Marsteller accomplished more than making a World Team

Updated: July 13, 2023

Photo: Once Chance Marsteller earned his first World Team berth, the former Lock Haven All-American spoke to the media on how he battled to overcome his addiction to opioids. (Justin Hoch photo)

By Tristan Warner

Chance Marsteller did a lot more than win a spot on Team USA and a trip to the World Championships when he downed one of the greatest American wrestlers of all time in Jordan Burroughs at the Final X event. 

Marsteller proved to the nation that no matter how far away from your goals you fall or no matter how many people may stop believing in you, there is always hope for a better future. 

That may sound cliché, and in no way do I mean to minimize the plight that so many people in America and around the world face every day when it comes to addiction, substance abuse or any sort of mental illness, but Marsteller himself hopes his winding path back to wrestling stardom can be an inspiration to others out there who are struggling. 

“I don’t just want a better life for my family, but I want a better life for my club kids, for the people that are suffering and those who went through the things I went through,” Marsteller commented. “I want to let somebody out there know that things are obtainable, and you can change your life.”

This column appeared in the late June issue of WIN Magazine. Click on the cover or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

Then Marsteller said something even more profound that really resonated with me and the field I work in. 

“I don’t know many people who were addicted to the things I was addicted to and were able to turn around and go make a World Team, but I wish if somebody out there would have been able to share that story with me, maybe I would have stopped sooner. Maybe I would have known it was obtainable sooner. So now, I want to share that for somebody else.”

I work in the field of alternative education for a company called River Rock Academy, which serves at-risk youth in central Pennsylvania. Ironically, River Rock actually serves the Kennard Dale School District, where Marsteller graduated from in 2014. 

As a behavior coach and safe crisis management coordinator, counseling and trying to help guide students through life’s difficulties is my daily pursuit. 

Many of the students I work with go through similar struggles as Marsteller has openly alluded to throughout his upbringing. 

Sadly, many are also troubled by the lack of support or resources to help get themselves on a straight path to a brighter future. 

And Marsteller’s story got me thinking that many of these students have simply never seen an example of someone they can relate to who has turned their life around and accomplished something great. 

Chance’s true triumph at Final X wasn’t simply about earning a spot on the Senior men’s freestyle World Team, though. Even if Chance would have been defeated by Burroughs, or never even qualified for the Final X showdown, for that matter, his success story was already written, especially as it pertains to the audience I work with every day. 

Thus, it wasn’t so much about the victory as it was about his journey.

His story is an example and a beacon of hope for others who may think the quest for a better life is fruitless, or to paraphrase Chance’s words, unattainable.

And the scope of people who can benefit from hearing his story exceeds far beyond just those who struggle with addiction.

Anyone who feels stuck in their present circumstances, feels they’ve been written off or labeled by their peers or thinks the odds of accomplishing a dream have become too far out of reach, there is always hope. 

This is the message we try to instill in our students each day despite the daily obstacles they face. 

And for Chance, one major positive influence that helped him find that path to turning his life around was his stepbrother, John Stefanowicz, a name that may sound familiar to the wrestling world. 

Stefanowicz, whose high school career achievements never spanned beyond the district tournament, remarkably became an Olympian on Team USA’s Greco-Roman roster at 87kg in 2020. 

The younger Chance, who won four PIAA AAA state titles and amassed a 166-0 record, cementing his legacy as perhaps the greatest prep wrestler in the storied history of the Keystone State, was elated but also found it hard to swallow as he watched his brother accomplish his own lifelong dream. 

“It was actually really tough for me,” Marsteller recalled. “I love my brother more than anything in the world, but it was hard to sit back and watch somebody else achieve everything I’ve wanted for so long. But my brother had been doing all the right things for so long, so I took notes out of his playbook.”

Now, with a pedestal and a following of his own to model the right paths to follow, Marsteller plans to be that example for his club kids at Steller Trained that his stepbrother has been for him. 

“When I look my club kids in the eyes and tell them what the right things are to do, I can have full faith in what I say. I can always rest my head on knowing what I am giving up is so someone else can have a better life.”

(Tristan Warner is a former PIAA finalist and three-time NCAA qualifier for Old Dominion. The two-time Elite 89 Award recipient and CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-American lives in Shippensburg, Pa.)