COLUMN By JOHN WALK
I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t conflicted while trying to figure out what to focus on for this week’s column.
Only because there are so many sports-related topics to choose from over the weekend.
I’m still disappointed the 2013-14 season for the York College women’s basketball season has come to an end so soon with Saturday’s upset 67-52 loss to visiting Baldwin Wallace (22-6) in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. This Spartans’ team, ranked No. 10 in D-III by d3hoops.com going into the weekend, was supposed to go further, at least in my mind. Then again, Baldwin Wallace likely faces a buzzsaw in the Sweet 16 against undefeated FDU-Florham (29-0), currently ranked No. 6 in the country. So who knows how much further York could’ve gone?
Easily the more upsetting news coming out of Saturday’s loss, though, was the freak injury sustained by point guard Aja Wallpher in the closing minutes of a game that was already pretty much over. Diving for a loose ball on the sidelines in front of the York bench with 1 minute and 14 seconds to play, Wallpher took a knee to the head from a Baldwin Wallace player and went down to the floor, where she stayed on her back motionless until paramedics arrived. Wallpher was still in York Hospital as of Sunday afternoon recovering from a serious concussion, according to her father.
Wallpher said after Friday’s opening-round tournament win she was playing on a torn meniscus in her left knee and had a sprained right wrist. She also has persistent lower-back pain that won’t subside until she’s done playing. And she’s previously recovered from surgery to her left knee back in high school. So if there’s anyone who’s strong enough to recover from an injury like the one Saturday, Wallpher would be the one to do it.
English: Then there’s the inspirational story of Central York grad James English, now competing for the top-ranked Penn State wrestling program.
English gathered 150 career wins for the Panthers and placed third at 145 pounds in the PIAA Class AAA Tournament his senior year back in 2008. Having missed large stretches of his college career with multiple injuries, English is the starting 149-pounder in his sixth year at Penn State.
Competing in the Big Ten championships over the weekend, English secured his first berth in the NCAA national tournament.
Marsteller: And, of course, Kennard-Dale senior Chance Marsteller finished out his incredible high school career by winning his fourth PIAA gold medal Saturday with a 14-2 major decision over Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior Kyle Coniker in the 170-pound title match.
Marsteller finished his prep career with a 166-0 record, the most wins among the three other four-time state champs who had a perfect high school record. The Rams’ wrestler revealed afterwards he sustained a stress fracture to his lower back at the sectional tournament about a month ago and he’s been fighting through the pain caused by the injury out on the mat ever since. For motivation to battle through the pain, Marsteller recalled Council Rock South’s Mark Rappo, who lost a kidney when he was younger, winning his second PIAA title in 2012 with a broken hand.
“As a wrestler I’ll never forget when Mark Rappo won his state title. He had his whole hand taped up. He had a completely broken hand. He had a kidney removed when he was younger,” Marsteller said. “So he had one kidney and a completely broken hand in the state finals of his senior year. If he can do that why can’t I do what I gotta do?”
A first-class act his entire wrestling career, Marsteller also reflected a little bit on why he felt it was important to use his stage as the state’s best wrestler to represent the sport in a respectable manner all these years.
“Honestly that’s just who I am. I can’t look at a little kid (asking for an autograph) and say ‘No.’ Even an adult. I can’t say ‘No’ to people,” Marsteller said. “I want people to like the sport of wrestling. I want it to be around forever. I love the sport and I want to help the sport.”
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.