Making It Happen: Kyra Tirana Barry

March 17, 2015, 11:47 p.m. (ET)

by Michael Rand

Kyra Tirana Barry has enough accom­plishments to fill five resumés. Among other things, she’s a 1987 graduate of Columbia University, where she was a founding member of the women’s varsi­ty soccer team and still remains heavily involved in alumni relations.

Her professional career includes stints work­ing for the U.S. Congress, the New York City Mayor’s Office, and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as serving on multiple school boards. Also included on this list of accomplishments, her position as Board President for Beat the Streets in New York, a non-profit organization with the dual mission of developing wrestlers and nurturing young hu­man beings. Most recently in May, Barry took on yet another duty: Team Leader of USA Wres­tling’s women’s team.

“I’m sure there are 10 other things that I don’t know about,” says Yero Washington, Executive Director of Beat the Streets in Los Angeles, who initially knew Barry and her husband, David, as avid supporters of the Columbia wrestling pro­gram. “She’s an amazing human being.”

Barry explains her drive in terms of simply wanting to do all she can in this world.

“I’m driven to make things better, and I think there’s never any end to that,” Barry says. “There’s always one step to go.”

GROWING IN THE SPORT

Barry started to learn about wrestling at Co­lumbia. She met David while in school there—he was a wrestling captain—and attended his matches for three years. The Barry family main­tained a presence within the program years after graduation and their daughter, Olivia, 19, cur­rently attends Columbia as well. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that Kyra became more immersed in the sport.

The couple’s sons, Jake (17) and Charley (14), have both taken up wrestling. As Jake was start­ing out in the sport, his mother helped start a wrestling program in Hoboken, N.J., where the family lives. After getting that off the ground, Barry turned her attention to Beat the Streets.

“That’s when I was really involved in the day-to-day, the wrestling, how to put on a good match, what goes into a tournament, and how to make it attractive to people who don’t know about wrestling,” she explains. “In New York City, we were working with a population that was not familiar with wrestling.”

It was then, too, that she started to gain a full appreciation not just for the sport itself, but for what it means to those who participate in it.

“Every wrestler I met, whether they were somebody who went all the way to the national team or somebody who wrestled one year in high school, the thing that stood out to me is that they all said it helped define them as a person,” Barry says. “I think all sports are really great for individual development and personal growth, but there was something about the passion of wres­tlers that really stood out.”

OPPORTUNITIES FOR GIRLS AND WOMEN

Wrestling has traditionally been a male-domi­nated sport, but in realizing all the positives the sport can bring, Barry wanted to find ways for it to expand its impact.

“I really started to look at the benefits wrestling has for girls and women. I thought they could re­ally benefit from the skills that are unique to wres­tling,” Barry says. “But there was very little oppor­tunity around the country for girls and women to have a fully realized wrestling career. And that wasn’t right.”

Indeed, Barry says she believes every sport teaches athletes valuable lessons, but again there’s something intrinsic about wrestling that helps it transcend others.

“The combination of intense teamwork, train­ing, and discipline you will get with any sport, Barry says. But wrestling is different. “Wrestling requires a really intense mental focus, and physi­cally you don’t even have an implement or a ball. It’s just what you have in your body and what you have in your mind in that circle. You really have to pull what you’ve got for that amount of time. That’s what separates it.”

Barry worked with Beat the Streets to expand opportunities for female wrestlers, helping to cre­ate the first all-girls freestyle wrestling league in the United States. That, in turn, helped prepare her for her current role with USA Wrestling.

“I love what she’s doing for wrestling and spe­cifically women’s wrestling,” Washington says. “I know she’s definitely passionate about the women’s wrestling movement and helping that succeed.”

FULL CIRCLE

David has been a Team Leader for USA Wres­tling as well, with the Greco-Roman program from 2009–12. Now it’s his wife’s turn to lead the charge, this time with the women’s program.

She went to the World Team Trials this past May, where Barry had her first real interactions with members of the women’s team. That was followed later in 2014 with a trip to the World Championships.

“It’s been a very wonderful and interesting expe­rience to really learn about wrestling and finish the continuum,” Barry says of her Team Leader expe­rience so far. “I’ve been very focused on wrestling at the youth and high school level, and I didn’t know as much about the next level. The preparedness and mental toughness is really impressive to see. It’s really motivating to get behind the athletes and coaches as they try to reach their goals.”

It was suggested to Barry that though she was never a wrestler herself, she shares some of the same traits as those who compete in the sport: mental toughness, intense focus, and a will to succeed.

“I wish I could say I was at the same caliber of wrestlers,” Barry says. “I’m a passion-driven person, and when I see something that I want to have happen, I do things to make sure it hap­pens. And if it happens, I make sure it’s the best it can be.”