By Brad Morris
It wasn’t the finish that Camden McDanel had in mind on Saturday but taking second at 190 pounds with a 5-1 record during his two-day stay at the prestigious Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament showed the Teays Valley senior that he is on the right track to attain loftier goals later this season.
“I learned that if I keep the same approach that I’ve had for the last two-and-a-half months that I’m going to be fine,” McDanel said. “I need to be confident in my setup and taking shots. The one thing I learned from the tournament is I need to take my shots sooner, get on top and then control the rest of the match.”
Sixteen wrestlers were awarded seeds in each weight class, with McDanel earning a third seed. His weight class featured grapplers from 10 states.
The Nebraska signee opened his stay in the tournament with a pin in 1:22 over Marist’s Conor Phelan and then recorded a 7-3 decision over Omer Barak of Lake Highland Prep.
McDanel scored a 15-0 win by technical fall against Wyoming Seminary’s Josh Cordio and then posted a 5-1 decision against Crown Point’s Orlando Cruz to advance to a semifinal match.
The Teays Valley senior faced Frazier’s Rune Lawrence for a second time this fall and avenged a loss to the two-time Pennsylvania state champion at the Super 32 Tournament with a 6-4 decision that included a pair of crucial third-period takedowns.
“When I faced (Lawrence) at the Super 32 it was 1-1 until overtime and then I slipped when I took a shot and gave it up,” McDanel said. “I told myself that I was going to take as many opportunities as I could get this time and wrestle a more aggressive match.
“I felt like I wore him down as the match went along and I was able to hit him with a shot and then rode him out for the final 10 seconds to get the win.”
McDanel was then edged 3-2 by top-seeded Brayden Thompson of Lockport Township, Ill.
“That match did not go the way it should have gone, because I held back from taking as many shots as I should have,” McDanel said. “I think we were both trying to feel out what the other was going to do, get a shot in and then ride out for the win.
“I almost had him in the second period on an ankle pick, but he was in a good stance and did a nice job of getting out of it. I made one mistake to give up a takedown and didn’t have enough time to counter it.”
McDanel said he enjoyed the experience and having teammates Gunner Havens and Joey Thurston with him at the tournament, which is considered one of the best in-season events in the country.
“It was an awesome experience. I got to wrestle in the main gym for the semifinal and championship matches, which has a different atmosphere from some of the larger buildings that I’ve wrestled in, like out in Fargo,” McDanel said. “Everyone is on top of you it feels like at Ironman, everyone is fired up and it’s such a loud and crazy experience. That’s definitely something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.
“It was also nice to have Gunner and Joey along, to spend the night in the hotel with them and get to experience the tournament with a couple of my teammates.”
Thurston, who was seeded 13th, won by pin in 3:34 over Olentangy Liberty’s Luke Fleet at heavyweight before being pinned in 3:21 by Blair Academy’s Carter Neves, who was the fourth seed in the weight class.
Thurston recorded a 6-5 decision in the consolation bracket against Marmion Academy’s Sean Scheck before having to take a medical default due to a hand injury.
Gunner Havens dropped a 5-0 decision to Greeneville’s Carson Dupil at 113 pounds and then fell 11-3 to Lake Highland Prep’s Charlie Desena.
McDanel will travel to the University of Delaware next weekend for the Beast of the East Tournament, which is another top-level event.