Former four-time PIAA wrestling champion Chance Marsteller hopes to return to Lock Haven University and college wrestling. During this Jan. 5 interview, he talks about his work as a volunteer coach with the Kennard-Dale junior high wrestling team. (Chris Dunn/GameTimePA.com)
Chance Marsteller, one of the greatest athletes to come out of York County, hit rock bottom last summer.
He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and related offenses after an off-campus incident at Lock Haven University in August. He was subsequently kicked out of the school. He returned to Fawn Grove, where he will forever be remembered as the state’s premier high school wrestler.
Yet Marsteller has unfinished business: Now, he’s coaching as a volunteer assistant with junior high wrestlers in his hometown. He says he’s been through rehab. Undeterred by his past struggles, Marsteller said he plans to try to get back into Lock Haven and back onto the wrestling team there.
The road back includes a scheduled court appearance Jan. 19 in Lock Haven.
“If everything goes well in court, hopefully I’m back in school this coming semester,” Marsteller said Thursday at Kennard-Dale High School, where he had just finished coaching the Rams junior high wrestling team in a dual meet against West York.
Marsteller said he's had communication with Lock Haven wrestling coach Scott Moore about a possible return to the school's wrestling team. Marsteller said that, while his goal is to return to the school this spring, he would then have to prove himself in hopes of rejoining the wrestling team for the 2017-18 academic year.
Moore had no comment on Marsteller’s possible return to the program, according to Lock Haven Director of Athletic Communications Doug Spatafore.
Marsteller said he plans on paying his dues if it means he can rejoin the university and wrestling program.
“I’m going to be coming back, paying my way back. I gotta dot my I’s, cross my T’s and do everything right before they’re going to allow me back on the team," Marsteller said. "I’ve got to show them that this is what I really want to do. Which it is.”
The alleged incident happened the night of Aug. 25. Marsteller was accused of kicking, spitting and biting at police officers after they were called to an apartment complex near Lock Haven University. According to court documents, Marsteller had a blood alcohol content that was more than three times the legal limit, and also had marijuana and cocaine in his system.
Marsteller returned to Fawn Grove shortly thereafter, and said he completed rehab. Marsteller said he went to treatment for a month, followed by intensive out-patient rehab for two months. He said once he completes the court process, he could have to re-enter rehab and go through more treatment.
Coaching junior high wrestling
In the meantime, Marsteller is back in his hometown coaching youth wrestlers.
Marsteller said before wrestling season, Kennard-Dale athletic director Gary McChalicher and Supt. Rona C. Kaufmann called him and asked if he’d be willing to join the junior high program as a volunteer assistant coach.
The program was in search of coaches, Marsteller said. In turn, he added, he needed an outlet.
“It was like….what I was looking for,” he said. “It was something to do with my life. I’m not the typical go to your eight-to-five job every day. I’m still competing, is the thing. I’m not done and I want to continue my career.”
Kaufmann said the wrestlers' parents asked for Marsteller to coach, and the school board approved.
Marsteller works under the direction of head coach Josh Clark. Kaufmann added Marsteller's under "full supervision of the staff at all times," and that the program is "delighted to have him."
As a member of the Kennard-Dale wrestling program, Marsteller was known as a good mentor for younger teammates. It appears that characteristic has carried over to his newest position.
"All the younger kids look up to him," said Pat Scarborough, a former high school teammate of Marsteller. "He speaks, they listen."
During a Thursday dual meet at Kennard-Dale High School, Marsteller worked closely with his wrestlers on the sidelines and encouraged them in the heat of competition.
"Look at him. Basically says it all," said Adam Arnold, watching from the top row of bleachers as Marsteller gestured on the gym floor toward the athletes. "He's trying to psyche them up. He's an excellent technician coach."
Arnold said his son and Marsteller worked together on the wrestling mat when Chance was in high school.
"He's volunteering his time for these kids. Not getting paid. If anything, it's costing him money," Arnold said.
Tad Harbert is the first year head coach of the Rams' varsity wrestling program. Still, he brings experience to the position – Harbert spent 15 years coaching at Greater Latrobe High School in western Pennsylvania, the past four as head coach. He led Greater Latrobe to a state runner-up appearance in 2014 and his teams competed against Marsteller when Chance was a four-time state champion at Kennard-Dale.
"He knows more wrestling than a lot of head coaches have probably forgotten," Harbert said.
Harbert said he wouldn't be surprised to see Marsteller coaching college wrestling one day. Marsteller concurred, saying he’d “love” to eventually coach on that level.
He then added: “If I want to do what I want to do with the rest of my life, I have to finish school.”
Marsteller hopes that includes wrestling on the Division I college level as well.
“I see myself graduating college, still pursuing my Junior Olympic Gold medal,” he said. “It hasn’t stopped.”
Said Harbert: "I've been around him and I know what elite athletes want. He wants to be on the podium."
At Oklahoma State
Marsteller transferred to Lock Haven following two years of unfulfilled promise at Oklahoma State University.
He was an all-time great at Kennard-Dale — a four-time PIAA wrestling champion and undefeated during his high school wrestling career with a 166-0 record. The 166 career victories are the most accumulated by an unbeaten wrestler in Pennsylvania history.
Marsteller was named USA Today High School Sports National Wrestler of the Year in 2014. He was the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country.
But the ride was rough in Stillwater. Marsteller was asked to drop considerable weight — from 170 pounds his senior year at Kennard-Dale to 157 pounds in college. He redshirted his first year with the Cowboys, then went 6-5 with one pin and two technical falls before being suspended from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules in January of 2016. Four months later, he transferred to Lock Haven.
“Everyone thinks I was kicked off…It was my choice to leave and come home. I want to make that clear," Marsteller said. "But besides that, coach (John) Smith is a great guy. We had a good relationship. It just wasn’t a great fit for me and I found that out.”
Marsteller said his love for the sport took a hit at his first college stop. He said he felt out of place in Oklahoma, and things were further strained when he was forced to cut weight.
“That’s when it really became tough," he said. "It was more of a body out there than the mind. And I started realizing after that I was purely only here for the wrestling. Which I’m starting to lose. And I have no love for life.”
On to Lock Haven
Three months after transferring to Lock Haven, Marsteller had his run-in with authorities.
On Aug. 25, Marsteller bit and spit at police officers after he was banging on apartment doors while wearing only a towel, according to the Lock Haven Police Department. He was dismissed from the wrestling team as a result of the allegations.
He was charged with six counts of aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, disorderly conduct/fighting, six counts of recklessly endangering another, six counts of simple assault and one count of open lewdness, according to court documents.
Days following the alleged incident, Marsteller posted a $50,000 bail and came home.
"Sometimes it takes a person to break everything down to build yourself back up," Scarborough, the former high school teammate, said.
Marsteller acknowledged he hasn't given himself "the best chance there is to win."
"I've had a lot of ups and downs with school....Getting in trouble. I haven't exactly given myself the best training situation."
Marsteller was asked what he's learned in recent months.
“I learned a lot. I learned more than anything about myself. I learned how to deal with my problems a lot better. I keep using the word tough. I learned life’s tough, we have to be tough and we have to continue to get back up when I make mistakes. And to right my wrongs. Not make the same mistakes again. I never thought of myself as a cocky person, but with my actions I’ve definitely realized I have to humble myself a little bit more. There’s no exceptions for me.”