Five years ago, Chance Marsteller was a wrestling prodigy.
At the time, he was one of 11 Pennsylvanians to win four state titles.
The Kennard-Dale High School graduate, who went 166-0 in his high school career, is one of only four wrestlers to go undefeated in their high school careers and win four PIAA crowns.
Now, Marsteller said he is more than just a wrestler. He’s a father, a fiancé and a dedicated student.
His roller-coaster wrestling career — which started with his stardom as a York County phenom before his college days included a broken back, a transfer from Oklahoma State to Lock Haven, an arrest for aggravated assault that led to his removal from the team and then his return to the Bald Eagles — came full circle last Friday night in a unique dual meet between Lock Haven and Arizona State at Red Lion High School.
“Wrestling is so important to me. I’m trying to win a national title,” Marsteller said after the match, which the Bald Eagles won 24-13 in front of a sellout crowd. “A lot of different things have become important to me, though. Taking care of my family is important to me. School is super important to me. Everything is important to me now. When I don’t succeed, I don’t just think what I can do better on the mat. I think what I can do better off the mat.”
Marsteller’s bout: The dual meet, called the "Rumble in the Jungle," between the two top-25 schools, featured 17 Pennsylvania wrestlers, including 10 from District 3. The event drew 2,712 fans. While some were there to see a high-level dual meet and several District 3 wrestlers, many came to Red Lion High School’s Ronald Abe Fitzkee Center to watch Marsteller.
The crowd was excited all night, but the fans were loudest for Marsteller’s match-ending bout against Josh Shields.
“The atmosphere was great,” Marsteller said.
Shields, who was ranked as the fifth-best 165-pound wrestler in the nation before the bout, defeated No. 4 Marsteller 2-1 in tiebreaker-two. The redshirt senior, who is now 14-2 on the season, was gassed by the end of the bout, which allowed Shields to earn an escape point for the victory.
“I’ve got to have a better weight cut and have better pop,” Marsteller said. “I’m not getting it right now. That’s been a problem for a couple matches. That’s something I’ve got to figure out by March. My last four or five matches I’ve only scored one or two takedowns. That’s unacceptable for me.”
“He’s a big guy,” Shields said. “He’s a great offensive threat. He works really hard in the wrestling room. He can score. … I drew the match out. I knew with my conditioning at peak shape that I could get the win today.”
First loss in York County: The loss for Marsteller, who went undefeated in his high school career, is his first official defeat in York County.
He knows the most important time of the season is still a month away, but losing in front of his family and fans wasn’t easy.
“I was excited for (the match),” Marsteller said. “It kind of sucks. I’m not going to lie. I don’t want to blow this loss off. The main goal is in March. I’m going to figure it out by March.”
Despite his heightened sense of what matters – family, being a father, school – that doesn’t mean losing is OK.
“Oh, it matters. It absolutely matters,” Marsteller said. “I hate losing. … I’ve got to learn from this. I have an issue right now with moving my feet, being tired and my side to side motion.”
Marsteller’s goals: If Marsteller wants to be an All-American again and improve on his fourth-place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships, his head coach knows he’ll have to improve in the next month.
“I think it’s just letting go,” Lock Haven head coach Scott Moore said. “Last year at NCAAs you saw him lose, and he came back those next three or four matches, and he was on fire. I think he is just stuck in a little bit in a rut right now. He’s still ranked fourth in the country and doing well. He’s just got to open up and relax and let it go.”
Moore said Marsteller is wrestling too “conservatively.”
“Once he finds his rhythm, he’s three or four times better than he was (Friday),” Moore said. “You’ve got to look for his effort and his fight. That was a grind to the finish. There could’ve been three or four times when he could’ve given up a takedown or a reversal, and he fought through them. That’s what it’s going to take to be an All-American or a national champion. Those little lessons that we saw tonight will hopefully help him get to the finish line.”
Following the match, Marsteller said he was glad young wrestlers were able to see what a college match is like. He said being a college wrestler is “totally different” than being a high school wrestler.
“It’s not always about the best wrestlers,” Marsteller said. “It’s about who can do 100 different things right. It’s about being a student-athlete. Who can do their school work? Who can do their weight cut? Who can go out there and move? Who is doing the right things off the mat? Who is taking care of their body? There are a lot of different aspects of college wrestling.”
Moore believes Marsteller, who said he’s earned a 4.0 grade-point average in his last four semesters, is a “great role model” for young wrestlers on how to fight through adversity.
“Chance is a great person,” Moore said. “He’s been through a lot of adversity, but he’s matured in a way that now he cares about a lot of people, not just himself. Now he has a family and a son and a second kid on the way, which is a lot of responsibility. But he continues to compete hard, be a team player and be a 4.0 student. Win or lose, that’s a great person to have on your team.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.