Drako Wise turned 10 this morning. Wednesday he'll be in Colorado Springs for national Future Stars gymnastic competition.
The Barger Elementary fourth-grader is the only Tennessean taking part this year in the fast-track program for promising gymnasts. He's been going to the Tennessee Academy of Gymnastics since before birth, actually, since his mother, Karie Wise, is one of the TAG coaches.
Drako tried soccer and baseball but said "they got old." He's been doing gymnastics even longer, but he hasn't tired of that sport despite a training schedule exceeding 20 hours a week.
His early proficiency has been a factor in his enjoyment, certainly, and continually there is more to try.
"I like learning new things," Drako said, adding that he makes A's and B's in school.
And he likes being able to do things with his body that most people can't do.
"He's a bit of a showman," said Larry Denham, the TAG owner and head coach who also serves as the Future Stars chairman for Tennessee. "And he's a phenomenal talent. He's really shown the potential to be an outstanding gymnast."
Wise has been working as a 10-year-old already and will stay in that age group at Level 7 in the coming competition year.
Denham likened him at this age to former TAG standout Phillip Goldberg, a Dalton resident and McCallie School graduate who now is a senior captain for the University of Michigan men's gymnastics team. Goldberg was a two-time Future Stars participant.
"Future Stars is designed to identify the top 1 percent of boys ages 10, 11 and 12 years," Denham said. "The routines they do are fairly basic. The concentration is more on the execution of those routines."
The Future Stars program includes 10 events -- the Olympic six for males plus routines in trampoline, flexibility and parallel-bars strength and rings strength. The top 18 in each age group this week will make the national team, and the top nine will earn invitations to a training camp at the national center.
The high bar now is Wise's favorite event, "after I learned the blind turn," he said. He's probably most consistent on the p-bars, according to Denham.
"But he's probably at about 10 percent, maybe, of the gymastics he's going to learn," Denham said. "It's going to be exciting to watch him keep developing."