Daniel Lewis is a lot of things.
Daniel Lewis is a lot of things.
The Blue Springs junior is one of just four three-time state champions in school history, and he’s won each of those titles at different weight classes (103 pounds, 126 and 138). With a season to go, he’s already established himself as an all-time great within one of the state’s elite programs.
One thing Lewis isn’t, however, is a good practice partner.
“He hates to lose so bad that he’s not a real good drill partner,” Blue Springs coach Mike Hagerty said. “He’s not a guy that typically you can go in and get your turn and he gets his turn, because in a way, that desire not to give up even a takedown in a drill is evident because he just hates to give up anything.”
Lewis, who was named The Examiner’s 2012-13 Wrestler of the Year after an unblemished 46-0 season, has cycled through a handful of different partners with comparable results. It’s gotten to the point that Hagerty has had to tell him to back off a bit. If he keeps beating up on his teammates, Hagerty warns, their confidence will deflate, they won’t improve and Lewis won’t get better either.
Lewis understands that, but he can’t help himself. He just loathes losing. Not only that, but he talks like it’s preordained that he’s going to win.
“The drive, it’s always been there,” Lewis said. “I’ve always been competitive, and in wrestling, it’s just one on one. It’s you and only yourself. I take it pretty seriously.”
That drive motivated Lewis throughout a season in which he was targeted every night. While his third title run often looked effortless, Hagerty said that was hardly the case.
“What sometimes is visible to the naked eye isn’t always a true reflection of where we’re at with Daniel or any of our guys,” Hagerty said. “... There were times in the year that Daniel found ways to win, and I think in his makeup he just hates to lose. That’s just who he is. He hates to lose so bad that he usually finds ways to win.”
Hagerty cited a match against Kearney’s Kevin Kinney, the Class 3 state champ, right after Christmas that went into overtime as a prime example of Lewis’ refusal to give in to defeat. Kinney seemed to have momentum in the extra session, but Lewis was able to ride him out in the match’s final moments – something he struggled to do through most of the bout – to secure a 6-2 win.
Every practice, every dual, every tournament, Lewis took the pressure head on and even embraced it.
“I think I put the most pressure on myself,” Lewis said. “I like to win. I want to win. I want to be the best. That’s what drives me.”
Page 2 of 2 - Minutes after besting Columbia Rock Bridge’s Samuel Crane 5-4 to win his third Class 4 crown, Lewis received a message on Twitter from University of Missouri All-American heavyweight and Blue Springs graduate Dom Bradley.
“Welcome to the club,” wrote Bradley, who along with Lewis, Tyler Hubbard and Lewis Caputo are the only other three-time winners in program history.
Now, Lewis’ attention is solely on etching his own spot in the Wildcats’ record book by becoming the 23rd four-time champion in Missouri history – a goal he’s never shied away from talking about.
“Each year, (that goal’s) always been there,” Lewis said, “starting with my freshman year. I’ve won it every season and you kind of go through and you’re like, ‘Well, what if I can do it again?’ You kind of have your doubts. Then after I won my second one, it’s like, ‘I’m gonna do this.’
“Then, after the third one, I think it’s set in stone.”
Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC