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Troup hosting Dariel Daniel Grind

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

For nearly three decades, Dariel Daniel oversaw one of the most successful sports programs in the state.

Daniel built a wrestling dynasty at Troup High, and under his guidance the team won numerous individual and team state championships while amassing a remarkable dual-match record of 411-12-3.

Sadly, Daniel died of a car accident in 2013, but his legacy lives on, and the hundreds of wrestlers he coached over the years no doubt carry the lessons he imparted with them every day.

One of the men Daniel had a great impact on was Drew Garner, who is in his first season as Troup’s head wrestling coach.

On Friday, Troup will host the Dariel Daniel Grind, a tournament named in honor of the legendary coach.

There will be six teams participating, including the host Troup Tigers, and they’ll each wrestle five times, with the first matches getting underway at 9 a.m.

When Garner was a wrestler at Troup High, he was a part of state-championship teams in 1999 and 2001.

At that age Garner was a sponge when it came to soaking up wrestling knowledge, and he and Daniel spent a lot of time together talking about a sport they both loved.

“I lived at his house almost through my whole middle-school and high-school years,” Garner said. “When I wasn’t wrestling, I was with Dusty, his son. I got to know that man on a personal level. We talked wrestling every chance we got.”

While Daniel clearly knew the Xs and Os of the sport, Garner said one of his great strengths was his ability to motivate his wrestlers, to convince them that there was nothing they couldn’t accomplish.

“He had such a magnetic personality,” Garner said. “He made you feel larger than life. Before your match, the things that he would say to motivate you, it made you feel like the guy you were fixing to wrestle against was somebody you could walk through. His level of motivation was unmatched.”

By the time Daniel’s tenure at Troup ended in the early 2000s, his teams had won nine state championships and finished second nine other times.

At one point Daniel’s teams won 252 consecutive dual matches, and the program finished with an unbeaten record 20 times.

Garner returned to Troup as an assistant coach a few years ago and he helped lead the team to back-to-back top-five finishes at state while working alongside his brother Craig Garner.

Now Garner has taken over the Troup program, and he also oversees a youth wrestling program that is thriving.

“I feel like I’m bringing coach Daniel’s style, his technique back,” Garner said. “Now the only difference is we’re trying to do that at a younger level. When they do get here, it makes our job a little easier.”

As for the high-school team, Garner said “we’re making strides.”

“We predict there’s a solid chance by the end of the season we might have a full lineup,” Garner added. “We may or may not. If we do, that’s great and we met our goal. If we don’t, then we might be one short, and that’s still seven more than they finished with last year. Half the battle’s just getting a full lineup. And half the battle’s executing with the lineup we’ve got.”

Troup’s most recent competition was at Harris County for the King of the Hill tournament, and seven members of the team placed.

That includes Michael Irvin, who was the tournament champion at 285 pounds.

Finishing second for Troup were Camden Roberts (106 pounds), Mason Lumpkin (138 pounds) and Kullum Irvin (145 pounds).

Dylan Hayes (126 pounds) was third, and Thomas Fuller (132 pounds) finished fourth.

At Friday’s tournament, Troup will be joined on the mat by Harris County, Stratford Academy, Central-Macon, Mount Zion-Jonesboro, Ola and Harris County.

Troup will compete in the area duals on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 at Central-Carroll.