FRANKLIN, Tenn.–It was three years ago that Whitwell head coach John Weiss met now 2-time state qualifier Daniel Mikel in the midst of a rough road.
Mikel was failing every class at Whitwell High School when first introduced to Weiss, but at that time, he was the latest in his lineage to struggle academically.
“He’s going to be the first one in his family to graduate high school,” Weiss explained. “And you can’t take that away from him, the hard work that he put in on and off the mat. This was his salvation.”
For most senior leaders, they might command the mat room or verbally affect the attitude of their teammates. Whitwell’s senior duo of Mikel and Seth Cumby, though, have a silent legacy that helped to put the TigerTown program on the map.
“The legacy they leave behind is unreal,” Weiss said. “They’re two-time state qualifiers, and that’s awesome. I’m proud of both our seniors and all that they’ve done for this program.”
And while Mikel went 0-2 during the State Tournament this weekend, Cumby played a different role for the Mat Tigers during his 2016-2017 campaign.
“He basically became an assistant coach for us this year,” Weiss said. “Seth, unfortunately couldn’t be on the mat with us this year. He was hurt in football, but he came to practice and inspired the kids. He just took a bad situation and made a blessing out of it.”
Cumby previously qualified for the State during the past two seasons, but after the injury, he can see a new path emerging from the ashes of a down-trodden senior year.
“I’m excited to see what he does as far as continuing his education,” Weiss said. “I know that he’ll end up having a career in wrestling, whether that be officiating or hopefully coming back in out mat room and helping us coach the little ones up to the high school.”
Although Cumby’s future looks to be headed in the direction of wrestling, Mikel’s future is a bit more clear-cut as head gets ready to serve his country.
“We’ve sat down and talked about his option,” Weiss explained. “He told me he wanted to join the Navy, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. That just to to his legacy of working hard, on and off the mat.”
The Whitwell program may be missing two key seniors next season, but their legacy stretches far beyond their limited time on the mat. From failing grades to graduation and injury to assistant coach, the story of Whitwell’s senior wrestlers is why sports still matter in an ever-evolving world.