Kai Castaneda looked up at the record boards that drape the walls of the Wauwatosa co-op wrestling practice room.
A smile spread across the junior's face as he spoke about the importance of looking at the names of the past each and every practice.
"I love it," said Castaneda, the No. 8 state-ranked 113 pounder. "It's a lot of motivation looking up there and seeing all the records. All of us (on the team), we all talk about the ones that we are specifically gunning for. I know all the people who are going for certain ones."
One record has caught Castaneda's eye for some time.
"Career wins," Castaneda said. "That's the one. I want to be up there."
With 105 wins, Castaneda sits at fourth all-time for Wauwatosa and is three wins away from moving into third place. His name will be put up on the wall after his senior season.
Tosa coach Kent Morin, whose son Nick sits at second all-time with 115 victories, knew the boards would be good motivation.
"We did that very early in my tenure," Morin said. "It's funny because certain kids are motivated by some things and other kids are motivated by different things. But it seems to be those boards motivate most everybody. We talk about it. That state qualifier board, your name never comes down. That's forever."
A state berth is something that has eluded Castaneda and has driven him to a 38-1 record this season.
As a sophomore, Castaneda lost in the wrestle back rounds to Whitefish Bay's Max Carlin in a close 4-3 decision.
"That was the worst feeling I've ever had," Castaneda said of the loss. "It stuck with me for a week or two after that. After that match I was just slugging around school. It was just disappointing knowing that it was so close. It was within seconds if I could have just spun around and gotten a takedown. It would've been me instead of him."
The Carlin defeat was reminiscent of this season's only loss against Milwaukee Riverside/Shorewood freshman Justin Folley in a 6-5 overtime decision.
Castaneda avenged the loss with a 5-3 victory at the Bauer Brawl in early January.
Wauwatosa enjoyed much success this year as it swept the Woodland Conference titles and also ended Pewaukee's 48 straight dual meet victories. This past weekend, Wauwatosa won its regional and advanced to the Team Sectional at Arrowhead.
Freshman Zach Miller, ranked number 9 at 120 pounds, is a big reason why Tosa has had the season it currently enjoys.
Miller and Castaneda train together in practice and each have benefited greatly.
"He pushes me a lot more than anybody else I've wrestled in the past two years," Castaneda said. "He definitely pushes me the most. I push him for sure. It's a great partnership."
Castaneda talked about the benefits of having a heavier state-ranked wrestler to train with.
"Half the guys I see aren't even as good as him," Castaneda said. "Practicing with a guy who's better than anyone you're going to face, it makes a lot of guys I see, I just think they're not as good as Zach. It's great."
Miller, 37-3 and coming off a conference and regional championship, noted the benefits of training with Castaneda, a two-time conference champion.
"We help each other out, asking questions here and there," Miller said. "He pushes me and I push him. When we run a lot, if one's going faster than the other, we try and keep the same pace."
Facing off against each other can be a positive in other areas as well.
"If I want to try something new, I can try it against someone who knows what he's doing," Miller said. "Instead of thinking, 'Oh, that's OK to do,' and then I do it in a match against a good kid and he catches me."
Morin believed a wrestler of Miller's pedigree is what Castaneda has missed in practice.
"That actually was something that I, in my opinion, held (Castaneda) back a little as a freshman and sophomore," Morin said. "We had workout partners for him, but not anybody of the caliber of wrestler that Zach is."
An impressive season
Castaneda enjoys a brief period off in the summer to lay back and spend time at the beach with friends, a favorite of his while not wrestling.
But the drive to be back on the mat returns quickly.
"It comes back quick where I want to get back into it," Castaneda said. "I can't take too much time off without itching to get back in the room."
An impressive season doesn't come without a rush of popularity and pressures.
"People on the wrestling team, they are always saying me and Zach are going to qualify (for state)," Castaneda said. "That's a lot of pressure on me, for sure. I feel like I'm going to let people down if I don't (qualify) this year. I think it's good pressure. I'd rather have pressure than no pressure."
Past defeat has driven him, but his teammates, whose names will most likely join Castaneda's on the boards some day, provide the prime motivation to succeed.
"I want to stay up there with Zach and Ben (Reagan) and AJ (Minucci)," Castaneda said. "I don't want to be the guy who falls behind. That's a huge thing for me. If I see them doing great, and I know I didn't wrestle really well that night, I don't like that. That pushes me the next day and the next couple practices to train hard. To keep up with them, that's got to be the biggest thing."
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