Wrestling Coach of the Year: Jefferson High's Doug Thurmond
Wrestling: All Area
Danny Bell never imagined athletic success in his future prior to reaching high school. An undersized kid, Bell stayed away from sports until his freshman year at Flowery Branch High, when he joined up with the wrestling program.
Now Bell’s name sits in high regard in Falcons athletic history. He became just the second Flowery Branch state championship wrestler in school history, winning the Class AAA state title at 119 pounds this season.
For his efforts, Bell is The Times 2009 Wrestler of the Year. The Falcons junior swept his way through the state brackets this year at the Gwinnett Arena and won it all with a 6-1 decision against a tough opponent from Eastside High in the finals on Feb. 21.
"It’s very satisfying to win that state title," Bell said. "It took about a day for it to really sink in that I was the state champion."
Just because Bell wasn’t an athletic kid growing up, doesn’t mean he wasn’t a busybody. Spending time on the lake innertubing and skiing near his home in Buford have always been a part of his life. He’s also pretty useful with his hands, building stuff like the four-wheel drive go-kart he’s currently assembling.
"Danny’s always been a real active kid," said his mother, Debbie Bell. "If he wasn’t sleeping or eating, he was outside."
However, to get him into organized sports took some influence from others. At the end of his eighth grade year, Bell was persuaded to joing the wrestling team by a friend, whose brother was wrestling at Flowery Branch. Bell quickly latched onto the sport, even though it was filled with bumps and bruises early on as he learned the many techniques involved in the sport.
But what Bell lacked in early technique he compensated for with persistence. He quickly established himself as one of the dominate lightweight wrestlers in the area winning Hall County individual titles each of his first three seasons.
"Danny is a very driven individual," Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said. "He’s got a great work ethic and is willing to work extremely hard."
Now Bell is already able to start preparing for his senior season, hoping to leave the program as the first two-time and back-to-back state champion in school history.
After taking a month off of wrestling following the season, he’ll soon get back to work, training twice each week with both greco and freestyle wrestling. He also trains extensively with USA wrestling during the year.
Even with his success on the mat, Bell isn’t sure if he wants to leave the state to continue wrestling in college. He’s much more focused on his academic future with a possible major in mechanical engineering.