York, PA -
Far away from his farm, from his high school, from even that state title-winning weekend in Hershey, Chance Marsteller has found a place that truly fits.
The 15-year-old phenom wrestler from Kennard-Dale just spent a week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He didn't want to leave.
"It pretty much was home out there. It feels like somewhere I should always be," he said. "You pretty much eat, live, sleep wrestling. Everyone wants to be the best out there.
"I want to be the best."
Of course, he has a pretty good start.
He was 42-0 and, at least temporarily, became the heaviest freshman (152 pounds) to win a state title in Class AAA in the top wrestling state in the country -- ever.
But his goals always have been beyond even high school.
He wants national titles in college some day.
He wants the Olympics some day.
And this is the way to get there: He spent a week practicing, drilling and wrestling freestyle matches at the OTC, highlighted by a decisive victory against the top-ranked 152-pound wrestler in the nation, Minnesota senior Destin McCauley.
Marsteller didn't give up a point in the match.
"Destin's a really good kid," Marsteller said. "I beat him and we shook hands and 20 minutes later we were down in the café eating lunch side-by-side."
Marsteller also knows that wrestling experts rank him as low as fifth nationally in his weight class. He knows they consider him the top freshman in the country, regardless of weight.
He speaks about all of that calmly and thoughtfully, without much emotion. He's confident but well-liked among his peers.
He's a good student, he's humble, but he's also refreshingly honest and blunt in his wrestling assessments.
He'll tell you how the training level at the OTC can't compare to anything back here.
He says he doesn't truly look up to older wrestlers -- because he may have to compete against them one day. How can you beat them if you idolize them?
"I hate losing. ... I know any (wrestling) room I go into I'm going to be the best. I know I go as hard as anyone else wherever I'm at."
He even surprised himself by managing his weight well during his first high school season. If he grows from his current 5-foot-4, he figures to move up a weight class or two during the next three years.
He learns from his coach, who was a top-level wrestler. He learns from participating in the nation's best tournaments in the offseason, like the Fila Cadet Nationals in Akron, Ohio, in two weeks.
He learns from all of the kids he tutors and teaches.
He's learned that trying to win three more state titles is only a step to something more important.
And he's doing something about it.
He fit in at the Olympic Training Center because he was pushed and challenged and could feel himself improve. He wrestled men there that he couldn't beat.
He saw where he expects to end up.
It was exhilarating.
"I can't wait for summer," he said. "As soon as school is out, I'm going back out there."
The best way to build a perfect season into something even better.
Frank Bodani is a sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org