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Biagiotti going strong after setback

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – He’s been knocked down, but he’s still standing, still smiling, and still doing what he loves to do.

For nearly two decades, Mark Biagiotti has been a fixture at Highland Marina Resort as the man who oversees most of the fishing tournaments at the facility.

Biagiotti also runs his own boat repair business, and that keeps him busy.

For much of the past three years, though, Biagiotti’s focus has transcended his duties as a tournament coordinator, or business owner.

Biagiotti has been fighting to stay healthy.

In October of 2014, Biagiotti suffered a massive seizure, and he had to have brain surgery at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

Unfortunately for Biagiotti, his health problems were just getting started.

He has dealt with a myriad of issues since he first went to West Georgia Medical Center in the middle of October three years ago and found out that he had a subdural hemorrhage.

After his seizure a few days later, he was transported to Atlanta for the surgery.

There was another brain surgery in November of 2014, and soon after Biagiotti began an extensive rehabilitation process.

The ensuing months and years have been tough.

He has continued to deal with health problems associated with the brain surgeries, and he has also been faced with the reality of the accompanying financial burden.

Yet Biagiotti has not been beaten.

On Saturday, Biagiotti was in his element, running a tournament on the Highland Marina Resort Team Trail, and his days are spent keeping people’s boats in operation so they can enjoy the waters of West Point Lake.

“I’m doing good,” the 53-year-old Biagiotti said last week. “I’ve finally got everything under control, my diabetes and all of that stuff.”

Before October of three years ago, Biagiotti had never faced any serious health issues.

That changed in a drastic and frightening way.

“I’ve been healthy my whole life, and then that brain thing took me out, and it’s been non-stop just maintaining,” Biagiotti said.

After the surgeries, Biagiotti said it was a long road back.

“I was out for about a year with that, and just health problems relating to that,” he said. “Now, everything’s great. I’m finally starting to gain some weight.”

For Biagiotti, it’s full-speed ahead.

He runs dozens of tournaments a year at Highland Marina Resort, and he doesn’t lack for customers at his business, Marina Services Incorporated.

Biagiotti’s tournament schedule at the marina isn’t as full as it used to be.

“We kind of got out of some of the tournaments we were doing,” he said. “The schedule isn’t quite as big. At one point I was doing 34 tournaments a year. That was a little bit too much.”

He still does 20 or so tournaments during the year, including the Highland Team Trail, as well as the West Point Kids Extreme tour.

The youth series is one Biagiotti particularly enjoys.

Biagiotti watched his own son, who is now 22, fish in that series in years past, and it brings him a lot of joy to see the smiles on the faces of the young anglers.

“That’s my favorite tournament trail,” he said. “The guys that fish my Highland Marina team trail, those guys, they’ll come up, and weigh their fish, and they’re off the stage. All these kids, they come up and they’re smiling whether they caught a little tiny fish, or whether they caught 12 big fish. It’s cool to see those kids come up, and they’re real excited about it.”

As for the tournaments for adults, Biagiotti said “everybody fishes for first place,” but he said it’s always a family atmosphere among the close-knit group of fishermen.

“There’s probably two teams that I’ve fished with throughout the years, that I’ve probably known for 20 years, and they’ve never won money,” he said. “But they enjoy coming out. Everybody that I know, they’re really nice guys, the fishermen.”

Biagiotti will be in his customary spot at the weigh-in station on Sunday for the latest Kids Extreme tournament.

He’ll weigh the fish in, and he’ll talk to the young competitors, although he joked that they’ve learned from their elders the importance of not divulging any critical information.

“They’ve actually taught the kids to not tell me anything,” Biagiotti said with a chuckle. “Whenever I bring the kids up and try to interview them and ask them where they caught them, they’ll tell me, in the mouth. They always do that stuff now. That’s fun.”

Biagiotti is hopeful the worst is behind him.

The past three years have been difficult, but he feels good, and he remains young at heart.

“I still feel like I’m 20,” he said. “I don’t get around like I did when I was in 20, but I feel like it.”

The goal for Biagiotti, clearly, is to remain in good health.

“I’ve got to stay healthy,” he said. “I’ve had enough time in the hospital. It’s definitely not fun.”