The Marshall Plan

After serving time in jail, former MHS state champion finds his road to redemption leads to obscure Kentucky college…

Tony DeLotell | Staff WriterIn 2005, Mason High School graduate Zach Marshall won the state championship in wrestling and achieved a record that he will never forget. Three years later, he said he was convicted of trespassing in an occupied space, sentenced to 60 days in jail and stamped with a blemish on his record that he would love nothing more than to forget. Since completing his sentence, Marshall has enrolled at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky where he wrestles and plays football.

Mason High School history teacher Jerry Schrock taught Marshall when he was in eighth grade and was also his wrestling coach in high school. Schrock said he remembers Marshall as being well-liked and friendly in high school.

“When I think of Zach, I always think of the words ‘gentle giant,’” Schrock said. “You never thought of him of hurting a flea. He was the kind of guy that was everybody’s friend.”

After Marshall won state, Schrock said he never sensed any of the arrogance that is sometimes associated with recruited athletes. Marshall’s mother, Beth Marshall, was a major factor in keeping him grounded, according to Schrock.

“I didn’t see an arrogance or an ‘I’m the big fish here,’ entitlement,” Schrock said. “Sometimes with athletes that go through that whole recruiting process, I’ve seen [them] become almost entitled, and I think [Zach didn’t]because he had a wonderful mother that kept him close to the ground.”

On May 21, 2008, after a night of partying with friends, Marshall entered what he thought was his dorm and laid down on the bed to go to sleep.

“I kind of was a little lost as to where my room was, so…I entered [the room] I thought was mine,” Marshall said. “It was dark and I was exhausted, so I was planning on just lying in bed and going to sleep. When I [laid down], there was a young lady in the bed. I scared her and she scared me, too. I didn’t really say anything and I just got out of there. That’s when all this unfolded.”

The original charges brought against Marshall included burglary, assault and attempted rape. Marshall was only convicted of trespassing in an occupied space and sentenced to 60 days in the Butler County Jail, as well as 120 days of house arrest, four years of general probation and 200 hours of community service, according to the Middletown Journal. Schrock said when he first heard about the charges for attempted rape, he dismissed them immediately.

“When I first heard [that] attempted rape was [one of] the charges, I just said, ‘I don’t believe it; I don’t believe it for a second,’” Schrock said. “I can tell you honestly that I looked at Zach in the eye and said, ‘You made a bad choice.’ This wasn’t an attempted rape, and this wasn’t a burglary. This was a kid who got too drunk and deserves to be punished for it and needs to learn. [Everyone] needs to know that this stuff happens when you make stupid choices like that, and that was a stupid choice.”

When the decision was read, Marshall said he was shocked with the verdict.

“I was actually hopeful that [the decision] would come back not guilty because originally it came back a split decision,” Marshall said. “But the way the law was written, they really had no choice but to convict me. When I heard the verdict, I was kind of crushed and still kind of shocked.”

Marshall said that the time he spent in jail was the slowest period of his life.

“My first night in jail was really lonely, really kind of [a] scary place, not a place that I would ever want to go back again,” Marshall said. “It hurt knowing that I couldn’t leave this place and go see them. It was a rough two months.”

After being released, the first step to getting back on track was finding a job so he could make money to pay off fines and court costs, according to Marshall. Marshall was on house arrest, so the only way he could leave the house was if he had a job. During those four months, Marshall began researching colleges that he could potentially attend when he stumbled upon a link to Lindsey Wilson College’s wrestling program.

“I was looking at wrestling forums around Cincinnati, and…[I found] a new wrestling program at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky,” Marshall said. “I sent out an athletic questionnaire, and ten minutes later the coach had called me and was asking me questions, and wanted me to come down and visit.”

According to Marshall, Lindsey Wilson College was a good choice for him because of the connection the college has with the Methodist religion. LWC is in the middle of a dry county, or a part of the state that doesn’t permit the sale of alcohol. Marshall said that because of this, his temptations are suppressed more easily.

“I don’t drink,” Marshall said. “I learned my lesson and got all that out of my system. I think a lot of people don’t realize the impact of how drinking can affect your decisions and really mess up your life. …I chose a school that doesn’t have a party atmosphere. It’s in the middle of a dry county, so just in case I have that temptation, I’m not able to [drink].”

According to Schrock, Marshall does have a chance to come back from his situation and make it right.

“It’s a horrible event to see a kid you care about go to jail, but in Zach’s case, he has a chance to make it right,” Schrock said. “[His] life can mean something. …Zach, through his own actions, from here on out can become an example that everybody can benefit from and say, ‘[You can’t go back on] a bad decision.’”

Despite being sorry for his actions, Marshall cannot reconcile with the woman that brought the charges against him because of a no contact rule made by the court.

“I am not able to make amends with the girl that was affected because of a no contact rule that my court ordered,” Marshall said. “My family has supported me throughout this whole thing and they [all] want me to get my degree and continue to do the right thing.”

Marshall said he has learned a lot from his situation and wishes to inform students that they are accountable for their actions.

“People enjoy having a good time, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it,” Marshall said. “You need to make the right choices. I’ve always been the kind of guy that has learned things the hard way and I kind of wish I didn’t learn this experience the hard way because it’s really affected my life.”