Augsburg College alumnus Dr. James Mastro ’73, a pioneer in athletics for the blind, is one of five Paralympic athlete finalists nominated for induction into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
The award is the latest for Mastro, a former Augsburg wrestler and four-sport competitor in seven Paralympics. In May, Mastro will receive the Medal of Courage award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in ceremonies in Stillwater, Okla.
Mastro, who has been totally blind since age 18, was a member of the Augsburg wrestling team from 1968-73, earning All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors twice and winning the conference title at 177 pounds as a senior in 1973. Despite his visual impairment, he shined as an amateur wrestler. He competed as a member of the U.S. team at the World University Games in 1973, while earning bronze medals at international competitions three times. In 1976, he became the first blind athlete to be a member of an Olympic team, when he was an alternate on the U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team at the Montreal Olympics.
Mastro competed in seven Paralympics, becoming the first Paralympic athlete ever to medal in four different sports. He earned 10 medals (five gold, three silver, two bronze) while competing in wrestling, judo, track and field and goalball (an on-court team sport designed for blind athletes). He has also earned 17 international medals in other competitions, including the gold medal at the 1995 World Judo Championships for the Blind. In 1996, he was named as the flag-bearer for the United States team at the Paralympics opening ceremonies in Atlanta, Ga. In 1995, Mastro was named Blind Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and he was inducted into the Augsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. He is also a past president of the National Beep Baseball Association and served on the board of directors of the United States Association of Blind Athletes.
A professor of professional education and physical education at Bemidji State University, Mastro has also been a pioneer in education. He was the first student with a visual impairment to earn a Ph.D. in physical education in the United States, when he earned his doctorate, with an emphasis in adapted and developmental physical education, from Texas Woman’s University. He taught at the University of Minnesota before moving to Bemidji State. He has authored or co-authored 47 published articles and performed 26 national and international presentations on adapted and developmental physical education for state and national organizations, as well as athletes with disabilities.