By Brad Morris
Camden McDanel had a pair of surprises on Saturday when he wrestled for a spot on the Under-20 U.S. World Team at the SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio.
“I had a different opponent in the series than what I was expecting and then they ran the finals at a quicker pace than I thought they would,” McDanel said. “I had just got done warming up. I was sweating, really hot and the facility we were wrestling in was very hot.
“They were running the finals on two different mats, so I had to try and get ready in a hurry, dump some water over my head to try and cool down. I didn’t feel that well when I started wrestling.”
McDanel had to win two matches in a best-of-three series to qualify at 97 kilograms (213.85 pounds) against New York’s Steven Burrell Jr.
The recent Teays Valley graduate swept the Empire State resident by final scores of 11-6 and 8-2 to clinch a spot on the team, where he will represent the U.S. at the world championships in Warsaw, Poland.
“I relied on my training in the first match, because even though I wasn’t feeling that great I was able to get (Burrell) worn down,” McDanel said. “I kept pushing and I was able to pull away at the end.
“I was able to get cooled down between matches and get my head right for the second match. I gave up one takedown in the match, but I was able to control the rest of it. I controlled the pace, made a few moves and that was that.”
Qualifying to represent the U.S. wrestling aboard was a possibility that McDanel only realized was possible over the past couple of years.
“If you told me I would do something like this when I was a kid, I probably would have laughed at you and thought you were crazy,” he said. “I’ve pushed myself hard in practices, workouts and conditioning over the years to where I became a good enough wrestler and created opportunities for myself that I’ve been able to take advantage of.
“It was pretty exciting when I swept (Burrell) and qualified for the world team, because I’ve trained so hard for this, and I wasn’t going to lose this opportunity. I had a lot of family in attendance, and I was able to see them after the series and I also had some time to reflect that night on what it’s going to be like to represent the U.S., along with being a wrestler there from Ohio that went to Teays Valley.”
McDanel has kept his same workout routine since winning the Division I state championship at 190 pounds back in March, lifting with his dad, Josh, four-times-a-week and scaling it back to three-times-a-week headed into a competition. He also gets a number of practices in on a weekly basis.
He received a bye into the finals at the world trials from going a perfect 5-0 during the U.S. Open that was held in late April in Las Vegas. McDanel outscored his opposition 52-2 during the tournament.
A Nebraska signee, McDanel will take a “gap year” before heading to Lincoln and joining the Cornhuskers for the 2024-25 school year. That gap year begins next week when McDanel moves to Colorado Spring and begins working out at the Olympic Training Facility.
“I have mixed emotions. I’m excited about living in Colorado Springs and working out at the Olympic Training Facility, but I’m nervous at the same time and I know I will miss my family and friends,” McDanel said. “I work pretty hard lifting, practicing and conditioning, but this is going to be 24/7 wrestling with some of the best trainers and coaches in the world.”
McDanel is slated to travel to Chile during the Fourth of July holiday to wrestle in the Pan-American championships and then will head to Warsaw from Aug. 14-20 for the world championships.
“It’s going to be a busy summer, but I’m excited to travel aboard and to see what I can do against the best wrestlers on the planet,” McDanel said.