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Robinson Solidifies Personal Identity After Unsteady Roots are Uncovered

2021 NCAA qualifier Marcus Robinson of Cleveland State (Photo/Cleveland State athletics)

Unlike many other sports, wrestling provides an equal opportunity to all youth, high school, collegiate, and elite-level athletes regardless of their age, size, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, familial structure, and various other factors. Those factors alone do not define an individual's success. What defines an individual's success in wrestling is a combination of speed, agility, technical skill, and unmatched physical and mental toughness, all of which are met by an intrinsic motivation within an individual.

Every time an individual steps out onto the mat, they carry with them invisible "baggage." Although it may not be seen by spectators, coaches, teammates, or opponents, that baggage still contains weight. For many individuals, that weight is significantly heavier than their opponents, affecting their identity on and off the mat. Ideally, that individual is hoping for an opportunity to successfully reach their final destination; obtaining the chance to empty their baggage by reducing the weight those constraints once held on their life.

Marcus Robinson, a redshirt sophomore at Cleveland State University, is no stranger to grappling with life's challenges and finding his identity in and through wrestling. Robinson was first introduced to the sport by his older cousin and friend; both of whom had a huge influence on him. They wrestled at a small club located in his hometown of Arkansas City, Kansas. Robinson said, "I wasn't very good at wrestling growing up, but I loved to train, and I wanted to see how far I could push myself." After years of focused training and pushing his body to unimaginable limits, Robinson told his dad, "I'm going to be the next four-time state champ, just watch." In response, his dad replied, "Son, let's just focus on making varsity first." After Robinson's four years at Arkansas City High School, he accomplished that once seemingly unattainable feat by becoming a four-time Kansas state champion, winning each title in a different weight class. In addition, he notched 177 career wins while also leading his high school team to a state championship. Robinson said, "I still remember that conversation with my dad today. Even if I feel like I don't have a lot left in the tank, that fuels me. It's something that has always grounded me back to my roots, and I continue to press forward."

Marcus at the Kansas state tournament (Photo/Marcus Robinson)

Robinson's roots haven't always been planted in solid ground. During high school, and amongst his most successful wrestling achievements where he was finally finding his identity, Robinson learned that he and his younger brother were adopted. Although this news would completely derail most 16-year old's, Robinson remained positive and carried this additional weight with pride. "My brother and I were adopted at a very young age; we were both babies. I feel like we were given a second chance, and the folks I have now are and will always be our parents. They raised us to be respectable young men and gave us a life we would not have otherwise had. When I found out, I felt that it served as motivation for me, not only in the wrestling room but in life. At times it was difficult to comprehend and talk about, but now I embrace it. It's part of my story. Especially now, I feel like I'm doing something that most people don't get the opportunity to do. I don't want to waste the opportunity, as I've always felt like I was going to do something bigger than myself. I just want to make my family proud," Robinson said.

Robinson added, "I want to give my little hometown of Arkansas City, Kansas hope. It doesn't matter where you come from; you can be different and still accomplish great things. Ultimately, that's my story. I'm different, and I'm proud of it. I hope that I can inspire and motivate those around me, especially with how I ended up, and the accomplishments I've had in my life thus far. Your story is your story and through a lot of hard work and dedication, you truly can do anything."

After grappling with this new information, Robinson set his sights on something more than himself. He wanted to become the first Division I athlete in his family. Robinson initially achieved that milestone by attending the University at Buffalo for two seasons, where he won over 40 combined bouts. Most notably, Robinson placed seventh at the MAC Championships in 2020 after winning three matches as an unseeded competitor. Robinson competed alongside teammates Bryan Lantry, Alex Smythe, Jason Estevez, Kyle Todrank, and Michael Petite; all of whom contributed to Robinson's success at the University at Buffalo. Robinson said, "Bryan Lantry was the guy I trained with every day. He brought out the competitor in me, telling me exactly what I needed to do and how I needed to do it to be the best wrestler possible. He really believed in me."

After two seasons at the University at Buffalo, Robinson set his sights on another Division I wrestling program located 197 miles away in Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland State University. Robinson shared, "I really loved the team, and I was close to the guys, but if I wanted a better shot at becoming an All-American, it wasn't there. I wasn't enjoying myself anymore and I wanted more for myself. I was underachieving at what I had originally set out to do, and I felt like I was getting held back. If I really wanted to do this thing the right way, Cleveland State was ultimately where I had to be."

