The contrast in the images could not be more stark.
Flash back to late August of 2016.
That’s when authorities released an unsettling mug shot of former Kennard-Dale High School wrestling phenom Chance Marsteller.
The photo showed a blank look in Marsteller’s eyes that could only be described as a “thousand-yard stare.”
That term was first used to describe the unfocused gaze of battle-weary soldiers. Its definition was later expanded to any victim of trauma.
At that point, there was little doubt that Marsteller had endured some serious trauma, almost entirely self-inflicted. It was eventually revealed that Marsteller was in the vise-like grip of a substance-abuse problem.
His substance-abuse issues had led to his arrest on charges that he exposed himself in public and then assaulted police officers during an incident at Lock Haven University.
At that point, Marsteller’s once wildly-promising wrestling career appeared in serious jeopardy.
A vastly different image: Now, flash forward 31 months to March of 2019 and an entirely different image.
Marsteller is standing on the floor of Pittsburgh’s packed PPG Paints Arena with his arm raised in victory as the applause from a standing ovation washes over him.
Marsteller had just completed a remarkable run through the consolation bracket of the NCAA Division I Championships, beating the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds at 165 pounds to capture a hard-earned third-place finish.
The capacity crowd was cheering Marsteller’s impressive performance on the mat. But they were also recognizing his even more impressive rebound from those dark days in the summer of 2016.
Ready to begin next step: Now, the two-time Lock Haven All-American appears ready to begin the next step in his wrestling career.
On April 5, the Lehigh Valley Wrestling Club announced an agreement with Marsteller to join the club as a resident/athlete and coach under coach Jeff Buxton. The LVWC is a Regional Olympic Training Center.
Even before the contract announcement, there was no doubt that Marsteller planned on continuing his wrestling career. He made that clear before and after his stirring 2019 NCAA performance.
The decision to join the highly-regarded Bethlehem club only cements that decision.
Big dreams: It’s long been known that Marsteller had big wrestling dreams. He enjoyed a legendary high school career at K-D which included four straight PIAA state championships and an unblemished 166-0 record.
When he left the Rams, he was considered by many the top prep wrestler in the nation. At that point, many expected that an Olympic gold medal was in his future.
He was called by some the “LeBron James of wrestling.”
College struggles: His college career, however, never quite lived up to his high-school hype.
He verbally committed to Penn State, but eventually changed his mind and opted for Oklahoma State. His career with the Cowboys never took off and he was eventually suspended from the team before transferring to Lock Haven.
Before wrestling a match for the Bald Eagles, he slammed head first into rock bottom with his August 2016 arrest.
Rebuilding his career: After that, he slowly began to rebuild his career. He completed a rehabilitation program and avoided jail time. He was sentenced to seven years of probation and ordered to perform 350 hours of community service.
He immediately began to serve as an assistant coach of K-D's junior high wrestling team – a role he'll continue, according to a news release issued by LVWC.
Marsteller is now a father of two and, according to the LVWC news release, credits his mother, Suzanne, his stepfather and his fiancée, Jenna Thomassy, as key support figures in his recovery.
Now that recovery will continue in the Lehigh Valley.
Olympic long shot: Marsteller’s Olympic dreams are slightly battered now, but still alive.
It will certainly not be easy. In fact, at this point, Marsteller must be considered a long shot for Olympic glory.
He finished fourth and third in the past two NCAA Championships, and the wrestlers who finished ahead of him almost certainly have Olympic dreams, too. And there are numerous other standout wrestlers in his weight class who have already left the college ranks and embarked on their Olympic journeys.
Still, Marsteller has always had an affinity for the freestyle wrestling used in the Olympics, as opposed to the folkstyle wrestling used by U.S. colleges and high schools.
Folks rooting for him: Still, no matter where his post-college wrestling career eventually takes him, Marsteller should know one thing.
He’ll have lots of folks rooting for him here in York County, in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
The cheers that rained down on him in Pittsburgh prove that beyond any doubt.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.