This week, Chance Marsteller will get his opportunity to excel on the biggest stage in college wrestling.
The Kennard-Dale High School graduate will finally compete in the NCAA Division I Championships, set for Thursday through Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
When Marsteller left the Fawn Grove school four years ago, he was a mythic figure in Pennsylvania wrestling circles after winning four PIAA state crowns and compiling an unblemished high school record of 166-0.
In 2014, he was regarded by many as the No. 1 wrestling recruit in America. He originally gave a verbal commitment to Cael Sanderson's powerhouse Penn State program, before changing his mind and signing with another wrestling power at Oklahoma State.
When he left K-D, nearly every wrestling fan expected that Marsteller would become a four-year participant at the NCAA competition. Most would have predicted that he would earn multiple All-America honors and possibly even multiple national titles.
A lot has happened to Marsteller in the intervening years — and much of it, unfortunately for him, was not good.
Some well-publicized off-the-mat problems, including some serious criminal issues, threatened to derail his collegiate career completely. His difficulties apparently were aggravated by substance-abuse woes.
Marsteller, however, has gone through rehab, paid his debt to society and has apparently gotten his life, and his wrestling career, back on track.
After struggling for a couple of years at Oklahoma State, Marsteller has found new life closer to home at Lock Haven.
All-American potential: Now, four years after leaving York County, Marsteller finally appears poised to fulfill the All-America potential that was long predicted for him.
If the latest Intermat national rankings hold true to form this week in Ohio, the redshirt junior will become a college All-American — at last. And even though Marsteller’s chances of winning a national title appear relatively remote, it is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Marsteller will enter action in the 165-pound class ranked No. 5 in the nation by Intermat. The top eight finishers in each weight class earn All-America recognition.
Seeded No. 9: The folks who did the seeding for the NCAA, however, were not as impressed with Marsteller’s 40-2 record thus far this season with the Bald Eagles. He is seeded No. 9 for the NCAA meet.
A 2-1 loss in the Eastern Wrestling League finals to Rider’s Chad Walsh likely hurt his seeding. Marsteller had beaten Walsh earlier in the season, 8-4. Walsh, a two-time All-American, is ranked No. 4 by Intermat and is seeded No. 4 by the NCAA. Walsh’s only loss in in 25 bouts this season came to Marsteller.
Marsteller’s NCAA debut comes Thursday morning against Indiana’s Bryce Martin, who is unseeded and has a 15-8 record. A win there will likely earn Marsteller a second-round match-up Thursday night vs. his former teammate at Oklahoma State, Chandler Rogers (20-3), who is seeded No. 8. That toss-up match could be a make-or-break contest if Marsteller wants to become an All-American.
A stacked class: The 165 class overall looks stacked. The top three seeds are Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez (14-0) at No. 1, Virginia Tech’s David McFadden (31-0) at No. 2 and Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph (20-2) at No. 3.
Martinez is a three-time All-American and won NCAA titles in 2015 and 2016 at 157 pounds. McFadden, of course, is unbeaten and is a former All-American. And Joseph is the defending champion at 165 after beating Martinez in last year’s title match.
If Marsteller can win his first two matches on Thursday, a quarterfinal showdown with Martinez on Friday morning is highly probable.
Surviving that gauntlet to win a national title would appear unlikely, but nothing is impossible when talking about a wrestler with as much experience and talent as Marsteller possesses.
Dripping with drama: Still, simply becoming an All-American this season would be a tremendous achievement for the former Ram, especially considering the self-inflicted trials and tribulations he has overcome to get to Cleveland.
It should be a fascinating drama to watch unfold over the next few days. Wrestling fans in York County and beyond will follow it intently.
They will all have one question in mind: Can the high school legend finally fulfill his All-America potential on college wrestling's biggest stage?
The answer will come in a few days.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.