IOWA CITY — Determined opponents are not the only battles Montell Marion wages midway through his senior season on the Iowa wrestling team.
On a weekend when the Hawkeyes will attempt to break an NCAA record that has stood for 46 years, Iowa’s 141-pounder continues to work to overcome past discretions and complete his college career by competing to his capabilities.
“This is my last chance, and I’m not forgetting that any day I step on the mat,” Marion said. “It’s up to me to do with it the best I can.”
Marion brings a 14-1 record into competition this weekend for top-ranked Iowa, which takes a string of 83 consecutive duals without a loss to Indiana tonight.
The Hawkeyes would have a chance to break the record of 84 set by Oklahoma State between 1959-66 on Saturday, when second-ranked Oklahoma State visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7 p.m.
Oklahoma State ended a 69-match winning streak by Iowa a year ago when the teams wrestled to a 15-15 tie.
Marion did not compete in that dual. He had been removed from the team in May, 2010, after his arrest on driving-under-the-influence charges.
Before being reinstated, Marion completed an alcohol treatment program, improved his grades and performed community service.
He returned to competition last January and earned all-America honors for the second time in his career with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Marion won his first 14 matches this season before dropping a 5-3 decision to third-rated Kendrick Maple of Oklahoma in the 141-pound title match at the Midlands Championships last week.
A December arrest on charges of driving while barred has been handled within the guidelines of the Iowa student-athlete code of conduct, and Marion’s focus remains on the big picture.
“The goals I am trying to attain this season are set high as always, but I’ve set them in part to let the people who have been backing me know that their support hasn’t been for nothing,” Marion said.
Marion said he has made some “social changes” in his life over the past year, and he has used wrestling as his motivation.
“Everything is centered around what I am trying to do in the wrestling room, what I am trying to accomplish,” he said.
Those changes have not gone unnoticed.
“We have had some guys who have had to work through some demons, some problems, and they have found solutions,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “I am proud of that. Marion has made changes in his lifestyle that will serve him well not only now, but into the future.”
The Des Moines native understands that now more than ever.
He said his father, Lydell Marion, has played a major role in helping him refocus his life and career.
“When I’ve needed help, he’s always been there for me no matter what,” Montell said. “When it looked like I wasn’t going to be here any more, he was there for me. He helped support me, encouraged me to work through things and gave me the strength and confidence to believe that things would work out.”
That support provided Marion with the motivation he needed to forge ahead.
At last year’s Hawkeyes awards banquet, Marion received the Mike McGivern Award as the program’s most courageous wrestler.
He takes that recognition seriously and lives those ideals as his final season at Iowa nears its midpoint.
“Every time I take the mat, I’m taking it with the idea that I have something to prove,” Marion said. “I’ve always been pretty intense when I compete. The fire I have comes from the heart and wrestling isn’t just a sport to me, it’s my life and I am determined to make the most I can out of it.”
Olympians at Hawkeye meet
To promote the 2012 United States Olympic Trials to be held in April at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, six former Iowa wrestlers and past Olympians will sign autographs prior to the Hawkeyes’ dual Saturday with Oklahoma State.
Ed Banach, Lou Banach, Lincoln McIlravy, Randy Lewis, Joe Williams and Chuck Yagla, will be available near the South entrance beginning at 5:30 p.m.