On and off the mat with coach Matt


photo courtesy of Dimensions

Director of Information Technology and assistant varsity wrestling coach Matthew Castanera- Bartoszek demonstrates a move to junior Adiv Leibestein. Castanera-Bartoszek thinks it's valuable to use a hands on coaching approach and show athletes how to do moves.

During the school day, Director of Information Technology Matthew Castanera-Bartoszek can be found in the tech office ensuring that the internet and the school’s programs are functioning properly. After school, however, he can be found on the wrestling mat acting as the assistant coach of the CESJDS varsity wrestling team. 

Castanera-Bartoszek started wrestling in high school, where he was a competitive wrestler for all four years. After two semesters of college, he decided to join the U.S. Marines because he wasn’t performing as well academically as he would’ve liked. He spent two-and-a-half years there as a maintenance management specialist, working to fix all the weapons east of the Mississippi for the Marines.

Outside of school and wrestling, Castanera-Bartoszek’s hobbies include jiu-jitsu and turning wood. He has been training in jiu-jitsu for eight years with his two daughters, who both compete in high-level tournaments and holds a purple belt in the martial art form. Castanera-Bartoszek first stumbled upon the art of turning wood while on Facebook and ever since then has become really invested in finding reclaimed pieces of wood and converting them into bowls. 

“I’ve always been an artist,” Castanera-Bartoszek said. “I wanted to be an art teacher before I joined the Marines and this is feeding my artistic inside.” 

After the Marines, Castanera-Bartoszek became the Director of Technology at Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School.  Also around this time, he began coaching wrestling because a close friend told him to try it out. He found it extremely rewarding and went on to coach for eight years at St. Albans followed by two years at St. Andrews, where his daughters, ages 15 and 16, go to school.  

“I first started doing it [coaching wrestling] for me just to get back on the mat and be a wrestler again,” Castanera-Bartoszek said. “When I started noticing the difference I was making in the kids’ lives, that was much more rewarding for me.”

This year is Castanera-Bartoszek’s first year at JDS and thus far, he has noticed two main differences between coaching at other schools and coaching here. First, the JDS team is unable to wrestle on Shabbat. This makes it extremely challenging for the team to participate in large tournaments, and so although the team practices often, Castanera-Bartoszek said “there’s not a whole lot of matches going on.” Another difference is that the JDS team is much smaller than a typical team, with only seven wrestlers on the roster compared to a typical 25-30. Castanera-Bartoszek, however, sees this as an advantage because there is more time for individual instruction for each student-athlete. 

Castanera-Bartoszek was very involved in creating a wrestling room in the Lower School for the team to use for practice. The room has mats on the floor and the walls are lined, so it is completely safe for the team’s use. 

Athletic Director Becky Silberman believes Castanera-Bartoszek is making changes that will strengthen the wrestling program. 

“He has a lot of good connections in the area,” Silberman said. “He set up matches with St. Andrews and St. Albans and they are now scheduling joint practices with some public school teams in the area just to grow our program.” 

Castanera-Bartoszek uses a hands-on approach when coaching that he said is the only way to teach the student-athletes how to be better. 

“There is no substitute for mat time, so I could sit there and talk to them ‘this is how you do it,’ but unless I actually do it with them they are never going to feel it and know what it’s like to be in that situation,” Castanera-Bartoszek said. “My style is to actually wrestle the kids to solidify what I’m actually coaching them.” 

Freshmen Yoni Liebstein, a member of the JDS varsity wrestling team, thinks very highly of Castanera-Bartoszek and his coaching style.

“He’s a lot more involved than any of our other coaches … he wrestles with us,” Liebstein said. “Someone can teach you something but you never really understand it until you actually do it [with them].”

This story was featured in the Volume 36, Issue 4 edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on January 25, 2019.