RIPLEY - Few prep athletes with the size of Ripley High’s Daryl Hicks embody the agility and footwork that the (6-0 285) senior possesses.
He carries himself like a two-hundred pounder and always seems to get his weight down to (285) after football season, where he played at (330) as a sophomore. Last season, he played at around (310) on the gridiron.
“When he reported to practice that season (sophomore), he just wasn’t himself. He wasn’t long in getting the weight down where he needed to be,” said Viking head wrestling coach Matt Smith. “Daryl is at his best at (285).”
“He is the hardest working big guy I have coached,” added coach Smith.
Hicks began wrestling at the age of four when he joined the youth wrestling team.
“I was just terrible until the end of seventh grade and I realized that I could really do this,” said Hicks.
Hicks’ father, Dwayne, is a teacher and an assistant football coach at Ripley. The elder Hicks was the wrestling coach at Ravenswood from 2001-2005 and played collegiate football at Glenville State College in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
“Dad is awesome. I can hear him screaming for me over the whole gymnasium. I have learned a lot from him.”
Coach Smith came into the picture for his eighth grade year and felt that he had received some bad information about Hicks. He was told that Hicks could be really good but some felt that he didn’t really care as much as he needed to.
“I found out quickly that it was just Daryl’s personality that made him appear that he didn’t care. He cared as much or more than anyone,” said Smith. “During that year he lost a match and threw his head gear and stomped around in a fury and I thought to myself, how can you say this kid doesn’t care?”
It was ninth grade when he began developing the wrestling skills that allowed him to wrestle freely and not feel that he had to overpower his opponent.
The second team AAA All-State defensive tackle and shot putter for coach Jason Ward’s track team has had a wonderful career as an athlete for the blue and white. To leave Ripley High this spring as a State Champion would be the ultimate icing on the cake.
“It would mean the world to me to end my wrestling career that way. That is why you put in all of the time and hard work,” said Hicks.
Daryl’s brother, David, finished his career last season as a 3-time State Champion. Was it hard coming up a grade behind his successful older brother?
“Honestly, early on I had to deal with comparisons when I was younger but it really hasn’t been that way. It never bothered me. I just worry about being the best I can be.”
That maturity has brought Daryl tremendous success on the AAA mats. Hicks was (24-13) as a frosh and finished fourth overall. He was the runner-up with a record of (38-10) as a sophomore.
Hicks sets goals for himself and feels that it helps him stay focused.
“I always thought that if you don’t set goals for yourself, what is the point?”
Last season, Hicks wrestled very well throughout the AAA State Wrestling Tournament. In the end, he dropped a very close 4-2 decision to defending state champion Garrett Stanley of Bridgeport in the heavyweight championship bout.
Stanley has since graduated and Hicks will face an equally tough road to a championship this season that is lined with talented big men like Morgantown’s Taylor Ortiz and Huntington’s Toney Kitts..
Going into Ripley’s road trip on January 26 to the PCC Duals (Pittsburgh), Hicks is (24-2) this season and holds a stellar career mark of (113-37) Hicks is ranked No. 1 at (285).
Coach Smith and assistant coach Franklin Howerton are working with Daryl to fine tune his approach as the regular season winds down.
Howerton has seen a gradual progression forward in Daryl’s skills.
“He has become so much more aggressive and uses his feet to his advantage. He wrestles better when he wrestles offensively and makes moves on his opponents early. It has been fun watching him develop. He is very determined and that is his best asset.”
Hicks is proud of being a part of Viking wrestling history and wants to exit his final season at the top of the podium.
“Success comes with tremendous sacrifice. There are times that you don’t feel like being here at nine in the morning working your tail off. Anything worth having is worth working for.”
Daryl Hicks has put in the work. The reward will have to wait for a few more weeks. The State Tournament begins February 21.