Two defeats, as odd as they were, are driving him more than any victory.

Sounds about right for Chance Marsteller.

The two-time defending state champion recently worked out with the Olympic wrestling team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Part of that was to prepare for the Cadet World Championships next week in Baku, Azerbaijan, formerly part of the Soviet Union -- his first international appearance.

At this point, Marsteller, a junior-to-be at Kennard-Dale, needs the competition and coaching at the OTC to keep improving. Even the best national tournaments for his age group won't do anymore.

He is not only undefeated but has been continually overpowering in his first two years of high school wrestling, in one of the top wrestling states in the country.

Not only is he widely considered the No. 1 wrestler nationally in his weight class, but FloWrestling calls him the nation's very best high school wrestler "pound for pound."

And here's what could help keep him at the top: Those two most unusual defeats this past spring.

Marsteller traveled to Wisconsin for a qualifying tournament for the Junior World Championships. There, he lost close matches to wrestlers from the University of Iowa and the University of Pennsylvania, which could be seen as a self-satisfying ordeal for most any 17-year-old.

Plus, he wrestled after missing a week of school with what he thought was "some kind of pneumonia."

They were the first matches, of any kind, he had lost in more than a year, maybe two.

"It definitely was a weird feeling not having my hand raised," he said. "I walked off the mat and it was complete disappointment, but I didn't let myself get down in the dumps.

"I'm disappointed I let myself go out there, as sick as I was. It's not an excuse, but it just wasn't me out there."

So he's used it as motivation.

To do more running. To jump rope longer. To work out harder wearing ankle weights.

To bring home an international title.

"I think it kind of put a fire back in his belly," said his father, Darren Marsteller. "It made him realize, 'I'm not the best and I can be beat.' It kind of reignited something there, that 'I do need to train, I can get beat, I'm not superman.'"

Actually, Chance Marsteller has always talked confidently but humbly. He began to gain state recognition and beyond in the eighth grade, maybe earlier.

And there really hasn't been any slowing down.

Early this summer he rolled through those Cadet Freestyle Nationals at 167 pounds, didn't give up so much as a point in his first six matches. That earned him a spot on the U.S. team in the upcoming world championships.

He leaves for the other side of the world on Friday. He returns a week later and jumps into school.

His junior wrestling season is less than three months away.

That is the immediate priority. But the Olympics are the true, long-range goal. He was disappointed that he was too young to even attempt to make this year's team in London.

He should be in prime shape for the next Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

And he probably will gain his best preparation by wrestling at the OTC. In his most recent trip there, "He was trying to tweak stuff against (the type of wrestlers) you can't take down and just do what you want with," his father said. "Most of the competition is 20 and over, and he did well. He didn't win them all, but he didn't get handled either. He hung with them."

Certainly, this four-year dream can only truly be constructed one day upon another, most of it with tireless, behind-the-scenes work.

But what will put him over the top are those precious moments in places like Wisconsin and Colorado.

Those few times when losing means so much more than winning ever could.

@YDRPennState; 771-2104