Kelseyville’s Marina Beckwith won’t compete at NCS

Kelseyville senior Marina Beckwith was denied eligibility for the NCS wrestling championships after transferring from Willits in January.   Credit: Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

Kelseyville senior Marina Beckwith was denied eligibility for the NCS wrestling championships after transferring from Willits in January.
Credit: Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A kid who has spent her formative years bouncing from home to home and school to school might not be projected to be a top performer. But Marina Beckwith exceeds expectations.

The 17-year-old wrestler is spending her senior year at Kelseyville High — her fourth stop in four years of high school because of a changing family situation.

After finishing fifth in the North Coast Section tournament last year with Willits High School, Beckwith was seeded sixth in the 130-pound weight class for Kelseyville in this year’s event, which begins Friday.

But late last week she was ruled ineligible by the NCS, which cited athletic rules governing transfer students.

The decision, which her coach, Rob Brown, initially protested, effectively ended Beckwith’s varsity high school wrestling career. The rules allowed her to compete with the JV, and on Wednesday night she pinned Upper Lake’s Chelsie Valdez in a match at St. Helena.

Beckwith, while disappointed with the NCS ruling, said she wants to continue wrestling, a sport that has provided a steadying force for her when her personal life was anything by stable.

“I love how when you go out in a competition, it’s up to you to do well,” she said. “And, you know, that feeling when you win, how happy you make your whole team? It’s like a family. It really is.”

(See more photos of Marina Beckwith)

For Beckwith, family life has been unpredictable. As a freshman, she lived with her mom and went to Upper Lake High and competed in wrestling there.

The following year, after another family move, Beckwith wrestled at Shasta High. Then she moved to Willits to live with an aunt and competed there, where she became a second-team All-Empire wrestler.

A move to another aunt’s home this winter meant a transfer to Kelseyville High.

Brown was delighted to have Beckwith on his team. He’d seen her compete last year with Willits and knew she was a force to be reckoned with.

“She’s an aggressive girl,” he said.

And Brown has a special place in his heart for kids whose home lives are uncertain. He’s been a foster father for nearly two decades, having taken care of about 30 kids, some for just an overnight.

“They all turn out different,” he said. “A lot of them are like her. She’s really a survivor.”

Just like the need to think and adjust quickly on the wrestling mat, Beckwith has adapted well to her ever-changing home life. Despite the moves, the family has worked hard to support Beckwith, Brown said.

“She understands the whole thing and is really appreciative of everything everyone has done,” he said. “She seems to be oblivious to what hasn’t been done for her. She just accepts it.”

Kelseyville principal Matt Cockerton said it’s disappointing to have a student-athlete ruled ineligible to compete.

While he stressed Beckwith’s transfers weren’t meant to circumvent rules that prohibit students from changing schools to gain an athletic advantage, he agreed they have to be followed.

“It’s pretty much cut and dried,” he said. “You feel for every single one of them and you want them to get as much as they can get (out of athletics). But unfortunately in this situation, you have to go by what the section and the state have set up.”

Brown was initially hoping to persuade NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon to grant an exception or change his mind about Beckwith’s eligibility. But there wasn’t time to file paperwork with the section championships beginning Friday.

Beckwith, one of four female wrestlers at Kelseyville, was “heartbroken” when she heard the final ruling, Brown said.

“For most of us, the human element of this is more important than the bureaucratic element,” he said. “When it comes to what’s moral and ethically right with one of my kids, that’s the only person I work for.”

Brown still hopes to tempt some colleges to offer partial scholarships to Beckwith, who will graduate from Kelseyville with solid grades and a clean disciplinary record.

“She works hard. She’s the first in the room and the last to leave,” he said. “I’m absolutely convinced if they give her a chance they’ll be glad they got her.”

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.