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Eglin Airman wrestles for Air Force

  • Published
  • By Sara Vidoni
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
When the Air Force's wrestling coach asked Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Zastrow to become an Airman and wrestle for the blue, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

After all, wrestling was in his blood. He followed his uncles' and grandfather's footsteps onto the mat through high school and college and in 2006, won the Sombo World Championships. Two years later, he joined the Air Force team.

"Being able to wrestle while having a fulfilling career was more than a dream come true," said Zastrow, now a bioenvironmental engineer here with the 96th Medical Group.

Zastrow wrestles for the Air Force's world class athlete program and recently competed for the team at the USA Wrestling National Championships in Las Vegas, a tournament open to anyone in the United States who is vying for a spot on a U.S. world or Olympic team.

In what he considers to be one of his toughest matches, Zastrow outscored Octavius Bellamy to earn a technical fall to win the 98 kg division of the U.S. Veteran's National Championship match. In the same tournament, he placed ninth in the U.S. Senior Open, 98 kg weight division.

"It's humbling. I'm 33 years old and probably hit my prime six years ago, so to add another win to my belt is amazing," said the multi-time All-American from Wisconsin. "While I always get nervous, it was more relaxed and fun this year. I'm learning to enjoy all of this while I can."

Zastrow went through his first camp with the wrestling team in 2008 and continues every year to train for the upcoming years' matches. He also spends anywhere from three to five days a week at the gym for at least two hours to get his training hours in.

As if the training and wrestling isn't taxing enough, Zastrow also works as the non-commissioned officer in charge for the radiation division of the bioenvironmental engineering unit here.

"I may have joined the Air Force to wrestle, but I have gotten so much more out of it with my job," said Zastrow, who wrestled at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "I love what I do every day and it still amazes me I get to do this job while continuing to wrestle for a premier team. My office is so supportive to allow me to continue to pursue my passion."

Although his teammates and fellow Airmen motivate him at work and on the mat, Zastrow's family is his true inspiration.

"My oldest son loves watching me wrestle," said Zastrow. "He is the reason I still wrestle to this day, because he has such admiration for it. My wife works full-time as a nurse and yet still has time to take care of our two children, while I'm off training. That kind of support is all the motivation I need."

Due to his recent victories, Zastrow is now qualified to participate in the world championships this fall in Budapest, competing against the best of the best from across the globe. He will also compete in the world team trials this summer in hopes of clinching a spot on the U.S. world team.

"When I think about 10 years from now, I hope wrestling is still a big part of my life whether it's through coaching or my children," said Zastrow. "But the Air Force will definitely still be there too."