Valley seniors Terrell Fields (left) and Marcus Davenport practice Monday, Dec. 16, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
Valley seniors Terrell Fields (above) and Marcus Davenport train together during practice on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013.
Kiski Area's Matt Siszka
Well into his junior year at Valley, Marcus Davenport heard his football and wrestling coaches tell him about the athletic potential stored within his lanky, 6-foot-2 frame, but he continued to pay little attention to his muscle development.
When Davenport, now a senior, reflects on his years of indifference, he's hit by waves of regret.
In the months leading up to his final year of athletics with the Vikings, Davenport wised up and committed to serious weight lifting. He realized the benefits of his efforts during football season when, with 30 additional pounds of muscle, he became a first-team All-Allegheny Conference force on the defensive line. His quest to test his newfound strength now centers on the wrestling mat, where he's capable of earning his way to a berth in the PIAA individual championships.
“It felt beautiful,” Davenport said of his transformation from a junior 160-pounder to a senior 195-pounder. “Everyone kept telling me that I could fill out my body, so I basically did what they told me. … In ninth and 10th grade, I was lazy about it.”
Even during his slim days, Davenport fared well as a wrestler. He won 14 bouts and placed fourth in Section 3-AA at 140 as a freshman. As a sophomore 152-pounder, he went 28-17 and reached the PIAA Southwest Regional tournament. Last season, competing in the 160-pound weight class, he went 27-12 and again advanced to the Southwest Regional round.
“He had a great shot as a 160-pounder, and he hasn't lost one ounce of speed or technique, so the upper weights definitely have to look out for him,” Valley coach Steven Ansani said. “He's a big kid now, and he feels good about that. On the mat, he's definitely come out of his shell. He's more aggressive and more tenacious.”
Davenport's development began just after his final loss as a junior. He started incorporating deadlifts and squats into his workout routine. He ate five meals a day. With Ansani's blessing, he did not wrestle in offseason freestyle tournaments and focused strictly on weight gain.
“It was easier than I thought it'd be,” said Davenport, who went from weighing 160 pounds to 200 in three months and maxed out at 215. “I was working out before, but I was basically working out to stay in shape. Then I started working out to put on muscle, so I added protein and all that to the process. … I loved the (powerlifting) because I always had all my football friends in the gym, and we were always pushing each other.”
Davenport's teammate and brother, senior Terrell Fields, encouraged the transformation, even as he witnessed his own dominance over Davenport, particularly in the wrestling practice room, diminish a bit.
“I feel like (weight gaining) was what he needed to do,” said Fields, a two-time WPIAL finalist and returning PIAA placewinner at 182 pounds. “Marcus has a good shot, but at 160, the kids are little quicker. At a heavier weight, I feel like with his shot, he can go pretty deep in the postseason.”
A possible match against Kittanning's Jacob Robb on Wednesday could indicate how much Davenport has improved. Robb, a sophomore who also wrestled at 160 last season, beat Davenport, 11-9, in December of 2012 and then topped him 8-6 in overtime in the Section 3-AA finals in February.
Fields and Davenport, who are under the guardianship of Davenport's older brother, Evon, dream of a season that ends with both on the medal stand in Hershey.
“I'm proud of what he's done,” Davenport said of Fields. “But I do hear it a lot: I'll be walking down the street and hear, ‘Oh, your brother is better than you.' That always got to me a little bit, but it wasn't enough to make me mad. But now that I'm up there, I want to surpass him in things.”
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