BERNARDSVILLE, NJ -- Former amateur wrestling champion Steven Jastrabek of Bernardsville is showing some major muscle in the world of philanthropy. And he's got a great knack for pinning down donors.
Jastrabek's philanthropic efforts have bolstered the amateur wrestling programs at Rutgers University in New Brunswick; Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta; Blair Academy in Blairstown; the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.; the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame; plus USA Wrestling, the umbrella organization for the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team.
In his 20 years as a fundraiser for amateur wrestling, Jastrabek has brought in $1.5 million for the sport. Funds he's raised for amateur wrestling are earmarked for equipment, facilities, coaching, and travel expenses for the young athletes. In addition to raising more than $1.5 million from outside donors, Jastrabek and his wife have donated $200,000 of their own money to amateur wrestling programs.
"All amateur sports build character--not just the glamour sports, like football and basketball," Jastrabek said. "Wrestling, gymnastics, soccer, fencing and archery teach youngsters a work ethic--how to train, how to work through adversity, how to exceed your own expectations. My philanthropic efforts are not just about training the next generation of athletes. It's also about building the next generation of fans who enjoy and, more importantly, support amateur sports."
Jastrabek wrestled for Pope John XXIII High School, where he was All-State, and took third place in the state championships in his senior year, 1978. He was captain of the post-graduate wrestling team at Blair Academy in Blairstown, winning a national championship in 1979. Pursuing his athletic passion in college, Jastrabek wrestled at nationally ranked powerhouse Clarion State University in Clarion, Pa., from 1980 to 1982. After college, Jastrabek's freestyle record was 35–3, including state and national freestyle titles. He was invited to a World Cup trial, in an effort to make the 1988 US Olympic Wrestling Team, only to fall short in the third round of action. Jastrabek's career mark after 11 seasons stands at 205–24–1.
"I always believed wrestling was the best sport out there for young kids to take on," he said. "The individual attention, success and dedication it takes to excel at this sport will shape the rest of your life. You can learn how to win, lose and recover, and make better decisions, which will give you a blueprint to follow for the rest of your life in whatever field you go into. The confidence in yourself that can be developed from this sport is paramount."
In Jastrabek's view, youngsters with ambitions to pursue amateur wrestling wouldn't get a chance without the financial support he has provided, first through his New Jersey Night of Champions Foundation, and then with his Night of Legends Foundation. He is also the former president of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
USA Wrestling, one of Jastrabek's key beneficiaries, sponsors youth tournaments, for which funds are earmarked to rent gyms and other facilities. "These tournaments help youngsters become Olympians," Jastrabek says, adding, "Knowing what wrestling has done for me in my life, I know the sport can help many kids be very productive and accomplished as they navigate their way through life."
He and his wife, Dr. Linda Jastrabek, have been actively involved in promoting amateur wrestling and other amateur sports for the past two decades. A kindergarten teacher at the Bedwell Elementary School in Bernardsville, Dr. Jastrabek was named 2007 Woman of the Year by USA Wrestling in recognition of all her fund-raising work. In addition to supporting amateur wrestling, both the Jastrabeks have done fund-raising for the U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team and the US Olympic Women's Hockey Team.
Among other youth organizations the couple have supported are Beat the Streets NYC Wrestling and Children International, a global non-profit humanitarian organization.
For further information about Jastrabek's Night of Legends Foundation, visit www.nightoflegends.us.