From an early age Daniel Uhorchuk would watch the NCAA wrestling championships and dream of one day being on the same stage.
Now the extraordinary Signal Mountain junior is one step closer after announcing his commitment to West Point, where he will wrestle for the Army Black Knights.
"What I love about this sport is it pushes you to be the best," Uhorchuk said. "It instills perseverance and hard work. The thing that stood out to me about Army is that they are all about chasing greatness. I have always wanted to be the best and win a national title in college."
Uhorchuk wrestles with a relentless motor but stays calm and never puts too much pressure on himself even though he has not been defeated the past two seasons.
He finished a 41-0 sophomore campaign at the 113-pound class by winning all four of his matches at the TSSAA Class A/AA state tournament via pins, which took a total of 9 minutes and 56 seconds.
While no one has beaten him in his past 69 matches, Uhorchuk's coach believes one of his best tests of toughness and character came when the team called him up as an eighth-grader.
"Daniel has a winning mentality and values hard work in every endeavor he pursues," coach Joe Jellison said of the state's 2018 most outstanding wrestler who is also the junior class president at Signal Mountain. "In the state semifinals match his eighth-grade year he was losing but kept pushing and pulled a slick cradle to get the pin and bonus points."
Uhorchuk began wrestling at the age of 4 and developed under coach Mike Sutherland with the Baylor kids club. His two biggest inspirations are his father and late boxing great Muhammad Ali.
With the chance to become a four-time state champion wrestler, he says the key is to simply have fun.
"Wrestling is what I love to do," Uhorchuk said. "I go out there in a calm state on the mat, which is like my second home. I feel really at ease even in those big matches. I think about all the work and enless hours of practices I have put in.
"There is this fire inside of me that makes me want to go out there and dominate. Even when I am dead tired I am still willing to go 110%. I am driven to outwork my opponent and move faster then they are."
Daniel says he looks up to his younger brother Caleb, who also wrestled up as an eighth-grader and fell by only three points in the 106-pound state final despite weighing less than 90.
With his college commitment out of the way he now hopes to help the Eagles win their first state championship as a team. Signal Mountain has a good chance, as no other A/AA program returns more points than its 116 from last year's traditional tournament in which it was the runner-up to Pigeon Forge.
"Daniel is building a legacy here," Jellison said "He leads by example on and off the mat. Most importantly, he dedicates himself to being the very best in all he does."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.