Chaminade wrestler pushes hard even in the off-season

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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After making history at Chaminade College Preparatory School, Danny Conley began preparations for the next high school wrestling season as soon as the last one ended in February.

The off-season is no time to rest in his quest for improvement, which comes as no surprise to Chaminade coach Todd Schumacher.

"To be the best at what you do in life or work or whatever, you always have to think about what more you can do," Schumacher said. "Danny's a guy who's always thinking about what else he can do to get better."

For Conley, it's off-season training with coach Charlie Sherertz at Team St. Louis Wrestling club and Coach Marcus Hoehn at Thoroughbred Wrestling Academy. Since the end of the high school season, he's continued to wrestle with distinction.

• In March, Conley placed sixth in the 220-pound weight class at the NHSCA Junior Nationals in Virginia Beach, Va.

• He took second in the junior 220-pound class in May at the USA Wrestling Central Regional Freestyle Tournament. The finish qualified him for the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and Cadet Nationals July 13–22 in Fargo, N.D.

• Conley earned AAU All-American (bronze medalist) honors at AAU Scholastic Duals in June at Disney World with an 11-2 record at 195 pounds.

As a junior this past school year, Conley made Chaminade wrestling history by winning the state Class 4 championship at 220 pounds — the first state title for the Chaminade wrestling program, which started in 1986. Conley, who finished 49-1 on the season, was the first state semifinalist at the school as well.

A mentor

At Chaminade, Conley serves as a mentor for other wrestlers, including Sam Schultz. The rising sophomore was the first Chaminade freshman to win a state tournament match and holds the freshman record for most wins — 39.

In taking the younger guys under his wing, Conley stressed that though wrestling is a tough sport, if they stick to it, they'll learn valuable life lessons. They learn perseverance, how to respond to setbacks, the payoff of hard work and more.

Conley "sets an example not only by his actions but also verbally," said Schumacher, who calls him "a true leader. ... We have a young team. Those young guys are looking up to upperclassman in general, but they look up to him as well because his performance on the mat is top-notch."

After a sixth-place finish in state at 182 pounds as a sophomore, Conley set his sights this past season on the state championship and an undefeated record.

"His run was just dominating," Schumacher said. "He would break his opponent physically and mentally every time he went out there. There were some guys that he outmatched, but against tough opponents he could physically impose his will on them — and when it was said and done, it was no contest."

His sole loss came in a tough match against Jack Flynn of Francis Howell High School, among the top wrestlers in the state and a two-time state medalist.

"That match catapulted (Conley) to the path of winning a state title," Schumacher said. "It really told him what he needed to improve on, what he needed to do. He told me, 'Coach, I don't want to lose another high school match.'"

Move-up

Just before the district tournament, Conley moved up from 195 pounds to the difficult 220-pound class. He knew a tough foe stood in his way — defending state champion Jackson Berck of Francis Howell Central. Conley beat him in overtime in the district championship match. Then, he met Berck again in the state finals, and won again.

"I couldn't be happier for Danny because I told him and told his family that he's a better person than he is a wrestler, and he's one heck of a wrestler," Schumacher said.

Conley, who has wrestled since the sixth grade, dedicated the state championship to the Chaminade wresting community, which includes his brother, Norman, a Chaminade graduate who wrestles at Indiana University.

He aims to put the Chaminade wrestling program on solid footing in the future. That's why he mentors the younger wrestlers, returning to them what Chaminade coaches have done for him. "One of the goals for me is not only to have success at Chaminade, but to make it a better program when I leave and going forward," Conley said.

Conley praised his coaches at Chaminade, who "have been great mentors to me ... accessible and easy to talk to."

A St. Clement of Rome parishioner, he appreciates the family spirit and academics at Chaminade as well as the team's prayers before matches, which help him relax. His fellow students appreciate his achievements, witnessed by their cheering as he walked through the lunch room days after winning the state title. 

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