I am one of thousands of young men and women whose lives were touched by Dariel Daniel. I can honestly say I would not have had as rich of a life if I had never met this man. Next to my father, Dr. John Thomas West, this man had the most positive influence on me.
I moved to LaGrange over 40 years ago, in 1971. At that time LaGrange did not have the powerhouse wrestling team that it does now. A young graduate assistant coach from Auburn used to come by and work out and teach us wrestling techniques. As a 16 year old I was instantly attracted to this man who could instruct inexperienced wrestlers and had a great sense of humor.
Later that summer I enrolled in the Swede Umbach wrestling camp at LaGrange College. One of the instructors was this energetic graduate assistant coach from Auburn University. The next year I was one of the better wrestlers on the team.
My family moved to Lubbock, Texas, in the summer of 1974 and I went with them to attend Texas Tech University. I tried out for the college team and wrestled for three years. I was the champion in three weight classes: 177, 190 and heavyweight.
I moved back to LaGrange in 1977 and that grad assistant was now the head wrestling coach at Troup High School. I missed wrestling so much that I sheepishly called this coach up. I asked, “Hey coach, you remember me? I wrestled for LaGrange from 1971 until 1973 at the 167-pound class, and is it OK if I work out with your team?” He remembered me and said, “You would be more than welcomed.”
I made it a point to visit Troup High School – now Whitesville Road Elementary – after my English class at LaGrange College. I primarily worked out with heavyweight Greg Talley and 185-pound Guy Heflin. After every practice, Daniel thanked me for coming and asked me to please come back. At the end of the year both wrestlers won state titles and told me they could not have done it without my beating on them every day.
In the 1979-1980 school year a teaching position opened up at Troup Junior High – now Ethel Kight Magnet School. I got the job and I am sure Dariel pulled a few strings for me. Later I got jobs in Harris County, Heard County and Dublin and I am sure Dariel pulled strings for me.
In 1981 I took up officiating wrestling. To put it mildly, I did not have the natural talent and was probably the worst official ever. Dariel mentored me like he did in wrestling. I have received Outstanding Official at least four times and have officiated numerous state and sectional tournaments. None of this would have been possible without the mentoring of Dariel Daniel.
James C. West