Skip to Main Content
Chico State

Toughest Opponent Yet No Match for English Major

Wearing a black shirt with white accents and black-rimmed glasses, Marcus Morton stands and smiles in front of Kendall Hall.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Your college years are a time of exceptional growth—academically, socially, and philosophically. Who you are on day one is often very different from the person who throws their cap in the air at commencement. As members of the class of 2024 wrap up their time as undergraduates, we’re asking them to share their story of transformation.   

Meet Marcus Morton in the wrestling ring, and you’ll likely find yourself on the wrong side of his signature move—the lariat. He whips his opponent from one side of the ring to the next, using the ropes to generate his own momentum, and then floors them with a devastating clothesline. It’s all over in a flash as the referee counts the pinned opponent out: one… two… three!

Known as Jamaican Thunder and later The Thunderman Marcus X, Morton was one of the stars of Yuba City’s popular wrestling scene for more than a decade. Even though it comes with its own bumps and bruises, playing a brash, bombastic character inside the ring was much simpler than life outside of it. When Morton thought about going back to school, he was admittedly scared.

He had already taken “English 1A” twice. The first time he did not get along with the professor and ended up with a non-transferable D. The second time, Morton was already overwhelmed by the number of assignments when his laptop crashed. He simply stopped going, first to that class, and then to all of them.

Up to that point, he had always excelled in English.

“I originally got into English because I was good at it in high school,” Morton said. “I had previous teachers tell me that I was a really good writer.”

Now his confidence was wavering. Morton worked at a gym and then took a second job at the same school he attended as a child—Andros Karperos. First, he ran the after-school program and then became the coordinator. He still works there 11 years later. The students call him Mr. Morton.

But returning to school was always in the back of his mind. And when two of his best friends—Richard Carreon (History, ’22) and Jesse Pimentel (Attended, 1997-99)—encouraged him to sign up during the COVID pandemic, he gave it a shot.

“After I turned in my second essay, I knew I was going to pass,” Morton said. “And for the first time, I was really enjoying it. Right away I started looking into what it would take to get to Chico State.”

This month, Morton will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English. He plans to pursue a master’s degree, possibly a PhD, and write some books along the way.


In His Own Words:

“I really take pride in my work now. When I quit junior college, my GPA was a 1-point something, but here, the lowest grade I’ve gotten is a B-plus. I think back to my first time in college when I would see these older adults in the classroom, just killing it: getting all As. And I realize that’s what I’ve turned into.

It’s been a challenge balancing so many things—school, a full-time job, helping out at home, and wrestling, too. But my professors have all been very direct, clear, and approachable. I remember at my junior college they told us: ‘When you go to university, your professors are not going to be accessible. You’re not going to get as much support.’ But that hasn’t been my experience at all. They said from the very beginning that they really care about the students and that’s actually how it’s been for me.

Right before this semester my grandfather got sick and came home on hospice. He passed away in March. He was my father figure. My biological father was not around. So, it was really rough seeing him like that. But my professors told me to do what I needed to do, even if it meant missing some classes. That allowed me to spend extra time with him, which I’m grateful for.

This last semester has been bittersweet. I came here wanting to get in and out as quickly as possible, but I made friends and started hanging out with them outside of class and developed a routine. Now that’s coming to a close. So that’s the bitter layer. But the sweetness is that I got it done. I wish my grandpa could be here for my graduation. Even though he won’t be there physically, I know he’ll be watching and that he’s proud.”