by JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
A championship season capped a great high school career for Teays Valley’s Camden McDanel and the senior keeps adding to his accolades as he has been named winner of the Peter Jonathan Pharr Memorial Award as Pickaway County’s most outstanding wrestler.
It’s the third straight year he’s been the recipient and the announcement comes a few days after he won Teays Valley’s first state wrestling title in nearly five decades.
“It was a really good last year,” McDanel said. “One of the things I did this year, that I didn’t do a lot of in other years, was just try to take everything in. I knew it was my last year, my last time being in a lot of these schools and being with these people. I really tried to take it in and I think it made the whole year better.
“I was doing my best to enjoy it as well as training hard. I think that’s really an important thing to enjoy it as much as possible. It is fun. Sure, the training is hard, I enjoy that, too. A lot of people don’t enjoy that, but I think that’s fun, too. It was a really good year, and it was nice to cap it off like that.”
McDanel is the 14th Viking to win the award in its 41-year history.
“That’s a pretty special trophy to be recognized on,” Teays Valley wrestling coach Todd Nace said. “The kids on that trophy have done things outside of wrestling that are pretty special as well.”
McDanel will be continuing his education and wrestling career at the University of Nebraska where he plans to major in biology looking toward medical school.
“We’re really excited for him to be a biology major and go into pre-med,” Nace said. “We’ve had three doctors in our program since I’ve been here, and he’ll be the fourth if he goes into that. We emphasize education and academics, and he just shows what you can do with academics and wrestling at the same time.”
There were many schools around the country that would have loved for McDanel to join their wrestling team, but it was the program in Lincoln that meshed with what he was looking for to continue his development.
“I think a lot of schools have this, but it is one big family out there,” McDanel said. “I think they’re definitely on the come up right now. They placed top 10 last two years at the NCAAs, we had a kid in the finals this year, had a kid in the finals last year. The recruiting classes we have coming in are going to be really good. It’s a place where I definitely think I can improve as an athlete, as a person and as a student. It just felt right.”
The Cornhuskers placed third at the Big Ten championships this season and were eighth at the NCAA championships – one of five Big Ten teams to place in the top 10. McDanel is ready for the challenge of being at a top program.
“The coaches there are awesome,” McDanel said. “Coach (Mark) Manning is great, the head coach. Coach (Robert) Kokesh, (Bryan) Snyder are both really great coaches. Tervel (Dlagnev – a former NCAA champion and Olympic medalist) is the heavier weight coach, and he brings a mental side to wrestling that a lot of people don’t think about. I think that is really important and will really help me for the rest of my career.”
Instead of heading to Nebraska right away, McDanel plans to spend a gap year in Colorado Springs to continue training before beginning his collegiate career.
“I’m definitely excited for that. I’m ready to move on to that level of wrestling,” McDanel said. “There’s a lot of training coming up and I’ll be able to wrestle in some college opens during that time.
“I’m definitely excited for that and I can’t wait to see what happens.”
In Ashville, McDanel leaves a lasting legacy that will have an impact on the Teays Valley wrestling program for years to come.
“His name is up there three times,” Nace said of McDanel placing three times at the state meet. “We have his runner-up brackets up because I think that is still pretty special. We’re going to get (his championship bracket) up this summer. For little kids, already, they’re looking at his name and looking at his brackets.
“We only had (1975 champion) Mike Wilson’s bracket to look at and for over forty-some years people wanted to do the same thing he did. Fortunately, it happened for Camden. We’re going to make it special because he deserves to have his name in lights, for little kids to see that.
“They can watch his videos; they can watch his matches and they’re going to know his name. We are super excited for that.”
While he wrapped up his Teays Valley career a short time ago, he hasn’t taken a break in his training. Up next for McDanel is the USA Wrestling US Open Championships at the end of April in Las Vegas.
It’s that drive to never take a break from McDanel that Nace said set him above his competition.
“We’ve had kids in our room who are very similar to this, but the sacrifices he’s made in the last four years makes him pretty special,” Nace said. “Just his demeanor, his attitude, his lifestyle, his family, it’s just been a wonderful experience to have him in our room.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, McDanel has competed in some of the top tournaments in the country during his career and his accomplishments include a national championship at USA Wrestling’s Junior and 16U Championships in Fargo, ND, in the summer of 2021. He finishes his time at Teays Valley with a 148-25 record in his high school matches.
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
2023 — Camden McDanel, Teays Valley