For as accomplished as he is in the sport of wrestling, Kennard-Dale senior standout Chance Marsteller hasn't been the type of person to seek attention off the mat.
Actually, he's always been an enigmatic figure to cover.
He's never answered any of my phone calls. His parents are equally evasive. And Kennard-Dale coach Mike Balestrini -- well, he's begun every interview with me by saying something along the lines of he doesn't do media because, he says, he was once misquoted. Balestrini even became the first coach I've encountered in my young career at any level -- high school or college -- to turn down a request of mine to briefly stop by practice when I asked to do so last season.
Anyway, Marsteller has always been very engaging and polite when chatting with the throng of media twice a year in Hershey after he wins district and state gold medals. He's similarly respectful in the few times I've tracked him down in the offseason at a random camp or practice that I only heard he was attending through various sources. But that's about it.
So it's kind of been difficult for me to provide an answer to the many people who have asked me in recent months why Marsteller switched his college commitment from Penn State to Oklahoma State. Willie Saylor of pay-for-content website flowrestling.org tracked Marsteller down last month at the highly-respected Powerade Tournament in Pittsburgh to get the first quotes heard from Marsteller about his college decision. Among many comments, Marsteller said he "really wasn't happy and kind of had a weight on my shoulders, doing what everybody else wanted me to do, not what Chance Marsteller wanted to do."
A week and a half ago Marsteller expanded on those comments in the three minutes we were able to chat following the Rams' 36-30 loss at West York.
"Originally I wanted to go to Oklahoma State but when recruiting time came around I tried to ignore it. I turned my phone off for two days. (Penn State coach) Cael (Sanderson) shows up at my house. At that point in time, I'm just like 'I'm done with this,'" Marsteller said of his initial decision to go with Penn State. "I didn't even give (Oklahoma State coach John) Smith a chance to come out. I made a quick decision."
So why Oklahoma State?
"Internationally I like what they do. They've had an Olympic medalist every year for the last 20 or 30 years. I think that's where I want to get better at. I want to become more diverse in my offense and not just get better at what I'm good at. All the low-ankle work Smith does and what he brings to the table, it'll expand my knowledge a little more," Marsteller said, before pausing and continuing his thoughts.
"I never wanted to stay at home. Since I was little, originally I thought I wanted to go to Arizona State until about ninth or tenth grade things started to change. I've always wanted to get away from home. I like the people there (at Oklahoma State)."
I don't hold it against Marsteller for not craving media attention, which he'll get anyway without even talking to guys like me. If anything, maybe he should be respected for it. Maybe the only time he wants a spotlight on him is on a wrestling mat. That's fine. But perhaps his preferred silence contributed to several rumors swirling as to why he de-committed from Penn State in November. Many rumors are without merit. One that caught my attention, though, is the rumor Sanderson wasn't willing to offer Marsteller a redshirt in the 2016 season so Marsteller could pursue qualifying for the Olympics. Is there any truth to that?
"Pretty much every rumor you've heard about Penn State is completely false. Everything. I've heard so many different things," Marsteller said. "It had nothing to do with that. I still don't know what I'm doing. I don't know if I'm going to redshirt then wrestle or wrestle then redshirt the Olympic year. I'll figure it out there and as it gets closer in time I'll see where I'm at."
So there's a little bit more insight as to why Marsteller, the second-ranked high school wrestler in the country and the top guy in Pennsylvania, decided against staying in-state when he competes at the next level in the coming years. Hopefully fans don't hold it against him, especially those in Pennsylvania, an already highly-respected wrestling state that has only gained more stature in the grappling community by producing Marsteller, perhaps the best wrestler to come out of the Keystone state since Cary Kolat in 1992. Kolat is the last Pennsylvania grappler to win four PIAA gold medals with an unbeaten scholastic record. Marsteller can become the fourth-ever to accomplish the feat should he keep his prep record unblemished in these final two months of the high school season.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.