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December 19, 2002

Local Ref Makes The Big Time

From: WOKR-TV, NY - 19 Dec 2002

Rochester, NY - A local referee has been tapped to officiate in NCAA Division I basketball.

The ref, Marsha Wetzel, is living her dream and making sports history at the same time.

Wetzel has always been at home on the basketball court--first as a player, then as a referee.

An instructor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT, Wetzel is deaf.

She is also the first female official in NCCA Division I history that is hearing impaired.

"The common question is 'How do you know the whistle blows?'," said Wetzel. "I'm very observant of the players when they stop--[then] I know that a whistle has been blown."

Just as she works out with weights to condition and build stamina, Wetzel also maintains her competitive edge in the hearing world by exercising her sense and tuning her sensibilities.

Wetzel said, "I've studied officials' movements on the court...and try to internalize that."

Her diligence earned her an invitation to a Division I referee try-out camp this summer. A spokesperson for the NCAA said Wetzel's deafness has no impact on her abilities as a ref.

If there is one difference between Wetzel and her hearing colleagues, however, it's how she views her role as a referee and as an ambassador.

"It gives an opportunity for players, coaches and people all around to see that deaf individuals have potential and can be in all facets of life," she said.

© 2002 Clear Channel Communications