There's more than one path to record-setting careers.
Washington senior wrestlers Aaron Cissell and Levi Graber started on divergent paths, but both reached the 100-win plateau this season for the Hatchets. The duo is only two of five Hatchets to accomplish the feat.
Unlike Cissell, who had years of wrestling experience before he joined the Washington varsity roster, Graber's first year of wrestling competition was his freshman year. Graber currently stands with 108 victories, a number he never thought about.
"I didn¹t expect to get to 100 wins, so it's a pretty big deal," Graber said. "When I first started, I just wanted to be varsity, I never expected it." On the other hand, Cissell had been wrestling since he was in the fourth grade, and was even coached by Washington all-time wins leader Beau Parsons.
Parsons graduated in 2009, and has 119 career wins, a mark Cissell is only five wins short of tying. It wasn't always easy for Cissell, he managed only 16 victories as a freshman.
"From my sophomore to my senior year I really stepped it up, and that¹s something to be proud of," Cissell said.
Washington coach John Thompson said in his time leading the Hatchets he has only had wrestlers reach 80 wins during a four-year career. He did, however, get to coach Parsons during his junior and senior seasons.
Thompson said Cissell might have had a tough start to his career, because as a bigger kid at the 189 weight class, most of the wrestlers he faced were juniors or seniors.
Between the end of his freshman year, and where he sits now with 114 victories, Cissell has won 98 matches in just under three seasons, and has settled in at the 170 weight class. Cissell is a two-time semi-state qualifier and sectional champion. He was the Big 8 conference champion a year ago, and will enter the season ranked No. 15 in the state.
"Aaron took his lumps," Thompson said. "He had a losing season his first year. He decided if he was going to compete with these bigger kids, he had to keep working hard and focus himself on his training. His sophomore year he had the most wins for the season, he was right up there at the top last year, and continues to do so this year." When thinking about 100 wins in wrestling, and trying to put it into perspective in relation to other sports, Thompson has an easy analogy. In basketball it would be similar to winning 70 or 80 games in a four-year span, or with football winning 10 games a season for a four-year stretch.
Graber, however, started on a more consistent pace as he won 25 matches his freshman year at the 103 weight class. He currently competes at 120, and reached semi-state last season, but fell one match short of the state finals.
"As I went through and got further and further in the state tournament, I saw how much work others put into it to be that good," Graber said. "I just had to step it up to match that effort." Graber said that with his relatively late start to wrestling, he hopes his success can encourage the younger wrestlers, who he says have much more experience as a freshman or sophomore that he had. Both he and Cissell hope they can have the kind of careers that they have enjoyed.
"Some of these freshman, they look at Levi and I, and say man you guys are so good, we want to see you guys make it to state," Cissell said. "It's kind of cool to have that feeling. But at the same time, we know that they¹re going to be just as good, if not better, when they become our age."