Once in the transfer portal, Cleveland State's Head Coach, Joshua Moore, began to interest Robinson. When asked about the transfer process, Coach Moore said, "On our end, the first time I found out that Marcus was looking to leave Buffalo was when I saw his name pop up on the transfer portal. I remembered that Marcus wrestled Even Cheek (2018 EWL Champ) a few times that year, and they were both really good matches. From my few interactions, I could tell that Marcus was a competitor, well-mannered, had great sportsmanship, and was a very nice kid. I decided to ask another one of our guys, Justin Patrick, who also wrestled at Buffalo, about Marcus. He said that he was very quiet, humble, and a hard-working kid."

Moore went on to say, "I started calling Marcus late March, and it took him two or three months to commit. He really wanted to make the right choice by going to a place that was home for him. With Marcus being so far away from home, he wanted to make sure that he had a good connection with his coaches and teammates. Although he couldn't meet too many of the guys during the transfer process, Patrick essentially served as a familiar face and friend that Marcus needed to solidify his decision." Furthermore, "Through our conversations about wrestling, what we were doing at Cleveland State, our expectations, and a little bit about what being a husband and a father meant to us individually, I think he felt really comfortable with us as a coaching staff. Ultimately, I think that's why he decided to pick Cleveland State."

Luckily, only 197 miles separated Robinson from his girlfriend, Sydney, who supported him throughout the transfer process. Once again, Robinson was forced to revamp his identity after leaving behind one of the most influential factors in his support system. Robinson leaned on his girlfriend and her family for parental guidance due to being so far away from his hometown. Robinson said, "My folks back home, my family, and my girlfriend have all been important factors throughout my journey. They continue to motivate me to no end, and I am forever grateful for their influence on my life. Everything that I do is to make them proud, and hopefully get the most out of it for myself."

Marcus Robinson (Photo/Cleveland State athletics)

After making the move to Cleveland State, Robinson began to find his identity inside of the wrestling room and beyond. Robinson shared, "I didn't want to be just another guy at another big program. I wanted to be a part of something special. I always wanted to be a trailblazer and go somewhere where I could be a leader and make an impact. I wanted to have great coaches who could push us to that next level. I wanted to show that you don't have to go to a big school to win. You can win at these smaller schools. I wanted to be the guy, not just another guy. That's part of why I picked Cleveland State. It's an up-and-coming program and we're only getting better. Our coaches have proven they can wrestle, both of whom are NCAA finalists and multiple-time All-Americans. They know their stuff, and I fully believe in them and trust them."

Robinson continued, "At Cleveland State, I am one of the biggest leaders. Even at Buffalo, I was a leader. I didn't always understand or even ask for the role, but there's just something in me that warrants the guys to rally behind me. At Cleveland State, I've learned to be more vocal. I've previously let my actions show and do everything right. But now, I rally the team and pick up guys that are down. I've stepped out of my shell a little bit. At the end of the day, I want to be something special for my team. I have a lot of passion. I have a lot of fight. It's what drives me. I try to bring that out through my work ethic, how I live my life, and what I do on and off-campus, in and out of the wrestling room, and the classroom; everything I do."

Regarding Robinson's addition to Cleveland State, Coach Moore said, "Marcus is a very proactive kid. He is the guy that shows up early and sets the tone for practice. With this being the first year with him on our team, he was working his butt off every day. He was not only drilling every day to improve his own skills, but his teammates. He has taken a captain-like approach to help the guys he is competing alongside. He's showed them that there is another level that they could and should be working at." He went on to say, "We have seen a dedication in his academics as well. At Buffalo, he was a pretty good student, but he struggled a few semesters with an average GPA. At Cleveland State, after feeling comfortable and knowing what his mission was, he had two of the highest GPAs he has ever had. It shows that when a kid is doing well in a sport, academically, and socially, they can overcome adversity and do very well. As time has gone on, Marcus has become a vocal leader in the wrestling room. Everyone starts out as a leader by actions and working hard, but he slowly started to realize that he could have a bigger impact on the team and that he could influence them. He can be something bigger than himself."

Robinson has utilized his unsteady roots as a diving board for his success, never letting the extraneous weight hinder his progress. Looking forward to the future, Robinson hopes to train for the world and Olympic team once he graduates from Cleveland State. There is no doubt that Robinson's challenges thus far have given him the motivation needed to be a beacon of light to everyone he meets. Robinson stated, "If there are people out there like me, I want to give them hope. Hope that you can be different, and still strive to do what you want in life. You might not always know where you come from or your past life, but you can still accomplish your dreams and your goals."

2021 Adoption Facts and Figures

According to The Adoption Network
1 out of every 25 families in the United States have an adopted child.
1 out of every 50 children is adopted.
There are 1.5 million children adopted in the United States.
Each year, 140,000 children are adopted by American families.
6 out of every 10 Americans have had a personal experience and/or connection with adoption.

If you or someone you know is interested in adoption, please visit AdoptUSKids or call 1-888-200-4005.

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