By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
November 20, 2013
The numbers are staggering.
With head coach Dariel Daniel at the helm, the Troup High wrestling program was a dynasty in every since of the word.
For three decades, Daniel directed the wrestling team at Troup, and while the men wearing the singlets changed, the amazing success the program enjoyed did not.
By the time Daniel’s tenure ended following the 2001-2002 season, he’d left behind an extraordinary legacy of success.
His teams won nine state championships and came close to winning numerous others, he led 20 teams to region championships, and he coached dozens of individual state champions.
Daniel was also the coach when Troup won an astounding 252 consecutive dual matches, and 20 times his teams went through a season without losing a match, and his final record was 411-12-3.
Daniel was killed in a car accident on Tuesday night while driving home from a Long Cane Middle School wrestling meet in Thomaston.
“His coaching accomplishments were second to none,” said Craig Garner, who wrestled for Daniel, and eventually became his assistant coach. “To me, without a doubt, he was the best coach in the Southeast. Not just in the state of Georgia, but in the whole Southeast. He was revered as probably being the best.”
Daniel graduated from Troup High in 1966, and he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Auburn.
He was a graduate assistant for a few years at Auburn University, and he then spent three years as a teacher at Boykin Middle School in Auburn.
In 1974, Daniel returned to Troup to become a teacher and a coach, and the rest is history.
While he coached numerous sports at Troup, it was on a wrestling mat where he was obviously most at home.
The Troup wrestling program was soon one of the state’s best, and the Tigers remained an elite team until his final year.
Scooter Weathers wrestled at LaGrange High when Daniel was at Troup.
Later, Weathers became the LaGrange head coach when Daniel’s Tigers were still winning championships.
Weathers said Daniel “was a great coach, a great motivator.”
“He was one of the best coaches, bar none, in the state,” Weathers added. “All the state titles he won. He had his kids ready. His kids were hard-nosed and tough. He did a great job motivating.”
Weathers said while Daniel obviously knew the Xs and Os of coaching, he was able to get the best out of his wrestlers because they knew how much he cared for them.
“He had a big heart,” Weathers said. “He wanted what was best for his kids, and he did a lot of good things in the county. He was just an amazing guy. He did a lot of things for a lot of kids, for a lot of people.”
This season, Daniel was helping out the young wrestlers at Long Cane Middle School, and Garner said his joy for coaching hadn’t diminished a bit.
“His passion was to continue to work with young people, and coach and pass on his knowledge,” said Garner, who was succeeded Daniel as the Troup wrestling coach in the 2002-2003 season. “Things really hadn’t changed. Just being around him, and working with him some these last three weeks, maybe he’s a little more mellow, maybe a little smoother in his communication. As far as watching them relate to him, they loved him.”
Garner said Daniel was always teaching, and win or lose he had something constructive to offer.
“What did you do wrong, what do you need to work on? He would tell them, these are things that you did, and we need to correct them,” Garner said. “Some of them would get pinned in 15 seconds, and they would leave from there after that match, knowing what went wrong. Some little phrase or comment was made. They’d walk away from there feeling a little bit better about themselves.”
Beyond the wrestling mat, Daniel was a one-time Troup County teacher of the year, and he earned numerous other accolades for his teaching.
Daniel also sponsored a SADD (students against drunk driving) chapter at Troup that included more than 1,000 members.
“He had such an impact on our SADD program,” Garner said. “He had the largest SADD chapter in the nation.”
After Daniel’s time at Troup ended following the 2002 season, he took a couple of years off before the coaching bug bit him again, and he headed to Texas.
From 2007 through 2011, he was an assistant coach at Allen High School, and he was a part of five different state-championship teams.
He was also the head coach of a middle-school team that won a state championship.
After the 2011 season, he returned to his hometown and turned his attention to politics, and he made an unsuccessful bid for the Troup County School Board.
Daniel’s thoughts have never been far away from wrestling, though.
He has helped out at camps, and he also became a wrestling official.
Daniel also wrote a book called “Developing Wrestling Champions” that was released earlier this year and can be found at Amazon.
Daniel was 65, but he wasn’t slowing down, and he was ready to resume his coaching career.
While Daniel is gone, Garner said the impact he made on those who knew him will go on.
“He was a motivator, he was an educator, he was a competitor,” Garner said. “He was an all-around great person. A lot of times misunderstood, but the ones that were closest to him and really and truly knew who he was and knew everything about him, those were the people that truly loved him, and always stood by him through thick and thin.”