Wrestling is already an inherently personal sport, but for Penn senior Zack Davis, there is one single opponent that fuels him through hours of grueling workouts.
"Whenever I'm training in practice, I always think about what he's doing," Davis says. "He could get one more shot in, so I get two. I just use it to motivate myself."
Davis is in the final year of an illustrious career for Penn. He has won three regional titles and was a state runner-up last season at 113 pounds.
He lost by two points in the final to Stevan Micic of Hanover Central, one of the top wrestlers in the country, let alone the state. Micic is ranked number two in the nation in the 126 pound weight class by InterMat Wrestling.
Davis could have changed weight classes to avoid Micic this year. But he was not about to duck his biggest challenge.
"To be the best, you got to take out the best," says Davis. "That's kind of my goal this season. I want to win a title but also say I won it and took out somebody good while I was doing it."
"We haven't had a state champion for like over 40 years and he knows that," says Penn head coach Brad Harper. "He'd like to be the first one to break the streak."
If you think that is a lofty goal, just listen to Davis' plans for after high school. Davis, who sports a 4.1 weighted GPA, will continue his wrestling career at the Naval Academy.
"Right now, my goal is to major in aerospace engineering and, when I graduate, go to flight school and become a pilot," says Davis, who has wanted to fly since he was a small child. "I would fly off a carrier. That's my ultimate goal."
The deck of an aircraft carrier is a long way from an Indiana wrestling mat. But there are similarities in the mental makeup required for both pursuits.
"He's a very focused, determined individual," Harper says. "He's dialed in, for sure."
At the Lake Central Harvest Classic on December 7, Davis lost a 2-1 decision to Micic. He is getting closer.
"Whether you know or not that you can beat the other guy, I always tell myself, no matter who it is, I can beat him," says Davis. "I have what it takes to beat him."