Meet Daniel Dennis, a wrestler for Team USA who will be representing his country at this summer’s Olympics in Rio. That’s something many who know Dennis probably didn’t think would happen just a few years ago.
That’s because, after the need to clear his mind following his father’s battle with terminal brain cancer, among other things, Dennis decided to leave wrestling, pack up his stuff and head out West with nothing but his pick-up truck and a motorcycle.
Per NBC Chicago:
As a two-time state runner-up at Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, and a national runner-up at the University of Iowa, Dennis has already been a serious contender, but never an individual champion.
“We have many, many second-place trophies and awards, many silver medals so that elusive gold medal is something he is really striving for,” said Dennis’ mother Jane Dennis.
Following the heartbreak of losing the NCAA Championships, and watching his father battle terminal brain cancer, Dennis decided to leave the sport that he had given so much to over the years.
“It is hard mentally, physically and emotionally,” Jane Dennis said.
With so much on his mind and requiring a break from the sport of wrestling, Dennis set out on his mini retreat in 2013, living as minimalistic as possible for two years—with no TV or internet, among other things.
After helping to coach at a high school in California, Daniel Dennis rediscovered his passion for wrestling, which, ultimately, has led him to the Rio Games this summer after winning the Olympic Trials in the 125-pound weight division.
As his mom put it, via NBC Chicago:
“We were sitting playing cards one and I said, ‘What is next for you?’ and he said, ‘I am going to make the Olympic wrestling team,’” Jane Dennis said. “I said, ‘OK, you go for it.’”
“I think he left something out there,” said Jane Dennis. “I think he always knew he had it in him. I think he came back at the urging of his friends and the fact that his dad would have been really proud.”
“He knows his dad wants him wrestling and he knows his dad is smiling down on him now,” Geist said.
Much like baseball player Daniel Norris—who, too, lived a simple life from a car—Daniel Dennis found that limiting distractions can help lead to big-time things.