by JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
Teays Valley’s Camden McDanel is no stranger to awards and accolades. The junior wrestler has added one more to his trophy case as a repeat winner of the Peter Jonathan Pharr Memorial Award as Pickaway County’s top wrestler.
McDanel recently completed his high school season with a 41-4 record and by finishing second at the Division I state wrestling tournament at 190 pounds.
Last season, he took second at 182 pounds in Division I.
Over the summer, McDanel won a national championship competing in USA Wrestling’s Junior and 16U Championships in Fargo, ND.
“Last summer was really big for me. I think that was one of my biggest training moments. I didn’t even wrestle in very many tournaments other than Fargo,” McDanel said. “That was a really big win and just a big confidence booster.”
A two-sport athlete, following the championship in late July, McDanel was carrying the ball for the Vikings on Friday night. He led the area with more than a thousand yards rushing and scored 17 touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 13 tackles for loss.
An injury at the end of football season meant a slow start to wrestling. With wrestling his priority, he doesn’t plan to return to the gridiron for his senior year as he wants to be in top form heading into his last campaign.
“I played football and got banged up at the end, so my wrestling season was slow to start. It didn’t start off super hot with the Ironman tournament.” In December, McDanel lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman, one of the top scholastic tournaments in the country.
“I just kept training and the Brecksville (tournament) got canceled, so that sucked, that was our other big one. I kept doing my thing and trained as much as I could,” he said.
Tournaments being canceled and meets being postponed are something athletes of McDanel’s age are used to since the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. He was a freshman who had just qualified for the state tournament as part of the powerhouse St. Paris Graham wrestling team when the entire event was called off.
Back at Teays Valley for his sophomore campaign, there were several scheduled competitions called off. Even as life returned closer to normal in his junior year, having something on the schedule was no guarantee it was going to happen. But that uncertainty didn’t hamper his preparation.
“I think it may honestly have helped my training a little bit. I wasn’t training for one thing, I was training to make myself better,” McDanel said. “It was like the ‘always ready’ concept for probably about the last two years.”
When the opportunity came to head to Barnesville for a tournament, McDanel was ready and came through with wins over a kid who finished second in Division II this year and a two-time state champion from West Virginia who is headed to the University of West Virginia to wrestle.
While the results on the mat are what most people see, it’s the work in the practice room that makes the difference.
“He’s a little modest about the practice room. He is the hardest worker in the room. The kids do feed off that,” Teays Valley coach Todd Nace said. “The kids that went to the state tournament fed off of that all year. Even the younger kids see what he does in the offseason and we already have kids in the weight room right now.
“It does make a difference when you see the kid have success and then how hard he works in the room. I always compliment him and tell him that he doesn’t have to work this hard because I know he’s good, but he doesn’t take days off.
“Ryan Ford, one of our assistant coaches (who wrestled collegiately at Cleveland State), worked with him on a daily basis and pushed him to his limits a lot of the times,” Nace added. “They wrestle to score and play wrestle and really get after it. The other kids feed off that. They’re buying into what’s going on and I’m really proud of Cam for showing that effort in the room.”
“I feel like kids look up to me a lot more. I could tell this year that when I was telling kids, ‘Let’s do this,’ ‘Knock that off’ people paid attention more,” McDanel said. “It was a different atmosphere. Dudes want to be around you and they want to do the things you’re doing.
“If I lead in a good way, then most of the team will be doing the right things, too. It’s being almost a role model even though we’re all about the same age.”
McDanel’s success has been years in the making as he’s logged a lot of road miles with his dad going to tournaments around the area and in other states. His father, Josh, was a two-time state qualifier and a Mid-State League Wrestler of the Year during his days with the Vikings in the late ’90s, and now is an assistant with the high school team.
“For a while, I did not enjoy it very much. I would get beat up,” McDanel said. “My dad would be, ‘Go grab that kid, that’s the best kid, he’s a big name.’ And that kid would whip my butt.
“Then I started catching up to them and beating those kids and then it got a whole lot more fun when I would actually win stuff.”
McDanel isn’t the only second generation Viking on the squad. Fellow state qualifiers Gunner Havens and Joey Thurston’s fathers were wrestlers at TV.
“We’re really proud that the kids come back and have their children wrestle for us,” said Nace, who has been with the program since 1993. “Second generation makes me feel old, but proud that these parents are bringing their kids back through the program.
“We’ve done well in the county, done well in the league – 17-time league champion. We have had success and our kids do really well,” Nace said. “This does mean a lot to be the county’s best wrestler. It shows that we do things right here and we’re really proud of Cam for winning the award two times.”
While offers to wrestle in college have presented themselves, McDanel is still considering his options heading into his senior year. He has compiled a 106-23 record through three seasons of high school wrestling.
John Pharr was a 1964 graduate of Circleville High School who lettered in four sports. He stayed active in sports after graduation, including assisting with athletics programs at CHS, teaching wrestling to students at the YMCA and became a respected official for football and wrestling. Pharr passed away in 1982 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Peter Jonathan Pharr Memorial Award Winners
1983 — Braden Adkinson, Teays Valley
1984 — Braden Adkinson, Teays Valley
1985 — Jeff Moats, Circleville
1986 — Paul Dickey, Logan Elm
1987 — Jerry Harper, Logan Elm
1988 — Mansil Hurlbut, Circleville
1989 — Roger Fitzpatrick, Teays Valley
1990 — Russell Fitzpatrick, Teays Valley
1991 — Tim Lunsford, Circleville
1992 — Nate Greuzke, Logan Elm
1993 — Scott Williams, Teays Valley
1994 — Dustin Arledge, Logan Elm
1995 — J.P. Felty, Teays Valley
1996 — Tracy Miller, Teays Valley
1997 — Tim Geiger, Westfall
1998 — Tim Geiger, Westfall
1999 — Bob Thurston, Teays Valley
2000 — Danny Roberts, Westfall
2001 — Brad Kassner, Circleville
2002 — Tyler Jenkins, Logan Elm
2003 — Ben Carver, Westfall
2004 — Brian Haines, Teays Valley
2005 — David Jones, Westfall
2006 — Russell McFadden, Circleville
2007 — Daniel Gifford, Logan Elm
2008 — Zac Conn, Teays Valley
2009 — Shane Gifford, Logan Elm
2010 — Tyler Luft, Teays Valley
2011 — Travis Luft, Teays Valley
2012 — Brocky Leidecker, Teays Valley
2013 — Luke Nace, Teays Valley
2014 — Dominic Vagnier, Logan Elm
2015 — Nate Keaton, Circleville
2016 — Nate Keaton, Circleville
2017 — Nate Keaton, Circleville
2018 — Nate Keaton, Circleville
2019 — Bowen McConahay, Logan Elm
2020 — Chanston Moll, Westfall
2021 — Camden McDanel, Teays Valley
2022 — Camden McDanel, Teays Valley