Hunt: Chance Marsteller is simply the greatest of all time
I like GOAT.
No, not the farm animal, although I did have braised goat one time in Washington, D.C., and it was mighty tasty.
I'm referring to one of my two current favorite acronyms.
GOAT — Greatest of All Time.
(By the way, my other fav is POTUS — President of the United States.)
After this weekend, GOAT has even more significance since I have to wonder if the state of Pennsylvania has just seen its GOAT for scholastic wrestling in Chance Marsteller.
I believe Chance is the greatest wrestler we have ever seen at the scholastic level and that is said with the utmost respect to all the other phenomenal grapplers this state has produced, many of which I've been lucky enough to see up close and personal from press row since 1990.
This opinion is based on what has transpired both on and off the mat.
On the mat, it is obvious he has something special. Just ask Garrett Peppelman, the Central Dauphin star who earned his second PIAA championship Saturday evening one match before Chance wrestled his final scholastic match.
"He has a maturity of thinking in the sport that goes beyond everyone else. He sees things other kids don't," said Peppelman, a four-time state medalist. "He's just phenomenal."
The numbers tell just how phenomenal – 166 victories, zero losses, four PIAA championships. He's of just 12 wrestlers to win four state titles in the 77 years of the state tournament.
The Ram senior was only the fifth wrestler in state history to go undefeated and win four state gold medals. The only other one that has come in the last 50 years is Jefferson-Morgan's Cary Kolat.
Kolat, who coached Chance when he was younger, is the wrestler everyone wants to compare to the Oklahoma State-bound wrestler — and rightfully so.
From 1989-1992, Kolat went 137-0 in winning four Pennsylvania crowns.
One of things people will point to as a negative for the two-time NCAA champ is the fact he competed at the Class AA level. Naturally, that is somewhat skewed because the 2000 Olympian was not limited to small school competition the whole time, just in the postseason.
There is also another small incident that counts in the minus column for Kolat, who works as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina.
During one state tournament, Kolat was ridden by a wrestler for an entire period, bringing the Hersheypark Arena crowd to its feet in admiration of the accomplishment.
Not one of Marsteller's opponents ever got close to riding him for two minutes.
Not Peppelman, renown for his work from the top position. Not Central Mountain's Brian Brill, a state champion Marsteller beat to win a state championship during his sophomore season. Not even Cody Wiercioch, the three-time PIAA champion who gave Marsteller the closest match of his career, a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker decision by Marsteller in the 170-pound final of the 2012 Powerade Christmas Wrestling tournament. All five points were escapes.
The place Marsteller separates himself in off mat.
To be that good on the mat, an intense internal drive must be present, many times turning into a one-track mind.
While that drive exists in Chance, he has never allowed it to overshadow his outgoing personality. And it isn't an act.
"That's just who I am," said the Oklahoma State-bound wrestler. "I can't look at a little kid and say 'no' or even to an adult.
"I want people to love the sport of wrestling."
That approach to the sport is another link back to his former coach according to longtime wrestling writer Rod Frisco.
"Chance never failed to make himself available to the ones who attested the most — the young fans and future wrestlers who were as fascinated by his ability as we were," said Frisco. "In that sense, he was a virtual clone of Cary Kolat, who one time simply gave his wrestling shoes to an adoring youngster."
And the state tournament, notoriously big underdog supporters, never wavered in the support and appreciation of a unique talent, giving him probably the single longest and loudest ovation I've ever seen in the 25 years of state tournaments I have attended as a media member.
For myself and all those people who may never get the opportunity, there's just one more thing to say thanks.
Tom Hunt is a high school wrestling correspondent for GameTimePA.com.