Feb. 23—Daniel Uhorchuk is ready for the next step.
First, the most decorated wrestler in Signal Mountain High School history will try to win his fourth straight individual state championship Wednesday as the Class A/AA portion of the state tournament is held at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The Division II portion of the state tournament will be held Thursday and Class AAA on Friday.
"This year I have really tried to emphasize pushing myself and working harder than I ever have before," Uhorchuk said. "Really trying to set the bar for next year when I go off to West Point. But I am really excited to try and win another state title. I feel like I am the best I have ever been. I have been getting better every day."
Daniel has treated wrestling like a job.
In the practice room he trains with intention instead of just going through the motions. He takes pride in wearing his Army attire as his training and hard work earned the chance to wrestle at the Division I level.
At home he has a mat in his garage where he and his three brothers Ethan (eighth grade), Caleb (10th grade) and Joseph (seventh grade) train together. Daniel has also focused on healthy eating and sleeping habits that have helped his body be ready for the tough tests he puts it through.
"Ever since Daniel arrived he has had the determination to be the best wrestler he possibly can be," Signal Mountain head coach Joe Jellison said. "He has the will and determination to get better every day. He is not only the most decorated wrestler we have ever had, but the hardest worker we have ever had in this room."
Since losing in the state championship match as an eighth-grader wrestling for the varsity, the Eagles' team captain has not lost a TSSAA match. His strength, quickness and technique have helped him to a perfect record of 101-0 since his ninth grade year.
He has TSSAA championships at 106, 113 and 120 pounds the past three seasons and will look to win his last one at 126 pounds. The path to the top spot on the podium will not come without a challenge as there is a good chance he could match up with Hixson's three-time state runner-up Trevor Lewis, who he beat last year in the finals with a 3-0 decision.
"You have to go out there and treat the other guy as your enemy," said Daniel who has 123 career victories. "I use to struggle a lot with competition anxiety, but this year I have gone into my matches confident. A lot of it is me finally starting to believe in myself and the hard work I have put in.
"For me, the extra stuff is waking up earlier than everybody else, going to bed earlier than everybody else, eating right and training right. All of that slowly builds up and gains momentum. If I wrestle hard in every position and every second of the match, then I truly believe I am going to win."
Last year Daniel and his brother Caleb became the first duo in Signal Mountain wrestling history to win state championships in the same season.
The Uhorchuk's hope to win three state championships this year as Ethan has been a standout at 106 pounds and will look to earn some family bragging rights as Caleb and Daniel both placed second in the state tournament as eighth graders.
The three say they have all grown closer wrestling together. A fourth Uhorchuk could also join the program next season as the youngest brother Joseph looks to continue the family tradition.
"Our dad wrestled in high school and I think the work ethic and discipline it provided him was really something he wanted to pass on to us," Daniel said. "I was not the best wrestler at an early age, but I stuck with it and learned those principles early that have helped me get to where I am at today.
"It's going to be so exciting for us to all watch each other. This is a stage where you get to show everyone how hard you have been training. We want to show everybody what we are made of as brothers and as wrestlers. You don't get to this point easy. But it's been fun and I wouldn't change it for anything."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.