LHU’s Marsteller put on a show Friday night

The exhaustion had settled into Chance Marsteller’s eyes. It wasn’t the fatigue of a wrestler who had just gone seven grueling minutes, though. It was much more than that.

The Lock Haven 165-pounder had been through a grinder before he ever stepped foot on the mat Friday night against 12th-ranked Rutgers. And after one of the most exhilarating nights in the program’s recent history, Marsteller harbored his excitement as weariness overtook his body.

Less than a week prior, Marsteller watched the birth of his son, Cannon. He spent the better part of the week traveling back and forth from Lock Haven to the hospital, first to Williamsport and then to Geisinger in Danville, after there were some complications.

Marsteller couldn’t hide his excitement Friday night in declaring both the mother and son are doing well and both were in attendance for his debut at Lock Haven’s Thomas Fieldhouse. And then there was a deep breath.

“Everything is good,” he said. “God is good.”

Fans at Lock Haven had waited a long time for the opportunity to see Marsteller wrestle up close. He was one of a handful of Division I transfers to Lock Haven in the spring of 2016 which seemed like they would help coach Scott Moore take the program to the next step of its development.

But he missed all last season after he was arrested in August on a multitude of charges stemming from a drug and alcohol-induced rampage on police officers and hospital workers. Since then, Marsteller voluntarily admitted himself to a rehab facility, he re-enrolled in Lock Haven in the spring, and was sentenced to seven years probation (among other penalties) stemming from that August arrest.

Friday night he won his 12th match of the season, but it was his first in front of his home fans. And if you just sat back and watched his 165-pound tilt against Rutgers’ John Van Brill, you could see what made Marsteller the top recruit in the country coming out of Kennard-Dale High School in 2014.

There was the quick-as-a-cat fireman’s carry he hit for his first takedown. There was the pure strength he used to drive Van Brill to the edge before grabbing a knee and securing another takedown. Then there was the superior technique, shooting a high crotch for a takedown and in the process trapping an arm so he could roll Van Brill to his back for a pair of near-fall points.

To call it vintage Marsteller would be unfair. He’s just scratching the surface of vintage Marsteller. After his major decision win over a returning NCAA qualifier, Marsteller was focused on what he could have done better.

“I didn’t feel like I was at my best, but I did what I could for the team. I got some bonus, but I would have liked to have gotten a little more,” Marsteller said. “That’s just how I am. I’m real critical of myself. But I think I still had some pop (Friday night), and that’s what people want to see, and that’s what I want to see in myself.”

Marsteller racked up more than three minutes of riding time Friday. He dominated maybe his best competition of the season in two of the three facets of the sport. And the only reason he didn’t win the bottom game is because he never was on bottom. Instead, with an 8-2 lead to start the third period, he chose neutral, forcing Van Brill to win the bout on his feet if he was going to make a comeback.

He didn’t. Marsteller won, 11-3, in a bout which wasn’t that close. Marsteller was still charging at the end of the third period, still trying to make things happen. Never once during the seven-minute grind did he look like a wrestler who spent the week traveling back and forth to the hospital. Never once did he look like a wrestler who was tired.

He looked like Marsteller.

“I thought he looked really well. I’m a fan of his,” Rutgers coach Scott Goodale said. “I’m glad to see he’s back wrestling. I’m glad to see Lock Haven welcomed him with open arms. He’s a good kid. I’d like to see him do well.”

More than anything, Marsteller looked healthy Friday night. Even if he was wrought with exhaustion, he put on a show. It’s the kind of show which has him ranked 10th in the country after the first month of the season. It’s the kind of show college wrestling fans have waited a long time to see, and one he was happy to provide.

“He’s been through a lot, even in this last week alone,” Moore said. “To step on the mat and put that much effort out, he’s definitely special.”

Mitch Rupert covers wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Rupert.