NCAA Division I wrestling championships. Churella also received the 1979 Big Ten Medal of Honor for proficiency in scholarship, athletics and community service. When he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1979, Churella was the school’s all-time record-holder in career wins, single-season wins and career falls. Churella’s collegiate success foreshadowed his qualification for the 1980 Summer Olympics, but the US’ boycott of the event prevented the opportunity. After graduating from Michigan, Churella served as the head wrestling coach at UNLV from 1979 to 1984. While holding that position, Churella established the Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational Tournament, later renamed the Cliff Keen Invitational. After UNLV discontinued its wrestling program, Churella returned to the University of Michigan as an assistant coach from 1985 to 1987. Churella later went into the insurance services business and became the president and CEO of FDI Group, in Novi, Michigan. Three of his sons, Mark, Jr., Ryan and Josh were wrestlers at the University of Michigan. Churella returned to the program as an assistant coach from 2007 to 2008. Son Josh Churella joined the Michigan Wolverines wrestling coaching staff in 2012. Churella was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1996 and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999. He was also a charter member of the Michigan Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2012, he received the Bob Ufer Award for outstanding service to the University of Michigan Athletic Department. Churella is married and has 3 sons and X grandchildren.
Vice President Mike Cox
Wrestling Team Leader/Executive Director Mindy Herrmann
Secretary Mark Churella, Jr.
Board Member Fermin Mendez
Beat the Streets Detroit
Coach Lauren Birks
Coach Jake Brock
Coach Mike Conflitti
Coach Peter Cunningham
Before coaching wrestling, or even teaching, Coach Cunningham was a journalist and worked at the Ann Arbor News as a sportswriter/editor from 2009-2014. Around that time, he made a bold decision to change courses completely and pursue a teaching career through the AmeriCorps program “Teach for America.” In large part, that decision was born from a motivation to truly make a positive difference in young people’s lives through coaching wrestling.
Coach Cunningham started the Mumford High School wrestling program in 2014 and started working with Beat the Streets in 2016 with the goal of expanding the high school program to include interested younger kids. The result is that the Beat the Streets Detroit / Mumford program has become a beacon of hope and is a true community-based program. The program was even featured recently in an ESPN article. Mumford High School is currently the only school in the Detroit Public School Community District that offers wrestling.
The Mumford wrestling team won its first ever MHSAA district championship in 2019 and also had four regional qualifiers and two state qualifiers. Since 2017, Mumford has had one all-state wrestler (4th), three state qualifiers and six regional qualifiers. The Mumford wrestling team has graduated 100 percent of its senior athletes in its five years as a program, with several going on to college
Coach Cunningham lives with his wife Katie and two daughters, Joy and June, in Ann Arbor.
Coach Tony Durocher
Coach Durocher had previously retired from coaching but found that he missed working with young people and inspiring them to reach for the stars. A dedicated technician of the sport, Coach Tony has the largest collection of coaching videos of any of our coaches and believes that in wrestling, as in life, details matter. “Take care of the little things and the big things take care of themselves.”
Coach Robert Embree
Since 2013, Coach Embree has served as the Head Coach of the Warren Lincoln competitive component of the Beat the Streets Detroit youth wrestling program. He also leads the Michigan USA Regional Training Center of Warren as the Director. Coach Embree has coached national level competitors, including his son Jelani who is a freshman Division 1 wrestler at the University of Michigan. He has three children that all participate in sports.
Coach Lisa Gonzalez
Coach Gonzalez found Beat the Streets Detroit after moving to Michigan where she works as a personal trainer. Because of the huge impact wrestling has had on her life, Coach Gonzalez wanted to continue her journey in wrestling in a way that most benefits others, and for her this means working with children as they learn the sport. “I enjoy working with Beat the Streets Detroit,” she says, “because I didn’t have any clubs like this when I grew up. I am happy to be able to help out our kids and our community – especially because it has a wide range of different people, and I am especially proud to see they way the sport has grown in popularity for young girls/women.”
Coach Ken Kaercher
Since leaving the Army, Coach Kaercher continues to serve his country by serving his community. As a Coach, he has over 30 years’ experience and has coached 30 All-State wrestlers. Four times, he has coached the Regional Championship Team and four times he has coached Individual State Champions. He has also coached wrestlers that now attend Harvard Medical School and The University of Michigan Law School.
Professionally, Coach Kaercher is a mechanical engineer and in addition to coaching the youths who participate with Beat the Streets Detroit, he also adds to the curriculum by conducting various STEM (Science, Technology, Math, Engineering) symposiums for the kids at each of the Beat the Streets locations. In 1990, he was the published author of “Volumetric Analysis” and in 2015 of “Periodic Table = Flat Map.” Beat the Streets Detroit is extremely fortunate to have Coach Kaercher on its staff – for not only his wrestling expertise, but also for his love of learning which, as one of his own passion’s, he enthusiastically inspires in all of our wrestlers.
Coach Tony Kreucher
Coach Fermin Mendez
Coach Fermin Miguel Mendez is a Newark, NJ native, a Detroit resident, and corporate attorney. He began his wrestling career at the age of 14 at Delbarton High School. From there, Coach Fermin went on to become a three-time varsity letter winner on Harvard University’s Division 1 Wrestling Team. He has trained athletes at a range of levels, from youth to university level wrestlers in both New Jersey and Michigan.
With a passion for coaching, Coach Fermin joined BTS Detroit while attending University of Michigan Law School. Now, he is in his fourth season and serves as our Patton Park Head Coach. He believes in the positive impact that wrestling can have on an individual and a community. Coach Fermin is thankful for the opportunity to serve the youth of Detroit, who come in every day, tenacious, energetic, and ready for a challenge.
