High School Sports

State wrestling: Wichita Heights’ Daniel Deshazer learns to grow from disappointment

Heights junior Daniel Deshazer doesn't remember experiencing a sense of joy or even satisfaction when he won the Class 6A 112-pound wrestling title as a freshman.

To him, it felt like just another tournament victory.

That lack of emotion might seem odd, but knowing Deshazer's goal of winning four titles, it's understandable.

Deshazer is a favorite to win at 125 pounds in his third Class 6A tournament, which is today and Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena.

If he wins, it would be his second title. Not third.

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Deshazer was destined to wrestle. Heights coach Mike Church figures Deshazer was born wearing wrestling shoes.

To Deshazer, wrestling was what you did. His father, Danny, was successful in the sport, winning titles in 1988 and 1989 at West and got his sons, Tristen and Daniel, involved early.

"I started having (Daniel) wrestle when he was 2," Danny Deshazer said. "Actual wrestling? He was 4. I taught him a lot of moves when he was very young."

During those early years, Daniel Deshazer spent hours at wrestling tournaments and practices watching his brother, Tristen, older by five years.

"I'd go with my brother to practice, and I watched the other wrestlers and picked up what they were doing and then worked on my technique," Deshazer said. "Sometimes I'd sit there and just watch or at other times I'd practice with the little guys."

The sport intrigued Deshazer because of its physicality and competitiveness. It still does.

By the time he started wrestling competitively, he said he was pretty good.

Along with success came his own expectations of winning, especially as he watched his brother win four titles at West.

He eagerly anticipated repeating his brother's success.

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That focus on winning four is the main reason why Deshazer's emotions were muted when he won in 2008. To him, that state title was merely the beginning.

"Freshman year, it just seemed like the start of four," he said.

In 2009, he was 33-1 and the favorite at 125 pounds. But he separated a shoulder during his opening-round match, and it popped back out during the championship when he lost in overtime to Olathe South's Chaz Lawrence.

Deshazer, who had "4x" written on his headgear, was disappointed. And he reacted, throwing his headgear.

"You know, I don't really see much emotion out of Daniel," Church said. "He's not a kid that will show you emotion.

"He broke down. In his mind, it was a low point in his life."

Certainly, winning four is rare — only 24 Kansas wrestlers have done it in four decades.

But shortly after that loss, Deshazer said he felt as if he'd let his family down by losing.

Yet when he talked to his brother and father, they told him to keep his head up, to know that disappointment is a part of life, too.

"They said, 'There's next year, always,' " Deshazer recalled.

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Now that it's next year, Deshazer, who is 20-0 with 15 pins, is focused, refusing to look ahead to the title match. To him, the smart route is not get ahead of himself.

In the offseason he focused on football, which kept him in the weight room. Deshazer is 5-foot-3, but every inch appears to be muscle.

"He's a physical specimen," Church said.

Deshazer is also an extremely intelligent wrestler.

"He's learned a lot of different styles of wrestling, from Kansas to Fresno, Calif., and almost every state in between," Danny Deshazer said.

Tristen Deshazer has helped along the way. Over the holiday break, Deshazer came home from Northern Illinois, where he wrestles, and the brothers worked out at Heights.

"He helped me learn the moves that he has learned," Daniel Deshazer said.

Church said he's become more of a college-style wrestler.

"You can tell he's starting to make that jump from big, physical athlete to wrestler," Church said.

"We all know how he's built. He's built like a phenom and he can walk up and grab them and throw a headlock and pin them."

Deshazer's not relying solely on strength, though.

"He's not out there to rush, rush, rush," his father said. "He's thinking about what he's going to do instead of just going out and doing it. He's more of a thinker than previously."

* * *

Church has a genuine affinity for Deshazer.

To him, it's important to point out that regardless of his last name, he's his own person and has a bright future in wrestling.

"He's a leader in the school, he's an honor roll student, he's a peer leader student," Church said."... I can rely on him all the time."

As for Deshazer's future, 10 Division I schools have shown interest, including Iowa State, Oklahoma, Hofstra, Virginia and Maryland.

Now it's time to focus on winning a second state title. And Deshazer feels he's prepared himself for it.

"I cut out all the slacking in the wrestling room," he said. "I didn't complete my goal (last year), so I have to work hard. I have worked hard so that I don't look back on the season and think that I didn't work as hard as I did."

To him, that's what matters.