'Wrestling' with weight loss
In his own words, Troy Margerum says that it's irrelevant as to where he was born.
In fact, much of his 17 years have also been irrelevant to what life has become now for this Panther Valley High School junior.
Before Margerum moved in with his godparents in Summit Hill a year and a half ago, he admits his life was out of control with little hope for a recovery.
Let's start in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he lived with his nearly 500-pound mother and his alcoholic father who seemingly was spending more time in jail than at home.
"My mom was a heroin addict too and I had to fend for myself," says Margerum. "So every night I cooked for myself and I ate and ate and ate. Everything was a meal to me. I downed big bowls of ice cream, large helpings of different types of macaroni and cheese, and every TV dinner and pot pie I could pop in the oven, too."
His home life brought to him more stress and more eating until he realized one day that he weighed 334 pounds. Then he came to Summit Hill to live with his godparents for a month.
One day, life as Margerum knew it would begin to change, all for the good.
"This was only a little over a year ago. I was on the school bus and when it stopped to let us off, I really had difficulty lifting myself out of the seat. When I got home I took a long hard look in the mirror and I did not like what I saw. I was going down a path in my mother's footsteps so I decided right then that I had to change something.
Margerum, who now has his weight down to 200 pounds, then adds, "If I was going to grow on the inside, I needed to shrink on the outside."
His mother died from liver failure and related complications when he was 15 years old. He reflects on his relationship with her.
"I became distant with her near the end. I just didn't care anymore."
Enter into his life godparents, John and Deb Williams. Deb Williams knew immediately that she and her husband wanted him to stay with them for as long as he wanted.
"We brought Troy home from the hospital when he was born." she says. "I have always felt he came to me from the womb in my heart and I have always loved Troy as my own child."
A new home and a new life was just what Margerum needed for his self -improvement plan. His first idea was to play football for PV, but he soon realized his body would bulk up and he wouldn't get smaller.
"Plus," he says, "I was never very athletic. I tried basketball in grade school, but I didn't have fun. I was the fat kid who couldn't shoot the ball."
After football failed him, Margerum needed to rethink his plan. He initiated an early morning running regimen.
"I started going to bed at nine o'clock so I could get up at 5 a.m. to run. From late August until November I lost more than 30 pounds."
His eating habits changed drastically as well. With advice from his literature teacher, Chris Kasian, and his friend, Dustin Marblestone, Margerum began to eat three healthy meals a day. He eats cereal with fruit for breakfast, more fruit, with water and a granola bar for lunch and a sensible dinner in the evening.
"I am really hard on myself. Last Christmas I wanted to eat this cookie, but then I thought that cookie was going to kill me."
His road toward success then turned in the right direction for him once again. One day in school he was approached by PV wrestling coach, Tim Robb.
"At first Troy said he wasn't interested in wrestling, but then he showed up at practice," says Robb.
"I figured wrestling would be a good way to get in shape during the cold months," says Margerum. His workouts continued to shed his weight; however, his efforts on the mat resulted in zero victories. Within his weight classes were district runner-ups and regional qualifiers Richard Nase and Rian Shubeck and versatile PV athlete Richie Smith. In addition to the internal varsity competition, Margerum won no matches on the JV level. Then came the time he had a talk with Robb.
"Troy was discouraged about not winning any matches," says Robb. "He asked me why I wanted him here when he wasn't helping the team. I told him he was as important to the team as anyone else. He drives his teammates to excel.
"The more I lost on the mat the more I wanted to win," Margerum says. "And I will win. My goal next season is to get into the 195 weight class and win one match."
Robb attaches no significance to Margerum's lack of success on the mat. "Besides, just look at his amazing transformation. His maturity and determination are incredible. He started wrestling at 285 and then he got down to 215."
To place a perspective on the significance of his personal accomplishments, however, Robb puts Margerum upon a hero's platform.
"If you watch the TV show The Biggest Loser, you see these overweight people all have life coaches and personal trainers to motivate them. Troy has recreated himself pretty much on his own. He has chosen the high road and that also happens to be where his godparents live."
Kristen Black, Panther Valley athletic director and track coach, asked Margerum to join the track team last year. "His first remark to me was, 'Do you see me? I'm a fat person. Do I look like a runner?'"
Well, Troy did join.
"He throws the shot and the discus, but his favorite event is the Tanker Relay where he and our other throwers run a relay race," said Black. "He's an extraordinary kid. It has taken an unbelievable determination to do what he has done."
Margerum's workout routine now encompasses the Physical Fitness Challenge program that involves mixed exercises such as push ups, military presses, hill sprints, and backward runs. Physically, he feels "pretty good" about himself.
"I like what I see in the mirror now. I can actually see the bones pushing against my chest skin. For the first time in my life I can prove that I have bones in my body!"
He stays in touch with his father, but he has come to realize that he will never have a father-son relationship like many kids have.
"I know it would be very difficult living with him. My father saw me in March. He doesn't talk much, but I could tell from the look on his face that he was very proud of me."
Margerum speaks of his godparents with an ear to ear smile. "They believe in a close knit family and they have old fashioned values," he said. "I would not be anywhere near the good person I am today if it weren't for them."
Today, Troy Margerum stands impressively inside his rebuilt body frame. He talks about his life's makeover with a quiet humility splashed over a sense of humor. In the past he never liked school much and stayed home often. Recently his academic efforts earned him a place on Panther Valley's Distinguished Honor Roll with a 95 percent average. He espouses to be an art or math teacher and he would like someday to become a motivational speaker.
"My first words to a group of overweight kids would probably be 'Who's ready for lunch?,'" he said in jest. "Actually I would then want them all to look in the mirror for a long time. This might sound cruel, but believe me, there would also be a lot of love behind my words."
Deb Williams, who speaks about Troy with prideful tears in her eyes, encourages him to keep improving himself.
"I tell him often that's it not where you came from that should determine where you are going."
It's apparent to anyone who has gotten to know this young man that Troy Margerum will continue to believe and to live in the meaning of those words.