Having one high school athletic state champion in the family is a significant accomplishment. Having two is, of course, twice as nice.

But having two brothers crowned within minutes of one another? That is what some would call legendary status.

And a status that Mark and Zach Ward can claim and share together at the conclusion of the state Class B wrestling championships on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Wells High School.

Mark, a sophomore, bested Oceanside’s Alex Fogarty 9-8 in the 138-pound final and, moments, later, got to watch his freshman brother Zach get a late take down in the third period to edge Mountain Valley of Rumford’s Nathan White 2-1 in the 145-pound final.

Two brothers who pin down state titles by a combined two points mere minutes apart. That is rarified air to be sure.

After his freshman year was somewhat marred by injuries where he amassed a 22-10 record, Mark was dominant in his sophomore campaign as he finished with a 47-4 record and is 69-14 in his high school career. He also pinned down a regional championship (again beating Fogarty by one point) and finished second in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, losing to Skowhegan’s Samson Sirois by one point.

Mount View coach Hamilton Richards was confident in Mark’s abilities, perhaps even more than Mark.

“Once we were a few meets in and I won the [MCI] Winter Classic again [for the second straight year] my coach wasn’t even thinking about states,” said Mark. “He was thinking about placing me in New England’s. He was very confident in my abilities.”

“We figured Mark had the state title pretty much sown up,” said Richards. “The weekend before at regionals he was supposed to have a big showdown with Logan Lord from Ellsworth, who was undefeated and had been ranked ahead of Mark by some. We were loaded and ready for Logan, but he failed to make weight. That pretty much left Alex Fogarty as Mark's lone serious hurdle.”

Mark said he practiced with Fogarty “during the summer and I’ve wrestled him like 70 times this year, so he knows me a lot more than the other kids.”

Mark pinned Monmouth’ Academy's Logan Farr in 20 seconds in the first round before a 14-6 major decision win over Caribou’s Cory Jandreau to advance to the finals.

The elder Ward said he did a lot of summer wrestling and “had to push myself harder at practices so I could compete at the state level so I could beat those kids.”

While many saw Mark’s state title as a foregone conclusion, the same could not be said for Zach — which made his championship victory even sweeter.

“My parents already knew he had a really good chance of winning,” said Zack of Mark’s win. “Fogarty was his only competition there. But for mine, I was only expected to get fourth. So when I came out on top, everyone was surprised.”

“It was incredible to have Mark and then Zach come away [as] champions back to back,” said Richards. “It definitely wasn't quite what I had expected for the day … it was awesome to have that happen and to have two brothers pull it off like that. Not every day that you have a freshman knock off the other region's runner-up and then defeat both regional champions en route to the state championship, right after his sophomore brother collected a championship in the match before.”

It is not as if Zach was an afterthought. He racked up a 38-16 record as a freshman — which was better than his brother’s inaugural high school campaign — and finished third at regionals to qualify for the state competition.

But Zach had to run through a tougher gauntlet of grapplers, including Foxcroft Academy’s Jacob Diamond and White, both of whom had won their respective regional titles at 152 a week prior.

Zach pinned Devin Chase of Wells at 3:52 before a 7-5 win over Diamond put him in the finals against White.

After Mark’s win at 138, he was able to come over and watch Zach’s final match against White. However, Zach had gotten wind of Mark’s win prior to taking the mat.

“It inspired me to work harder,” Zach said.

The match between Zach and White was scoreless into the third period until White got a late escape to take a 1-0 lead.

However, Zach was able to secure a take down in the match’s waning seconds and held on for the 2-1 win — and, ultimately, the state crown.

“Knowing how Mountain Valley likes to wrestle, we knew that White was unlikely to attempt any take downs and would try to just hang on to his lead,” said Richards. “But Zach kept the pressure on him and right near the end of the match managed to get deep enough to catch White and secure the take down. White just didn't have the energy left at that point to get away from Zach. It was truly a 'wow!' moment.”

“When the kid got an escape and he was up by one, I thought, ‘Crap I think this kid’s going to win’ because I didn’t think Zachary was going to get the take down. Zachary shoots in, scrambles for 30 seconds and finally takes him down," Mark said.

"I wasn’t focused on the time until someone said ‘30 seconds left hurry it up,’ ” said Zach. “So I said, ‘I’ve got to do my best and try and turn this kid over.’ So we got into a scramble and I ended up winning the scramble and put the kid to his back.”

It was particularly satisfying for Zach as White had pinned Zach with an inside cradle a month prior at the end of the regular season.

“It feels good to be a state champion,” Zach said. “I think I could have done better at all-states, but it feels good.”

By virtue of their state titles, the Ward brothers advance to the New England qualifier on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Nokomis High School.

Mark won the qualifier in the 138-pound class, besting David Spinney of Marshwood 2-0 in overtime, to advance to the New England championships Friday and Saturday, March 2-3 in Providence, R.I.

Zach lost his first match at the qualifier and eventually lost by injury default against Josiah Garcia of Biddeford after his opponent “did an illegal move” and broke Zach's collarbone, essentially ending his chance at a New England berth.

Mark ultimately finished 2-2 in the 138-pound bracket at the New England’s.

The Ward brothers, who also experienced tremendous middle school and youth mat success, have been wrestling nine years, with Mark beginning in second grade and Zach in first.

While the two have far from a sibling rivalry, both said they are motivated by the other.

“We push ourselves to be better than the other one,” said Mark. “I want to be better than him, and he wants to be better than me.”

Zach agreed. “We more like compete against each other to be better.”

But, that does not mean, in a sport such as wrestling, that emotions do not boil over from time to time.

Mark recalled a joint practice with Erskine Academy of South China prior to the regional competition where he and Zach got into a spat.

“Zach and I were wrestling and I got a tooth hole in my head,” Mark said. “I was standing up and he went to go mat return me, but his mouth was open. So I came up and I hit his tooth and I was bleeding everywhere.”

“We were just wrestling for a little drill and all of a sudden he leaves the room, he comes back and he says, ‘Zach you put a tooth hole in my head,’ ” said Zach. “And I said, ‘I did not.' "

“He kept arguing that he didn’t bite me and I’m like, 'Zach, there’s a tooth hole in my head.' ”

But, that is just boys being boys. Or, Wards being Wards.

Zach admits that on the mats, Mark is the one to beat and that “he can easily pin me at practice.”

“He practices more,” said Zach of his older brother. “He goes out of state to do tournaments and stuff because he’s older than me, so he has more experience. And he’s had one more year of high school practicing than I have and that’s majorly improved him.”

However, that mentality in the younger Ward may be changing.

Zach said he does not plan to play football as a sophomore next year, nor will he do any spring sports as a freshman. He instead plans to work out “to improve my muscle capacity, because I need to do that to compete with the guys I’m wrestling.”

Mark plans to continue with football and said he plans to play on the school’s club volleyball team in the spring.

No matter what the future holds for the Ward brothers — perhaps more individual state crowns or accolades down the road — they can always look back on their first state titles, and share that moment together.

“I’ve seen Zachary wrestle forever with me and it’s cool that he gets to be on top of the podium with me.”

“It feels pretty cool to share it with Mark,” said Zach. “I’ve just always wanted to be better than him at wrestling.

Time will tell. Richards said the brothers have an excellent chances to break Job Mesaric’s all-time school career win record of 106.

“I expect Zach to break Mark’s records [should he beat Mesaric’s] the following year,” said Richards. “If he stays healthy."