Coach Jose Ramirez
Coach Ramirez will lead Detroit Cristo Rey High School in their inaugural season this winter as a varsity sport. He previous coached at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Grosse Pointe South High School and ran a youth wrestling club called Detroit Wrestling Academy. His passion for wrestling started late as he didn’t start wrestling until his junior year of high school, “I fell in love with the sport immediately and excelled in a short period of time, I had the opportunity to continue my wrestling career at Eastern Michigan University where we won the MAC Conference Championship In 1996. Wrestling has provided so many opportunities in my life, I would not be where I am now without wrestling. That is why I feel so strongly about the work we are doing through Detroit Beat the Streets. We are teaching more than just wrestling, we are creating opportunities and transforming lives through this great sport. Together we will help the kids of Detroit, Beat the Streets!”
Coach Chris Ray
After quitting the team, one of the assistant coaches took over as the head coach and began an aggressive campaign to recruit Coach Ray back. It worked! Once he came back, the coach made a focused effort to speak Coach Ray’s language and also made the effort to understand the culture he was raised in. That coach saw his struggles to separate himself from the previous company he kept and helped him to increase that distance. Coach Ray became loyal to that coach and the coach prepared him to lead. Coach Ray’s commitment to the sport paid off. In his short high school wrestling career, Coach Ray became an All-State Wrestler and got his picture in the school’s “Hall of Fame.” His team rallied behind him and pushed him to increase his grades above a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Coach Ray was voted Senior Class President, and Homecoming King – outcomes that directly resulted from his initial decision to step onto a wrestling mat.
After graduating from High School, Coach Ray felt an obligation to give back to others, as others had done for him. “I want to be the coach who inspires kids to reach their full potential,” says Coach Ray. To that end, he coached wrestling at his former high school as the Assistant Coach for 4 years and as the Head Coach for 6. During that time, teaching wrestling important, but secondary to teaching wrestlers the life skills which had helped him tremendously – how to be humble, to plan, to set goals, work hard and make better decisions. “In wrestling,” Coach Ray says, “we try to give kids the freedom to make decisions, while simultaneously helping to them to think about the effects and consequences of their decision(s) before they make them. Only a sport thought of as “a physical game of chess,” can do this so well.”
Coach Ray is extremely proud that within his program, kids who were already young fathers learned to better prioritize their lives, kids who were gang-affiliated, learned to question the decisions they made before making them, kids who came from homes where they were the provider for their younger siblings, learned how to better manage their time. Multiple All-State wrestlers were produced, and many of his wrestlers while in Saginaw turned into collegiate athletes and ultimately into productive citizens.
Coach Ray moved to Warren in 2016 and found Beat the Streets Detroit. He is thrilled to serve the same type of children he was involved with back at his home in Saginaw. Coach Ray says that “wrestling is a ladder for success in life, and I want to teach kids to climb it!”
Coach Will Rewitzer
Coach Chris Saadatjoo
Coach Chris Saadatjoo attended Seaholm High School with his twin brother, Michael. Coach Saadatjoo was a 4-time varsity letter winner, 2-year team Captain and 2-time League Champion. At the time of his graduation, he had the 3rd most wrestling wins in Seaholm’ history. Upon graduation, Coach Saadatoo joined the United State Marine Corps as a Combat Engineer. He is currently a reservist and assigned to Detachment B of Marine Wing Support Group 471 at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mt. Clemens Michigan. When not performing his Marine Corps duties, Coach Saadatjoo is a licensed firefighter and EMT. He is also currently enrolled in a paramedic program.
As if that weren’t enough, Coach Saadatjoo is very involved with Beat the Streets Detroit and currently works with BTSD as a coach at our Mumford site. His main goal with coaching is to help develop discipline and accountability in the athletes’ lives. “I would like them to come to me one day and say that because of what we taught them while wrestling, they were able to get into their favorite college, got their dream job, or themselves made a positive difference in someone’s life.”
Coach Saadatjoo says that the way he acts and carries himself stems from what he learned while wrestling. “I took the habits and skills I learned through wrestling to the Marine Corps and it was evident how much more prepared mentally and physically I was over my peers.” By the end of recruit training, Saadatjoo not only earned the title “Marine,” but was the squad leader of his platoon and was also meritoriously promoted. Saadatjoo quips that Dan Gable (who is one of the worlds’ best wrestlers) once said, “once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” “While I won’t go so far as to say boot camp was ‘easy,’ my wrestling experience sure made it a heck of a lot less hard!”
Coach Saadatjoo believes that by focusing on the small things, the big things will take care of themselves and he drills this philosophy into his young wrestlers. “To me, winning or losing is something I don’t particularly focus on.” He says that “kids learn discipline from wrestling, and that is a gift that keeps on giving as wrestlers will reap the rewards of that trait indefinitely and in all aspects of their lives.”
Coach Galloway Thurston
“No sport teaches the values of both individual effort and teamwork like wrestling.” he says. “My experiences in wrestling taught me how to push myself and others to a potential that we could not reach on our own. With Beat the Streets Detroit, I hope to help the kids channel their boundless energy into learning this great sport, and in turn instilling strong values, fostering a sense of community, and, most importantly, having fun!” Galloway firmly believes that the lessons learned through wrestling are lifelong and fully translatable to real-world skills, helping kids to become better students, mentors, coworkers, and leaders.
Coach Mike Torriero
Coach Bryan Young
Support BTS Detroit.
Beat the Streets Detroit exists to positively affect the lives of Detroit area youth through the sport of wrestling. All of our comprehensive services are made possible through generous donations and partnerships with individuals, charitable foundations and companies who want to make a great impact within Detroit. By investing in Beat the Streets Detroit, you invest in the future of this great city. We are currently in four Detroit neighborhoods supporting over 150 students.