The city and Long Beach Martin Luther King Center honored state wrestling champions Jacori Teemer and Elijah Rodriguez with a parade on Park Avenue Tuesday.
Hundreds turned out to cheer on the title-holders and show their hometown pride as they marched from City Hall to the MLK Center on Riverside Boulevard, where a ceremony honoring the two Long Beach High School seniors was held.
Long Beach resident Kadaja Bailey, a star basketball player at St. Mary’s High School who will play for St. John’s University in the fall, was also honored.
Teemer — who won his first New York State Division I championship in eighth grade — became the first Long Island wrestler to capture five state titles and only the second competitor in state history to do so. He managed four takedowns of Matt Grippi, of Fox Lane High School in Bedford, and won 8-2 to claim the 152-pound crown at the state tournament at Times Union Center in Albany on Feb. 24.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, claimed his first individual state championship when he pinned Halil Gecaj, of John Jay, High in Cross River, at the tournament.
Both were lauded by elected officials, and their coaches and parents.
“It truly does mean a lot to see all the amazing faces here right now, and all these years of love and support,” said Rodriguez, who was introduced by his father, coach Miguel Rodriuez.
Teemer and Rodriguez thanked their coaches — Ray Adams, Miguel Rodriguez, Leo Palacio, Bernard Valentin, and John Anfossi — as well as their parents, mentors and people in the community for their support.
“I just want to say something to the kids — always follow your dreams, never give up and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything,” Teemer said.
Teemer’s parents, Faye and Alan, said they emphasized the importance of their son’s education with his coaches. Faye said that Jacori’s commitment to academics and good grades led to a five-year scholarship to Arizona State University, which he will attend in the fall.
“We all had to be on the same page,” she said. “When I took him off the team in seventh grade because he wasn’t doing his homework, they knew I was not playing, because it’s education before recreation. I didn’t care about him winning states. It’s what you do in that classroom that counts. So I’m telling all the kids, you could be good at anything, but if you want to go to school, those grades must be right. Jacori would not be going to Arizona State if he didn’t have those grades.”
The event also honored Bailey, a former Long Beach High School student who, in November, signed a letter of intent to play at St. John’s in the fall. The 6-foot wing averaged 19.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a junior at St. Mary’s to land on Newsday’s All-Long Island Team. Bailey entered her senior season as a four-star recruit, the No. 32 ranked player and the sixth-ranked wing in the class of 2018, according to St. John’s.
Bailey, who thanked her parents, family and supporters, also scored over 2,000 points in her high school career and racked up the most points of any male or female player at St. Mary’s.
“I’ve seen Kadaja play since she was in the sixth grade, and the strides she has made as a person academically, athletically and socially have been phenomenal,” said her coach, Kevin White, a Long Beach resident who added that she was recently nominated to McDonald’s All-American team.