By Michelle Gardner
RANCHO CUCAMONGA – One wouldn’t blame Marcus Austin if he were a
little bitter. The former Etiwanda High School standout was 47-1 as a
senior and about to finish off a wrestling match that would have
qualified him for the prestigious state championship meet.
Then the unthinkable – his left knee buckled. He knew it was bad.
“The first time I tried to stand up, I couldn’t. It just wasn’t
happening,” he recalled.
Not only was Austin’s dream of a state championship gone. So was
the possibility of an athletic scholarship. Now all he had to look
forward to was surgery and several grueling months of physical
therapy. Instead of sulking about it, he took it in stride.
“Stuff happens,” he said. “You can’t worry about it. You have
to move on. It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful in whatever else
So Austin, a 6-foot-1, 285-pounder, is appreciative of another
chance to compete. Sixteen months later he is back on the playing
field as a freshman defensive tackle at Chaffey College which opens
the 2008 campaign at 6 p.m. Saturday against Mt. San Jacinto at
Austin, 19, says he took his cue from Dan Doughty, an assistant
wrestling coach at Etiwanda who suffered a less severe knee injury
during the district finals in Washington his senior year. He is part
of the reason Austin says he would like to pursue coaching or
teaching when his competitive days are over.
“I look at him and he is a good coach and he is successful in life
and has a great family,” Austin said. “There is life after sports.
That’s why you have to have something to fall back on. Just in case.”
“His actually was a lot worse than mine. It was reeally bad,”
Doughty said. “He had another knee injury two years before that and
came back. He has always been one of the most positive and upbeat
kids with a can-do attitude. So I had no doubt that he could come
Austin spent his first football season on the freshman team but
was a three-year varsity starter after that. He was encouraged to
wrestle to keep in shape by Larry Cuthbert, the Eagles defensive
coordinator and the school’s head wrestling coach. He starred for
four years in that sport in the heavyweight division.
That he excels in sports should be no surprise. Father Derrick
played football growing up in Alabama while mother Patty played on
the boys water polo team at Walnut High School and went on to compete
in track at Mt. SAC, excelling in the heptathlon.
Marcus considered other local schools including Mt. SAC but felt
most comfortable at Chaffey because of the coaching staff. He
attended all the home games last season, even though he couldn’t play
but was healthy enough to take part in all the spring drills. He was
a little apprehensive at first but that didn’t hold him back long.
“When you’re worried about getting hurt, that’s usually when you
get hurt,” he said. “You can’t let that hold you back.”
The ironies of Austin’s wrestling injury are many. The athlete
he was wrestling in that match happened to be David Williams of
Miller, who ended up finishing fourth in the state. He now lines up
next to Austin on the defensive front.
Beach was at that Masters meet at Carter High School. He was one
of many coaches hoping to land Austin who was also being courted by
several four-year schools. But the injury secured Beach’s chances of
keeping the two-sport standout close to home.
“Coming off an injury like that, no one was going to touch
him,” Beach said. “He is going to have to go out this season and
show he is completely healthy. If he does that, he’ll have another
shot because he has potential.”
Beach has been most impressed with Austin’s goal-oriented attitude.
“He has a good head on his shoulders,” Beach said. “He’s not
one of those kids putting all his eggs in one basket. He has done a
good job developing other life skills.”