By STEVE KRAH
Bradin Daniels became the first Union City Junior/City wrestler to qualify for the IHSAA State Finals in a dozen years when the junior won the 126-pound title at the 2024 Fort Wayne Semi-State.
Before the Feb. 10 accomplishment, the last Indian to punch his ticket to the state tournament’s last stage was Kyle Walters at 160 in 2011-12, a season in which he want 40-4.
As a Union City assistant coach, Walters has been in Daniels’ corner along with Indians head coach Kevin Lawrence.
“He’s just a hard worker,” says Walters of Daniels. “He’s worked for it all season.”
Away from the mat, Lawrence owns a construction company and Walters is a software engineer.
Because of NBA All-Star Game activities, the site of the State Finals has been moved this year from Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to the Ford Center in Evansville.
The first round is Friday, Feb. 16. There will be two sessions (152-285 and 106-144). First-round survivors compete Saturday, Feb. 17.
Daniels heads to the Pocket City at 38-2 on the season.
Union City is a Randolph County school with an enrollment around 250.
“I did it for these guys over here,” says Daniels, who pointed to the UC faithful that came to cheer Saturday at Allen County Memorial Coliseum and saw him defeat NorthWood junior Will Hahn (pin in 2:42), Marion freshman Hixon Love (6-0 decision), Delta senior Neal Mosier (6-5 overtime decision) and Jay County senior Cody Rowles (8-4 decision). “I did it for my coaches. I did it for me. I did it for my family (including parents Devon and Samantha Daniels and brothers Gage and Blayne).
“They all knew I had it in me. This year it changed.”
Says Lawrence, “it was more the way he wrestled. He’s more patient now then he was before. He now knows that all he has to do is win a match. He doesn’t necessarily have to do it all in the first period.
“He can wrestle a three-period match now and go six minutes.”
Daniels said he became serious about wrestle in sixth grade.
“I placed second at Middle School State and I was like ‘Wow!,’” says Daniels. “My freshman year I missed weight at sectional and last year I got in my head because I had to face the No. 1 seed.”
Daniels gave himself a pep talk going into 2023-24.
“I told myself there’s nothing stopping me this year,” says Daniels. “You’re going to go and win it whether you like it or not.”
Gage and Blayne Daniels both wrestled for UC.
“They’re over there rooting me on,” says Bradin. “They tell me that no matter what else is going on, just wrestle.”
Other season highlights for the youngest Daniels boy include winning his second Tri-Eastern Conference championship (pinning Winchester junior Isaiah Spurlin in the finals) and placing first for the second straight Bill Kerbel Invitational at New Haven (beating Northfield freshman Elijah Gahl by 13-0 major decision for the crown).
Daniels also earned his first Jay County Sectional title (besting Rowles 4-0 in the championship bout). He placed second at the Jay County Regional (losing to Rowles by fall in the finals) then won the Fort Wayne Semi-State.
As a sophomore, Daniels was a sectional runner-up and came in fourth at regional and did not place at semi-state.
Bradin came in third at the past two East Central Indiana Classic tournaments.
“He’s always had the ability,” says Lawrence. “Little things here and there he was able to put together this year.
“That’s been the difference.”
The past two seasons, Daniels competed at 126. He began the current season at 132, but continued to lose weight and went back to 126.
Union City’s Matt Taylor placed fourth at the State Finals in 1991.
Besides Taylor in 1990 and Walters in 2012, other state qualifiers include Kyle Anderson in 2007, Zach Woodbury in 2004, Jim Garrett in 1992 and Rob Bousman in 1987.