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Transformation of Life

February 20, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Chris Daggett has experienced a total transformation since arriving at Liberty nearly two years ago.

Chris Daggett has experienced a total transformation since arriving at Liberty nearly two years ago.

After a night of heavy drinking, 18-year-old Chris Daggett found himself passed out on a friend's couch in Parkersburg, W.Va. When Daggett woke up, his friend told him he had to leave.

Still intoxicated, he eventually got in his car and drove away. While driving, a sleep deprived Daggett kept dozing off behind the wheel, hitting three mailboxes in the process. Aware of the state he was in, he pulled over at a gas station and fell asleep in his car.

An officer, who happened to notice Daggett's car still running, approached the vehicle. When asked if he had been drinking, Daggett gave an honest answer and the officer cited him with public intoxication and under-age drinking.

Although such a situation is not a glorious moment for anyone, Daggett reminisces five years later, taking something very positive from the incident.

"I had to have fallen asleep more than five times while driving," said Daggett. "I could have killed myself. I could have killed anybody. Now realizing that God is part of my life, it's amazing to see how He has kept me safe. If it weren't for God, I know I would not have made it through all of that."

The days of run-ins with law enforcement are a thing of the past for the 23-year-old. Daggett is now a born-again Christian and a junior on Liberty University's wrestling team. Before arriving at his current destination, the grappler traveled down a road filled with overwhelming struggles and painful memories.

Under the tutelage of his two older brothers, Daggett developed a passion for wrestling at an early age. Each of the three brothers found success on the mat during their high school careers. During his sophomore year, Daggett earned high school All-America honors and captured a West Virginia state championship. Eventually, the accomplished grappler joined his brother, Casey, at West Virginia University.

Before making the transition from high school to collegiate wrestling, Daggett struggled with a situation bigger than any opponent he has ever faced on the mat. When Daggett was 15, his oldest brother, Todd, was killed in an accident after being thrown from the back of a pick-up truck just two days before he was to graduate from high school.

"Immediately after that happened, I did not care about anyone or anything," said Daggett. "I recall breaking down so often. It seemed so unrealistic."

Daggett's attitude toward others drastically changed following the death of his brother. After spending a year at West Virginia, he returned to his hometown. While working out in a local gym in Parkersburg, Daggett ran into his former high school coach, Pat Sole.

Prior to coaching Parkersburg South to 10 state championships, Sole wrestled for Liberty. During his collegiate career, Sole won 50 matches and captured a National Christian College Athletic Association individual championship.

Sole, who had practically watched Daggett grow up, convinced him to attend Liberty. Together, the two came to Lynchburg, where Sole helped his former teammate and current wrestling coach Jesse Castro reestablish the Flames' program.

While Sole enjoyed the atmosphere of his old stomping grounds, his pupil experienced much difficulty adjusting to the new surroundings. Like an alien trapped in a foreign land, Daggett struggled to adapt to the University's rules and regulations.

Daggett recalled meeting his resident assistant for the first time and cursing nonchalantly as the two carried on a conversation. Eventually, the cultural shock of RAs and morning convocations took its toll on Daggett; he began making plans to leave.

Amidst all of the chaos, something inside Daggett told him to pray and ask God for guidance. When he finished praying, Daggett opened his eyes and immediately felt a calm sensation come over him.

"I didn't immediately ask God to come into my life," said Daggett. "Two weeks later, I ended up accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior. Coach Castro, Patrick Walker and my RA, Ben Knotts, were all big contributors in my conversion."

The moment he accepted Christ as his Savior, Daggett's outlook on life underwent a complete transformation. Whenever the grappler returned home, he experienced a shock when interacting with old friends. Habits such as cursing, smoking and drinking were no longer attractive to him.

These days, Daggett sees wrestling as a ministry rather than a competition, as he tries to encourage those he encounters on the mat. Throughout most of his wrestling career, Daggett displayed high amounts of anger toward his opponents. With his new attitude, he no longer viewed those he grappled with as adversaries.

Due to his passion for the sport, Daggett identified himself as a wrestler for the majority of his life. As he continues to grow in his relationship with God, Daggett has discovered that wrestling is not his only passion.

"Witnessing is something I feel very strongly about," said Daggett. "I can recall leading four people to Christ myself."

On one particular occasion, Daggett's two passions in life collided as he received an opportunity to share the story of Jesus Christ with his teammate, sophomore Aaron Kelley. Ironically, the two wrestlers grew up in the same town together, where Daggett had developed a somewhat notorious reputation. In this instance, however, the person who Kelley had heard stories about was now witnessing to him.

"We went to church that night" recalled Kelley. "We were back in the dorm talking about it and we sat down and prayed."

Since then, Daggett has not ceased from telling others about Jesus Christ. Recently he traveled with a ministry team to the Republic of Cyprus where he encountered many natives who were predominantly Muslim and could not speak English.

Although that language barrier was certainly an obstacle for Daggett, he currently is facing an even bigger challenge in his hometown, as he tries to share Christ with members of his family. While some of his relatives take offense to the change in his life, there are others who are accepting of his relationship with God.

During winter break, Daggett's family prayed aloud for the first time, before sharing Christmas dinner with one another. As Daggett recalled the unprecedented events that took place over the holidays, he remembers being blown away by his family's willingness to say grace before eating.
"They actually were waiting for me to pray in order to eat," said Daggett. "It was sweet!"

After his wrestling career at Liberty is over, Daggett hopes to combine his love for sports and witnessing by establishing a recreation center for inner-city children.

By making it free to the public, he wants to use the center as way to introduce Jesus Christ to young people who grow up in an environment similar to the one Daggett experienced. In the meantime, Daggett is not complacent with making his presence felt solely on the mats of Liberty. His mission is simple — impact the world for Christ, one life at a time.

By Eric Brown who is an intern in the athletics media relations office for Liberty University and serves as the sports editor for the Liberty Champion.