For some elite high school wrestlers, winning a state championship becomes a singular focus. They base the entire success or failure of their high school careers on whether or not they are able to see their hand raised on the final day of the NJSIAA Championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

But St. Augustine Prep junior Mike Misita — Glory Days Magazine’s Wrestler of the Year — takes a more macro approach when it comes to his career. Yes, of course, he is driven to win a state title. But if he doesn’t, he’s not about to give up on his wrestling career. He has bigger, better things planned. Like one day becoming an NCAA champion, and possibly even a world champ.

“I expected a lot out of myself. There was a lot of focus. I just focused on getting better and really just improving my wrestling. Overall, the main goal isn’t to win a title — even though it is — but the main focus is to just be a better wrestler in general and eventually get to college and be the best wrestler in college, and then eventually the world,” said Misita, a Williamstown resident. “The process is different for different people. Obviously, I want to win states, I want to win as many matches as I can, but as long as I’m bettering myself I’m happy with what I did. As long as I learn from my mistakes.”

You see, Misita doesn’t judge success or failure based on his win-loss record. To him, success means taking everything you learn every day and becoming better at your craft. If you’re able to do that consistently, there’s bound to be more wins than losses along the way. And there have been plenty of wins so far in Misita’s career. He picked up career victory No. 100 at this year’s state championships, after a win over Tommy Goodwin of Pequannock in the 195-pound quarterfinals, and made it to within one win of wrestling for a state championship before wrestling back to take third in the state, a year after placing eighth as a sophomore.

In the state semifinals, he fell, 6-5, to Martin Cosgrove of Camden Catholic, a wrestler he had beaten during the Beast of the East tournament back in December. Misita said the grind of winning district and regional titles, and then several rounds at states, took a toll on his legs and he had a feeling he wasn’t at 100 percent going into the state semis.

“Going into that match, when I was warming up on the side, I knew my feet were going to be slow in that match. I could just feel it,” he said. “I went out there and my feet were not moving, I felt a little slower (than normal) and lost, 6-5. It is what it is and I had to continue to wrestle. A lot of that credit goes to my coaches, they helped calm me down and cool me off. I was ready to explode (after that loss). I knew I needed to get back into it, but I needed help getting back into it, and my coaches helped me with that. I won (the wrestleback) and had another chance at Chakonis, and won that.”

Despite the loss, Misita wrestled back to the third-place bout, where he beat Delbarton’s Luke Chakonis, an opponent who had beaten him twice during the season.

“At that point, I feel like it’s all mental. The skill is all there — anyone can wrestle with anyone else on any given day. It’s about who is more mentally prepared before the match and who is ready to go. You can’t really have any doubts. You have to have a game plan and know what you want to do,” Misita said. “But the mental part is the hardest part. Going into the tournament I didn’t have to rely on the mental part too much. I wrestled everyone and beat them as bad as I could. The semifinals is where it evens out a lot more, so that’s when the mental part becomes a big hurdle.”

Misita said coming into this season there were things he knew he needed to work on, but he defers to his coaches when it comes to setting up the best possible game plan to make sure he is wrestling his best when it counts, in March in Atlantic City. Finishing third this year certainly will motivate him to finish his senior year on top of the podium, and Misita said he’s eager to getting back to competing once the Coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

“I leave a lot of that to my coaches, they help me focus on what I need to be doing every day and what I need to get better at. There was somewhat of a checklist (for this year). It wasn’t really drawn out, date-by-date, but I had an idea of what I wanted to get better at and what I had to do to make myself better,” he said. “I plan on doing a lot of freestyle wrestling when this pandemic is over, like I did last year. Hopefully I can come back next year and win a state title. I just want to make myself a better wrestler, hopefully get to college and become an NCAA champion, and hopefully a world champion.”

Here’s a look at Glory Days Magazine’s Wrestling All-Stars for the 2019-2020 season:

Mike Misita, 195, St. Augustine Prep: Glory Days Magazine Wrestler of the Year.

D’Amani Almodovar, 106, St. Augustine Prep: The sophomore finished with more than 30 wins, beating Oakcrest’s Hogan Horsey 4-0 to take third at Region 8. He advanced to states, where he went 2-2.

Hogan Horsey, 106, Oakcrest: One of three Horsey brothers, Hogan went 34-11, finished fourth at regions and advanced to states.

Hunter Horsey, 113, Oakcrest: Hogan’s twin brother, the sophomore won 37 bouts and advanced to states.

Sean Cowan, 113, Absegami: This freshman had an outstanding rookie year, notching 31 wins and taking fourth at Region 8.

Hayden Horsey, 120, Oakcrest: The oldest of the Horsey boys, Hayden’s senior season ended at regions but he still put up a 32-11 record.

Brock Zurawski, 132, St. Augustine Prep: Zurawski lost to Oakcrest’s Frank Gabriel in the second round of regions, but fought all the way back to take third and punch his ticket to the state championships, where he went 2-2.

Frank Gabriel, 132, Oakcrest: Although his season ended in the wrestlebacks at regions, Gabriel finished his career as a district champion and with a 37-7 record as a senior.

Charlie Cossaboone, 132, Ocean City: The sophomore made it to the Region 8 semis and finished with 36 victories.

K.J. Sherman, 138, Holy Spirit: Sherman scored a pair of thrilling victories in region wrestlebacks to finish third and make it to states, where the sophomore picked up the first Boardwalk Hall victory of his career.

Alex Marshall, 160, St. Augustine Prep: Marshall is just a sophomore but showing plenty of potential. This year he took third at Region 8, advanced to states and won 36 matches.

Quinn McLaughlin, 160, Absegami: Known more for his exploits on the football field, McLaughlin proved to be a pretty good wrestler. He finished his senior season with 30 wins and finished fifth at Region 8.

Braydon Castillo, 160, Lower Cape May: Castillo came on strong late in the season, taking second at regions and advancing to the state championships.

Alexi Giordano, 170, St. Joseph: The junior took third at regions and then, after losing his first bout at states, ripped off three wins during wrestlebacks before his season came to an end. He finished with 37 wins.

George Rhodes, 170, Absegami: Not many freshmen come in at 170 pounds, but Rhodes more than held his own, making it all the way to the region championship before finishing second and earning a win in the opening round at states.

Nick Marshall, 182, St. Augustine Prep: Marshall lost in the quarterfinals at regions but stormed back to take third to advance to Boardwalk Hall.

Marcus Hebron, 195, Lower Cape May: Hebron made it to the Region 8 championship before falling to Misita and finished with 24 wins, three of which came at states.

Mikal Taylor, 195, Absegami: Taylor, a junior, made it to region semis, fought his way back to take third, and earned a pair of wins at states before falling to Hebron in wrestlebacks.

Tony Thompson, 220, Buena Regional: A junior, Thompson took third at Region 8, advanced to states and finished with 34 wins.

Kurt Driscoll, 285, Holy Spirit: Driscoll followed up a state championship in football with an outstanding senior wrestling season, as he made it to the region semis. He placed fifth at regions and finished with 33 wins.

Nick Sannino, 285, Ocean City: Ranked in the top eight in his weight class in the state most of the year, Sannino made it to the region semis before finishing fourth.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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