Volunteer Assistant Wrestling Coach Mark Marshall is “doing great” after going into cardiac arrest during practice at Seton Hill University.
“He’s walking and starting his rehab,” said Head Coach Brian Tucker. “Truthfully, he’s just bored. For him it’s a weird situation because he’s never one to just sit and relax. He’s trying to take it in stride and make sure things come naturally, and he’s not pushing himself like crazy. He’s walking about two miles everyday.”
Practice was taking place as “normal” on Sept. 26, according to Student Assistant Coach Ty Lydic, when Marshall was suddenly on his hands and knees.
“We looked over and knew something wasn’t right,” said Lydic. “At first I thought I was going to hop in with his partner and wrestle to just give him a break, thought he was tired. But the look of shock in his eyes, it was– he couldn’t breathe, you could tell.”
“Basically, he kind of hunched over looking to catch his breath, and we didn’t think anything of it,” said Tucker. “After tapping him a couple times, asking him what he needed, ‘are you okay?’, he wasn’t responding to me, and that’s when I had Ty call 911.”
Marshall, described as a “warrior” and “tough guy” by Lydic, underwent triple bypass surgery Thursday, Sept. 28 at Excela Westmoreland. Marshall was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 2012. He does plan to return, but will not be wrestling on the mat. Instead, his focus will be more from the teaching side of coaching and instruction.
“I’m ready to get on with normalcy,” said Tucker. “Even though it’s a severe surgery, in our minds it was going to be a positive, just because of the shape he’s in. We’ve heard of people in a much different physical place and going through that process. It was expected that Marshall was going to come out of that surgery and be fine.”
Marshall also participated in the Coach Kristina Quigley 5k on Sept. 30, held by the women’s lacrosse team and the SHU communication program’s Coach Quigley Project.
“I can’t imagine what his mentality was to go through it,” said Lydic. “The biggest shock that I think I felt was knowing that he lives a clean, right lifestyle. He eats well, he takes care of his body, he works out twice a day. However, it’s all genetic. It was a condition that was out of his control.”
When the team knew he was going to recover, they felt “relief.”
“Not going to lie, it was tough the first couple of days,” said Tucker. “I came and checked on people that night, even to make sure that they were doing alright. The next day we had a quick meeting, but we also had counseling services come in and just speak and really just kind of let them know that this is not unusual, that there is going to be a process in how you respond to this.”
Marshall was training an underclassman when he collapsed. Tucker ran over, tapped Marshall on his back and flipped him onto his side, while Lydic called 911. Freshman wrestler Joe Miller and Tucker, who are certified, began administering CPR.
Jordan Blair, the head athletic trainer at SHU, was also called from the soccer fields for the automated external defibrillator. There was no AED in the building. Blair was “there within five minutes.” The AED administered two rounds of shocks to Marshall, whose heart was out of rhythm. Emergency services arrived “shortly after.”
“By then, we started to get some response,” said Tanner Druck, a volunteer assistant coach. Lydic handed his phone to Druck so that he could help with CPR.
“I was talking to the operator. I told them on the phone where we were, because we’re kind of off the grid down there,” said Druck. “I was in shock, going through the motions. We were all doing what we had to do.”
“As soon as I realized how serious things were, I got all the guys because they were still working out and they were all over the room. It was chaos in there,” said Brett Smith, assistant coach. He took everyone out into the parking lot.
“At that point, the guys were starting to get a little bit panicked,” said Smith. “We all felt like we should be doing something, but there wasn’t much we could do. We tried to figure out the best way we could help from outside, and that was blocking traffic off so Jordan could get down the Hill.”
The team lined up across College Avenue to direct traffic. Blair was able to easily cross the road on his golf cart to the wrestling building. Smith and team members also propped open all the doors and moved gear out of the way so emergency services could get in as quickly as possible.
“I felt I needed to be as relaxed as possible to keep them from being too panicked when we got outside,” said Smith. “It was difficult, but we just tried to give them a goal to focus on so they wouldn’t sit there worrying. They did really well; they were super organized, came together and communicated well.”
“We were all proud of ourselves to be able to overcome a situation like that,” said Druck. “We were happy that he was healthy.”
One of the wrestling team’s mottos is “the control which you can control” and leadership, as well as coordinating effectively. “To really see all those skills translate into a situation that was life or death was really cool to see,” said Smith.
“I think from a team aspect, I’m not sure it’s really set in yet, what was accomplished,” said Tucker. “I think it’s something everyone kind of knows, but I don’t think it will ever be something we realize how great it actually was. Because I think this culture that we built is just one that has become an expectation in that situation– the leadership roles and the leadership traits that everyone possesses go on display at any time period, whether it be a crazy situation like this, or just a local night hanging out.”
“It was awesome to see and think that as to how those qualities played out and to how everyone responded,” said Tucker. “I’m sure we’re going to see that it’s brought us closer together. It might be something that we look at down the road and say ‘wow, three months ago we were in a much different situation than we are now’ due to this event occurring.”