Despite what can only be described as a short stint with Williamstown High School, senior Mike Misita etched his name into the wrestling programs’ record books last month when he defeated Bergen Catholic’s Remy Brancato in the NJSIAA/Rothman Orthopedics 220-pound championship with a 7-0 decision.
A transfer from St. Augustine before the beginning of the 2020-2021 season, Misita was forced to sit out some early matches in the schedule because of NJSIAA transfer rules. That left him with only four matches during the regular season before the start of the postseason.
“It was like two weeks that he was unable to go out there for us in a match, but he could practice, so he was here for that week and a half before the season started and he was in the room just getting after it during the early part of the year regardless,” said coach Jon Jernegan.
“He was working hard in practices and he fit well with our team during that time period,” Jernegan added. “He’s a real student of the game and pretty good at explaining moves well and helping coach others and focus on his teammates rather than himself.”
While there’s no real substitute for live wrestling, Misita didn’t exactly mind the period of time he had to sit out.
“It wasn’t as bad as you might think to sit out for that time, because, yes, I was definitely chomping at the bit to get back out there,” said Misita. “I was still working out every day just lifting and wrestling without having to worry about a match or anything like that. And then I had the chance to help some of the guys on the team, which also helped me out at the same time in working on my technique.”
Despite the few live matches before regions and the state tournament, Misita plowed through the state contest as the one-seed with three pins in the first three rounds of each match. In the championship match, he jumped out and clung to a 7-0 victory to clinch the program’s second individual state champion.
Leading up to states, Jernegan said the coaching staff prepared Misita for the tournament with various situational late-match and overtime moments. “There were some great matches throughout the tournament, with kids winning in overtime and what not, so of course we also prepared [Mike] for similar situations, like say a situation where he’s on his stomach and needs an escape with 18 seconds left,” Jernegan said. “But he never really had those situations; he won the final 7-0 and he dominated all the way through up until that point.
“We were preparing him for closer matches but he’s really just that good at his weight class,” the coach added. “I kind of compare him to somebody that’s just ready for the next grade or the next jump. He’s really just that good that high-school wrestling isn’t really giving him a challenge.”
Looking back, Misita says his mindset throughout the season was simple.
“My main focus every day is to just be better than the day before,” Misita said. “So when I went into the tournament, all I was thinking about was being the best that I could and scoring as many points as I could.
“Those pins just kind of came about to be honest,” Misita added. “I was working for them, but I wasn’t actively trying to pin everyone up until the finals or anything. I was just trying to score as many points as I could and those opportunities opened up and I took advantage of them.”