Three Sussex County wrestlers to be honored

Hall of Fame inductions Sunday, Sept. 17


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  • Steven Jastrabek




  • A 1970's newspaper clipping picturing, from left, Mike Frick, Gary Kessel and Bobby McKeeby.



PRINCETON — Three former high school and college wrestling champs from Sussex County will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame–New Jersey Chapter on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Weston Princeton, in Princeton.

Steven Jastrabek, Mike Frick and Gary Kessel will be among those honored for their achievements in amateur wrestling and their continued contributions to the sport.

Jastrabek, who grew up in Culver’s Lake, wrestled for Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, 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.

Jastrabek wrestled at nationally ranked powerhouse Clarion State University in Clarion, Pa., from 1980 to 1982. He compiled a 32–7 career record and was a Freshman All-American First-Team selection. He also won several prominent individual tournament championships.

Frick, from Hardyston, also attended Pope John, where he was three times a state champion, graduating in 1972. He went on to Lehigh University, where he was twice a national champion.

Gary Kessel, from Hopatcong, attended Hopatcong High School where, in 1973, he was district champion, regional champion and the school's male athlete of the year. He went on to East Stroudsburg University where he was two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler.

"Accomplishments as a wrestler are only one part of being inducted into the Hall of Fame," said Bobby McKeeby, a fellow Pope John High School wrestler who graduated with Frick and is a personal friend of all three men. "The bigger part of being inducted is what you've done for the sport since."

Jastrabek is current president of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's New Jersey Chapter and is on the Board of Governors at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Museum in Stillwater, Okla. Jastrabek has never lost his love for the sport of wrestling and was instrumental in fund-raising for the 2000 US Olympic wrestling team. He founded the New Jersey Night of Champions program, which has raised more than $1 million for amateur wrestling. Jastrabek is also the executive director of the Night of Legends Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for amateur wrestling.

Frick went from wrestling to coaching the sport at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and the University of Arizona, as well as on the high school level.

Kessel went on to officiating. He worked 16 NCAA Division I tournaments, 12 NCAA Division I finals, 8 NCAA Division III tournaments and 8 NCAA Division III finals, as well as numerous other collegiate and high school tournaments.

Jastrabek, who is also a world-renowned hairstylist, will receive the organization's Outstanding American award, while Frick and Kessel will receive Lifetime Achievements awards.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, which was dedicated in 1976, celebrates the oldest sport in the world with a permanent home for its culture and memorabilia in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Museum. The New Jersey chapter was founded in 2001.

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