Matt Marbach recalled a visit from his brothers as he recovered in the hospital a little more than five years ago.
The new wing of the hospital had rooms complete with a video game system so Marbach, and his brothers, Wes and Tony, played a game of video football.
“Before we started playing I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how this is going to work, but I guess we’ll have to give it a shot,’ ” Marbach said. “I was able to end up beating them. You just have to have the attitude that you want to keep getting better.”
The simple video game contest was indicative of the determination and spirit Marbach has displayed since losing his left arm in a farming accident five years ago last August. The West Delaware sophomore hasn’t let the accident slow his daily life or participation as a wrestler and baseball player for the Hawks.
Marbach had his dominant arm torn off at the shoulder, helping family mix feed for steers. He was adding minerals to the mixture when his arm was got caught in the auger. It happened so quick Marbach was unsure if the mineral bag was tied up in the machine and pulled him in or if he dropped the bag in and instinctively reached to grab it.
“It ripped it off,” Marbach said. “It happened so fast it didn’t hurt too bad. It didn’t really bleed a whole lot either.”
As a result, Marbach spent 15 days in the hospital, including an extended stay at the University of Iowa Hospital. He displayed a positive attitude immediately, especially when his mother, Nancy, arrived at the hospital the night of the accident.
“I just told her I’ll be all right. Don’t worry about it,” Marbach said. “I think it’s more just a thing where it came to me. I just knew I had to take it to heart and keep going with it.”
He kept going and helped his family cope with the incident. Marbach remained positive as he relearned daily life skills since his left was his dominant hand. Self-pity was never an issue.
“He carried us because of his attitude,” said Jerry Marbach, Matt’s father. “It’s never a ‘Why me?’ or ‘What am I going to do now?’ He just picked up the ball and ran with it.”
He literally did it as well as he started to developed his abilities with his right hand. Marbach, 16, a first baseman at West Delaware, picked up a ball and started learning to throw with his other hand, playing catch with his dad in an early visit to a rehab room. It was an example of how he meets challenges head on.
“We worked on it a little every day just like everything else,” Jerry Marbach said. “Same thing with his penmanship. Some of the nurses looked at him and said you’re writing better already then some of the doctors do.”
Marbach works bottling water, lugging around 5-gallon jugs. Jerry Marbach said his sons co-workers are in awe of his abilities. Marbach admits things aren’t easy but persevering is a must. Even if it means tying your work boots with your teeth.
“Sometimes you think I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do this but you just have to find your way,” Marbach said. “I just have to make the most with what I’ve got.”
He also likes to make light of what he has, as well. Marbach said he prefers his situation be treated as normal. He even endures some good-natured ribbing about missing an arm, and he’s quick to return razzing to friends. He has even made jokes at his own expense.
During a ski trip, Marbach wiped out while going down the slope. When the ski patrol asked if everything was fine, Marbach said he felt good, but he couldn’t seem to find his arm anywhere.
“I like to joke around and have a good time,” Marbach said. “That’s the way I’ve learned to handle it, with some jokes and joke around with other people.”
Marbach, who wrestles 130 pounds for the Hawks, is no joke to his coaches and teammates. He serves as inspiration, letting his work during practice stand as an example for others. Voss said he gains perspective during a bad day when he sees Marbach’s effort.
“If sometimes my day isn’t going so well I think about what this kid has gone through he’s in there working his tail off, trying to get better and not complaining about it,” said Voss, who coached Marbach’s brother Tony also. “Basically just moving on with his life after dealing with his adversity. Then if I’m having a rough day I think I need to work through it, too.”
A physical obstacle may occur while in practice, but Marbach doesn’t get sidelined for long. His work ethic and ability to meet a challenge keeps him active.
“He always keeps working,” drilling partner and teammate Reilly Ryan said. “Even when he can’t do something he’s always doing something else. He never stops.”
Marbach is always quick to ask questions and attempts to adapt moves and holds to what he can do with his right arm. He credits the coaches for teaching him alternative moves. Marbach strives for constant improvement.
“He always tries different ways he can do (moves) and make them better for him,” Ryan said. “He’s always asking questions about that. He always wants to know what’s the best way to do it for him.”
Wrestlers list goals at the start of the season. They serve as a checklist for development throughout the season. Marbach is no different, but West Delaware assistant coach Scott Litterer, who works closely with Marbach, said they are realistic.
“He wants to work up to his potential,” Litterer said. “He wants to be a part of the team, get better and compete.
“He just goes about his business. He’s a great kid to have on the team. I’m glad he’s doing it.”
Marbach has competed and claimed a victory against varsity competition. It was a satisfying feat that reinforces the idea he can do anything with hard work and patience.
“I was proud of myself that I can compete and succeed at the varsity level with some schools,” Marbach said. “It kind of goes to show that if you work for it it will come through for you. Sometimes it takes longer than when you want it to but if you keep working at it it will come.”
Marbach was approached by youths at a meet against Solon, inquiring about how he wrestles with one arm. He said it’s tough to explain to youngsters but he showed them by winning.
“Some of those kids came over to me after the match,” Marbach said. “They all had smiles on their faces. They were impressed by how I did it and how I did succeed.”
Marbach noted former West Delaware wrestler and current Benton Community head coach T.J. Murphy and motivational Speaker Ron Gustafson as key influences. Murphy, who is missing part of his arm, almost made it to state one year for the Hawks, and visited Marbach in the hospital, offering any help or advice. Gustafson, a native of Lyons, Neb., lost an arm and almost lost a leg in a farm accident at age 9 before playing high school football, basketball and baseball. Gustafson’s name graces the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame’s Inspiration Award. Matt owns one of his motivational videos.
“Awhile back he pulled that tape out and watched it,” Jerry Marbach said. “Everybody has their role models in life. I’m sure that’s helped him.”
Marbach is willing to do the same for others. He acknowledges he could be a role model, even though he doesn’t speak of himself that way. Marbach is willing to provide help to anyone who is dealing with a similar situation in life.
Marbach’s message is simple and applies to everyone. He displayed it when he picked up the video game controller to take on his brothers.
“Attitude is everything,” Marbach said. “It can happen to you and when it does happen you have to be ready for it and take it with all you’ve got and give it all you got and keep on moving forward. Have the attitude you can keep doing it and move on.”