EDITORIAL: York County athletes provide us with stories of much-needed inspiration

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Kennard-Dale grad John Stefanowicz has made the U.S. Olympic team in Greco-Roman wrestling.
  • Another K-D grad, Chance Marsteller, fell just short in his Olympic freestyle wrestling bid.
  • Spring Grove grad Eli Brooks helped the Michigan Wolverines reach the NCAA Elite Eight.
  • Former West York athlete Trinity Thomas recently recorded a 10.0 score despite ankle injuries.

We can all use some inspiration these days.

A year-long, worldwide pandemic and our ever-widening national political divide have left many of us feeling discouraged and disheartened.

Lots of folks here in York County, however, have found some solace in recent weeks by the performances of three local men and one local woman who have overcome some serious adversity to excel athletically on the national stage.

John Stefanowicz

John Stefanowicz: Let’s start with John Stefanowicz.

The Kennard-Dale graduate was a little-known wrestler in high school. He never made a scholastic state tournament and he received zero college offers.

Kennard-Dale grad John Stefanowicz clinches Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling berth

So, after graduating from K-D in 2009, he joined the Marines and started an unlikely journey to an Olympic berth. Since leaving K-D, he’s grown 7 inches, added 75 pounds of muscle and become an international force in the Greco-Roman division, which only allows upper-body moves.

Saturday, in a series of comeback victories, Stefanowicz punched his ticket to the Tokyo Summer Games by winning the 87-kilogram (192-pound) title at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Texas.

Chance Marsteller

Chance Marsteller: While Stefanowicz fulfilled his Olympic wrestling dream, his younger brother, Chance Marsteller, fell a little short.

Wrestling in the freestyle division at the Olympic trials at 74 kilograms (163 pounds), Marsteller won his first bout before suffering a loss in his second match.

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The fact that Marsteller even reached the U.S. trials, however, was a life lesson in perseverance.

Marsteller, unlike Stefanowicz, was a national high school phenom at K-D, going 166-0 for the Rams and finishing with four state titles.

The 2014 K-D grad earned a scholarship to Oklahoma State, before some well-publicized legal and drug problems threatened to sideline his career.

Marsteller, however, eventually regained control of his life and become an NCAA Division I All-American at Lock Haven. After a dominant performance at a Last Chance Qualifier to earn a berth at the Olympic trials, Marsteller fell short of his goal of making the U.S. Olympic team, but given the hurdles he’s overcome, the fact that he even got to the Texas event was a major accomplishment.

Eli Brooks

Eli Brooks: Then there’s the case of Spring Grove grad Eli Brooks, one of the most-heralded basketball players to ever emerge from York County.

Brooks earned a scholarship to national powerhouse Michigan, but during his first two years was not a big contributor for the Wolverines. There were whispers that Brooks couldn’t compete against the nation’s best college players in the Big Ten Conference and that he should transfer to a lower-level NCAA Division I program.

Spring Grove's Eli Brooks, Michigan Wolverines fall just short in bid to make Final Four

Brooks ignored those whispers and stayed at Michigan. A head-coaching change at the school helped Brooks excel during the last two years. He became a starter and team leader for a Wolverines program that recently advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. One of Michigan’s assistant coaches called Brooks the team MVP.

Trinity Thomas

Trinity Thomas: Finally, there’s the story of former West York High athlete Trinity Thomas, who has been a gymnastics superstar for three years for the No. 1 Florida Gators.

Thomas, however, recently suffered injuries to both ankles that have largely kept her from competing over the last month.

Despite injury, Trinity Thomas has another 10.0, helps Florida qualify for NCAA team event

Nevertheless, the hobbled Thomas still registered a perfect 10.0 score Friday while competing in the uneven bars for the Gators in NCAA regional competition. She’s hoping her ankles will heal in time so she can make a strong push for a U.S. Olympic berth in Tokyo.

So, there you have it. Four stories, four local athletes and four stories of inspiration.

Just what all of us need right now.