Wrestling runs in Trae McDaniel's blood. Since achieving All-America status in Fargo, North Dakota, at the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and 16U Nationals, the Cleveland High School junior has been unbeatable.
McDaniel, who went 39-0 and ran away with Tennessee's 106-pound Class AAA state title last season, became the second Chattanooga-area wrestler in as many days to commit to Army when he did so Tuesday.
"I have been working for this since I was 4 years old," said McDaniel, who has bulked up to 134 pounds for this season. "It's a dream come true to commit to a Division I college. Army has one of the best Greco(-Roman wrestling) coaches in the country, and it fits me. Their education is up there with the best colleges in the United States, too."
McDaniel has proven himself to be among the state and country's finest wrestlers over the past two seasons and hopes to help lead Cleveland to another team state title this season. Coming from a town that is a factory for state champion wrestlers, his coaches believe he could rank among the area's all-time greats.
"There are not many wrestlers like Trae," Cleveland Higher Calling Wrestling Club coach Josh Bosken said. "He is so dynamic in all three positions of wrestling. He still has to produce once he gets to college, but he is definitely special. He loves the sport and loves to train."
McDaniel is known strong defense and won his 2019 state final with a 12-5 major decision.
His coaches believe he learned what it takes to win at a high level on the national stage in Fargo after a solid freshman season.
"Trae has a fierce competitive spirit that really helps him," Blue Raiders coach Joey Knox said. "He would rather die than give up a point. Every time he steps on the mat in practice or competition he is looking to win. He's got what it takes to be a Division I wrestler."
McDaniel will be joined at West Point by Signal Mountain's Daniel Uhorchuk, who also was an undefeated state champion last season.
Army coach Kevin Ward is a former Soddy-Daisy High School three-time state champion who has kept close ties with the talent in Chattanooga.
"When you put in the hard work, you can achieve anything you want," McDaniel said. "I learned a lot from my losses as a freshman, and every day I try to get better. I can't thank my parents and family enough along with Coach Bosken and (Coach) Knox for helping me get to the point I am at today."