A True Battler
by Anne Dunham
photography by Thru Him Photography
Daniel Ukkelberg, a senior at Battle Lake High School, does not seem to surprise anyone with his dedication to sports and other extracurricular activities. He is not only a three-sport athlete in football, wrestling, and track and field, but he participates in numerous extracurricular activities. Besides school related activities, he also enjoys 4-H, hunting, and singing.
“My normal day consists of waking up at 6:30 to go to choir ensemble practice. I go straight from there to school. After school I go to football practice. Then I have musical practice from 6:30-9:30,” Daniel says. “My Friday nights include football games, and weekends include FFA and 4-H.”
This busy schedule is nothing new to Daniel. He has been involved in extracurricular activities since he can remember. Daniel’s mom, Liz Ukkelberg, a pharmacist at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, says Daniel started competitively playing sports as young as preschool. “He did not sit still very long and therefore was always in pretty good shape. He started wrestling in pre-school and has also been in basketball, baseball, track, golf, and football.” His busy schedule and drive for success is something he has become accustomed to throughout his school years.
Daniel is not only involved in several activities, he is successful in them. He is a three-sport team captain and a two-time state participant. Daniel, a tackle and nose guard for the Battle Lake football team, is hoping the Battlers can make the state tournament once again this year.
“It is a rebuilding year for us. We had 12 guys graduate last year. Four came back this year,” Daniel says. “We are on a six game winning streak. We are doing great with our new head coach Eric Olson.”
Eric, a first year head coach, says, “Daniel is a leader by example. In practice and in games he goes 100%. He earns respect from teammates and opponents by how hard he competes.”
Daniel has received many awards owing to his hard work. He received all-conference football honors his 10th and 11th grade year. He also received all-state honors in 11th grade and was awarded most valuable defensive linemen on the team after his 10th and 11th grade years.
Adding to these achievements, he has overcome three career threatening injuries. A torn MCL and a dislocated elbow caused Daniel frustration. He was determined to recover and come back ready, and he did. “I dislocated my elbow in wrestling. It was the first meet of my sophomore year. I was out for a year and a half. I still worked out with the team and went to all the meets,” he says.
Battle Lake made it to the 2015 Minnesota State Football Tournament. Unfortunately for Daniel, he tore his MCL in the first game of the tournament. “I didn’t recover fully until Christmas, so I had a late start on wrestling. I did a lot of physical therapy to help me progress,” he says. Despite this injury, he came back to make the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament as an individual that year.
Besides these two injuries, Daniel has recently faced another serious injury which will keep him out of sports for several months. “I will not be participating in the rest of the football or wrestling seasons,” Daniel says. “In the game against Wadena, I broke my fibula and tibia clean which will require surgery.”
Because this injury happened right before his last chance to play in the Minnesota State Football Tournament, the Battlers will have to end the season without him. As one of the Battlers all-conference and all-state players, he is a hard worker, which is why he is determined to recover as fast and strong as possible.
Daniel does not think he will be back in time for wrestling sections but is determined to compete once again before he graduates. “I am going to try as hard as possible to be able to wrestle one last time,” he says.
Daniel knows how to create balance in his life to allow for other interests to take the lead when an injury occurs. He has many other activities that carry his success. “He is always on the go,” Eric says.
He is involved in FFA, 4-H, MN State 4-H Ambassadors, choir, chorale, Business Professionals of America (BPA), Interact, Student Council, musicals, speech, and Life Teen, a church youth program. He has been to state speech, state FFA, state archery, and BPA regionals. He has also been captain or president of several of his activities.
Daniel has left his mark in the Battle Lake community. “One of the most memorable experiences was when Daniel was awarded the ExCEL award from the MN State High School League his junior year,” Liz says. The ExCEL award signifies Daniel’s dedication to volunteering, classroom excellence, and leadership skills in sports, fine arts, clubs, and other programs.
Activities are not the only things that have shaped Daniel. For him, a couple people have stuck out as those who have helped him succeed.
Sources of the battle in Daniel
“Someone who was always dedicated to football and wrestling was Sam Natty. He has done a lot for me and other athletes as well,” Daniel says. “Also, my wrestling coach and the assistant football coach, Scott Hart won the assistant coach of the year for our region. You can ask anyone on our team, and they will say he is like a dad to us.” Daniel looks up to his dad, Todd Ukkelberg, as a role model. Todd is a realtor for Otter Tail Real Estate and a pre-planner and after-care provider at Glende-Nilson Funeral Home. He also has some college football experience. “My dad played one year of football at University of Minnesota-Crookston,” Daniel says. “He has always been there for me. Every meet, every game, and every injury, I could not do it without him.”
Daniel hopes he can be a role model to younger athletes as he approaches graduation. “I would like to get involved in activities in college as well. Being a part of a team or singing in the choir would be fun,” Daniel says.
Daniel is planning to attend college for Agriculture Communications after he graduates. Daniel’s parents do not think he will have any problem in his chosen field. “He enjoys talking with people and has no fear of getting up in front of a full auditorium and talking or performing,” Liz says.
Despite Daniel’s injuries, he has had an incredible athletic career at Battle Lake High School. Eric says, “Daniel is the type of kid coaches love to have on their team. He works hard, never complains, always has the drive to do a little more, and respects decisions made by the coaches.”