Having gotten married in August to his college sweetheart Emily, David Marone understands life can change in the blink of an eye. Important as that step was, it is not the moment that is presently most affecting his life. His life in the wrestling room, that is.
Marone is in the middle of something he never believed he would be at this point in his life -- a wrestling season. His highly successful career as Virginia Tech University's heavyweight was supposed to come to a close a year ago. But a split second in an early-season dual match last season changed everything for the former Broomfield High standout who was the Eagles' first two-time state champion.
One bad move at Ohio State halted a 5-0 start to Marone's senior year and it appeared to take his career to the mat.
"I was making an escape and when I got to my feet the guy did a move where he kicked out both of his legs in to the back of my knees," Marone said. "I had to forfeit to him due to the injury, even though I tried to come back into the match. After the match we pretty much knew my ACL was torn."
For a time, the injury and subsequent surgery -- the third of his college career -- had Marone certain his wrestling days were over. He took a part-time job, got engaged and figured he was going to move on to the next stage of his life.
Even when he found out he was eligible for a medical redshirt -- the second of his career -- he had reservations about taking it. His mind changed, however, when he went to watch the Hokies at the NCAA Division-I Wrestling Championships. Marone's trip to St. Louis convinced him he had enough gas in his tank for another run.
"After seeing that, I said I had to do it one more time," he said. "I talked with Emily about it. She had come with me to the championship. She understood I didn't want to leave anything on the table when it came to wrestling."
Marone's comeback has not been an easy one for more reasons than tackling family life and a master's degree at the same time. Given the time he had to invest into rehab, he was out of the wrestling room until September. And not hitting the regular season in tip-top shape has the two-time NCAA tourney qualifier off to his rockiest start of his college career.
So far the heavyweight is 1-4 on the season. But recently his coach has seen sparks of the prowess that nearly earned Marone All-American honors in the 2008-2009 season.
"Typically, with a knee injury a lot of it comes down to a confidence factor," Virginia Tech coach Kevin Dresser said. "But I've seen him turn a corner the past couple of weeks. He's had a go-for-it mentality."
Marone getting back into his groove has mainly been due to the heavyweight not being as protective of his body, he said. Letting himself hang loose in matches is important for the wrestler's success, given he is one of the smallest heavyweights in the county.
"I don't wrestle like most heavyweights, get involved with their kind of chess matches on the mat," he said. "I like to shoot more and wrestle and I feel like I'm falling back into that."
Even with his heavyweight having to overcome some obstacles to come back for one last romp, Dresser is pleased to have Marone on the Hokies' roster. As one of the first wrestlers the coach recruited in his seven-year tenure at Virginia Tech, Dresser believes Marone brings something special to the wrestling room.
"He is a great wrestler and kid," the coach said. "He's come back with three other seniors to provide the team a lot of leadership."
Injury or not, Marone still has his sights set as high as always. Not making nationals would be a big disappointment, he said. With that, he would like to earn All-American honors, which means breaking into the top eight at the NCAA tourney. But with time and challenges, Marone has gained some perspective and said his life won't be completely defined by what he does on the mat.
Really, even if he doesn't end up with a championship in his comeback year, Marone believes he has more than made a championship run with the Hokies.
"I've gotten two degrees, a great athletic experience and a wife out of it," he said. "I couldn't ask for more."
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