By Brad Morris
ASHVILLE — Months of preparation and gallons of sweat expended in practice have been pointed towards the second weekend in March and one remaining mission for Teays Valley senior Camden McDanel.
“I’ve been right there and now is the time to go out and win a state championship,” McDanel said. “I’m confident in all the training and hard work I’ve put in and this is the last chance for me to put everything on the line here in high school.
“I want to go up to the Schottenstein Center and show people what I can do. I feel unstoppable right now, but I am also going to take a level head into every match, respect every opponent and wrestle my type of match.”
McDanel has posted a 123-9 record over the last three seasons, including winning three Mid-State League Buckeye Division championships, three Central District crowns and finishing as a state runner-up at 182 pounds in 2021 and 190 pounds last season.
The 190-pound senior grappler decided not to play football this past fall to make sure he entered his senior season in optimal health and peak condition.
McDanel has competed in premier offseason tournaments such as Cadet Fargo and Super 32 and followed that up with a grueling opening month of the season where he finished second at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament and Beast of the East in Delaware and won the Brecksville Holiday Tournament.
“I wanted to increase my training and keep progressing from summer into the fall and then wrestling season, so I could be wrestling at my very best level going into the postseason and ultimately the state tournament,” McDanel said. “That’s why I feel so confident going into the state tournament, because competing in all of those prominent national and state events has helped prepare me for this last step in the season.”
A hallmark of McDanel’s approach on the mat is to wear down his opposition and pile up the bonus points and pins in the second and third periods. The Nebraska signee has been working on becoming more aggressive earlier in the match to compliment his conditioning.
“I always like to wear out dudes to where they don’t have much left in the tank and then I can get my points and really finish a match the way I want to,” McDanel said. “I’ve been working on scoring more in the first period and making it a priority, but that’s the one area where I probably still have a little more work to do, honestly.”
Teays Valley coach Todd Nace has noted the earlier aggressive approach that McDanel has implemented this season.
“There were a few times last season in bigger matches where Camden would wait for the exact right moment to make a move and it may have occasionally slowed him down just a little bit,” he said. “Camden is getting on his offense a lot earlier this season.
“Camden has really worked on his offense and he is so much better on top, which people often don’t notice as much as they should because Camden is so good on his feet. His top game is really good, he can ride people, turn people and hold them down. That’s what makes Camden so good.”
McDanel will once again have company in the Schottenstein Center with senior teammates Gunner Havens (113) and Joey Thurston (285) also competing.
“It was really nice for all three of us to be at the Schott together last season and I am looking forward to it again this weekend,” McDanel said. “We’ve been friends since we were little and it’s going to be nice to finish our high school careers together and hopefully all be on the state podium on Sunday night.”
McDanel’s road to a potential state championship starts on Friday with a Division I championship preliminary match against Brecksville-Broadview Heights sophomore Riley McPherson (29-13).
Nace believes the preparation McDanel has put in will make the difference this weekend for his senior grappler inside the Schottenstein Center.
“No one is going to outwork Camden,” he said. “Coach (Ryan) Ford and Camden go so hard from the beginning of practice until the end that it looks like they have both been through a car wash, because they are both absolutely soaked in sweat.
“All the work that Camden puts in prepares him for big moments like this and I am confident that Camden will go out there and wrestle at a championship-level this weekend.”