Southmoreland freshman Jake Beistel isn't a typical teenager.
He likes doing things for people, sometimes cleaning up his community or an old theater.
So when Beistel asked his coach, Ryan Shaw, if he could solicit people in the community to sponsor him this wrestling season so he could raise money for charity, Shaw said go for it.
It's not the first time Beistel has done something like this. In 2011, when he was in eighth grade, he wanted to do something in memory of Latrobe student Zach Colucci, who died in an accident in 2011.
So, with the help of his parents Stacey and Kurt, he raised $500 during his wrestling season and gave it, in Colucci's name, to the autism program in the Greater Latrobe School District.
Beistel and Colucci were friends and competitors through wrestling.
This year, Beistel will raise money to help the autism program at Southmoreland. Instead of having his parents foot the bill, Beistel got permission from the school to seek sponsors this season for his project.
Sponsors can either pay a flat amount or sponsor him per win, per pin or per match. Beistel is already 5-0 this season and won the heavyweight title at the Chartiers-Houston Tournament on Dec. 8. He was 48-3 in 2011-12.
“I wanted to give back to the community and local kids,” Beistel said. “I had a choice. I could have raised money for veterans or for the school's autism program.
“My grandfather, who was a veteran of Vietnam, said any real veteran would want me to do it for the kids.”
So, at the end of the season, all money Beistel raises will go to the district's elementary autism programs.
Because of budget cuts and program cuts, Beistel hopes the funds help.
“I was really impressed with his ability to step out on his own in helping kids in the district,” Southmoreland High School principal Daniel Krofcheck said. “This was unprompted. He's a stand-up kid, a good athlete and a good guy.”
He already has sponsorship from the Southmoreland coaching staff and a few others from the school and community.
He selected the autism program because his younger brother, Caden, is in the buddy program in the elementary school. He helps his assigned student with homework and other things.
Beistel hopes to raise more than $1,000, and is already a quarter of the way to his goal. Larry Newcomer, the president of Pennsylvania Youth Wrestling, has pledged to contribute $50 per win.
“As a coach, you know Jake is doing the right thing in the community,” Shaw said. “He's a role model, not only to his teammates, but to others in the school. That's tough for a freshman, but other students want to help.
“The entire school is rallying behind his project. He is a 15-year-old kid not thinking of himself, but wanting to help others.”
Leah Govi, an autistic support teacher at the elementary school, and Kelly Most, an autistic support teacher at the primary center, will handle the donations. Checks must be made out to the SES Activity Fund. Anyone interested in sponsoring Beistel should contact the high school at 724-887-2037.
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