McDanel reflects on bronze medal at U20 World Freestyle Championships

By Brad Morris

Camden McDanel believes his first experience of wrestling in the Under-20 World Freestyle Championships last week in Amman, Jordan will serve him well moving forward.

“It was a great learning experience for me, because every wrestler there had a different style that I was not accustomed to seeing,” he said. “I felt like I wrestled well on my feet and adjusted to those different styles well, with the exception of my semifinal match.

“It’s good to know moving forward that I can expect that challenge with wrestling on a global stage, so I can prepare for it both from a mental and physical perspective. Having that knowledge is going to be make me a better wrestler.”

The world championships were previously slated to be held in Warsaw, Poland, but had to be moved to the Jordanian capital due to Poland not granting visas to athletes competing from Russia and Belarus, due to the ongoing conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

Teays Valley graduate Camden McDanel won three matches at the U20 World Freestyle Championships to earn a bronze medal. Photo courtesy of Richard Immel/USA Wrestling

McDanel opened his stay in Amman in familiar, dominating fashion by scoring technical fall wins by a combined score of 24-3 against Japan’s Toyoki Hamada and Poland’s Taron Shahinyan at 97 kilograms (approximately 214 pounds).

“Even with those first two matches those were pretty good wrestlers, and the competition was a lot tougher than what we had last month (at the Pan-American Championships),” McDanel said. “It took me a little bit of time to figure out each wrestler and what they were trying to do, but I was able to counter then both, get on my offense and finish each match strong.

“That gave me a nice confidence boost coming back for the semifinal.”

McDanel lost for the first time since a high school match last December when he dropped a 5-1 decision to Iran’s Abolfazl Babaloo, who employed a unique style predicated on mat positioning and defense.

“He was trying to push me out and get me to step out, so he could score that way,” McDanel said of Babaloo. “He didn’t take a lot of shots against me, but I allowed that to happen four times and I was in a 4-0 hole due to allowing him to do his thing.

“I started to pick it up and tried to get a few shots in against him. I think I was a half second away from getting a move in on him to turn around the match, but it was too late.”

Nebraska signee Camden McDanel outscored his opponents 32-5 in his three wins at the U20 World Freestyle Championships. Photo courtesy of Richard Immel/USA Wrestling

The Nebraska signee rallied in his bronze medal match against Kazakhstan’s Kamil Kurugliyev inside the Princess Sumaya Lounge.

McDanel finished off a single leg takedown to jump out to a 2-0 advantage. After Kurugliyev tied the match at 2-2, McDanel rallied with a shot to regain the lead.

During the final 38 seconds, the Teays Valley graduate spun behind the Kazakhstan grappler for a counter takedown and tacked on another takedown to close out the 8-2 decision.

“I was disappointed with losing my semifinal match, but I came back pretty strong and put together a nice match to win the bronze medal,” McDanel said. “I wanted to score, so I hand-fighted pretty hard, put pressure on him and got him physically tired, so I could get my shots in and pull away there at the end.”

While he would like another shot at Babaloo, McDanel left Amman content with the trip and his first performance on a global stage.

“It was like 110 degrees every day there and our bags got lost and didn’t come for the first couple of days, but it was interesting to experience a different culture, cuisine and part of the world for the time that we were able to get out away from resting and practice time,” he said. “I wanted to win the gold so obviously that was a little disappointing, but I beat three pretty good wrestlers to win my bronze medal.

“I would like another shot at that semifinal match, because I think I would win a rematch from what I learned in the first meeting.”

The Teays Valley graduate has appreciated the support he has received this year, which has seen him go from becoming the second state champion in program history to becoming a freestyle national champion, earning a spot on the world team, winning a Pan-American championship and earning a bronze medal at the world championships.

“The support I’ve received all year has been incredible and it has been one of the things driving me to represent my home the best way that I can,” McDanel said. “To hear stories about family and friends waking up at 3 a.m. back home to watch my matches was really humbling.”

Camden McDanel will continue to train at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, taking a “gap year” before becoming a Nebraska Cornhusker.
Photo courtesy of Richard Immel/USA Wrestling

McDanel is back home visiting family and friends before he is slated to return to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for his “gap year” before enrolling at the University of Nebraska to wrestle.

“I’ve missed my family and friends, so it is nice to be back home again and to catch up with them some before I go back out to Colorado Springs,” McDanel said. “It’s worth the sacrifice, because I’m a much more developed wrestler, both mentally and physically, than I was when I first went out there two months ago due to the good coaches, practice partners, workouts and international competition.

“I won’t be worrying about competition this fall and winter for the first time in years. I’ll be focusing on my body and mind to continue and become stronger. I’m preparing to qualify (for the World Team) again next spring and then getting ready to go to Lincoln and contribute as much as I can to Nebraska wrestling.”

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