As a second-grader, Mark Ward was venturing down a very different path then the one that would later lead him to become Mount View High School’s winningest wrestler.

“I was cheerleading in second grade and [my younger brother] Zach was wrestling in first grade,” he said. “And it looked like fun.”

The 18-year-old Ward previously tried basketball as well, but could not make it coordinate with his family schedule. And then tried cheering at Brooks Elementary School “for like three weeks.”

“I was at a basketball game cheering on the sideline and I’m like, ‘This is not my thing.’”

Trading in pom poms for head gear and a singlet proved to be the right move. And if his superiority on the mat is any indication, Ward certainly found his thing.

After winning a state Class B individual title in the 138-pound weight class as a sophomore, Ward, now a junior, repeated the feat in impressive fashion on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, which made him a rare back-to-back state champ.

The Brooks resident racked up an eye-popping 45-3 record on the mats this season and is 114-17 overall.

He is now one of three wrestlers in school history to compile over 100 wins — Tristan Ripley in 2010 and Job Mesaric in 2015 are the others — and could make the school mark nearly insurmountable with a similar year next season.

“Personally I felt it was a good feat,” said Ward. “No one else has done it at Mount View, winning two state championships, so that feels pretty good. But I didn’t think my level of competition there was too great, and I was [really] waiting for All-States [New England qualifier].”

“Mark is an exceptionally talented young man,” said Mount View coach Hamilton Richards. “Extremely focused and very coachable. He’s grown considerably this season as to tactics and strategies, really upping his performance.”

At the state meet, after he pinned Angel Riopelle of Calais in 63 seconds — and after his second match never happened after Josiah Kenney of Lisbon/Oak Hill suffered an injury that gave Ward a clear path to the finals — he did what most any teenagers in that situation might have done.

“I just slept from my first match to my finals match,” said Ward. “So basically all day.”

He woke up and had roughly 90 minutes to prepare for Jacob Nadeau of Piscataquis Community of Guilford. He had never wrestled Nadeau before.

“All I was told is that he does an arm drag and to look out for that in the match,” Ward said. “And the first thing he does is he arm drags me and I go right to his legs right into a double-leg takedown.”

Then he pinned Nadeau’s shoulders to the mat at the 44-second mark to win his second straight state crown.

One-hundred and seven seconds of work, a long nap and a state title. Not a bad day at the wrestling office.

Ward said the reaction in the crowd, honestly, was lukewarm as he was the favorite heading into the finals.

“It was a classic clap of hands [after I won],” he said. “It’s not like it was an intense match. I was already supposed to win that match. If I’d lost that match, the place probably would have erupted. But, just a nice clap, move onto the next match.”

Ward went on to place first overall in his weight class at the New England qualifier — or “All-States” — on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Oxford Hills in South Paris as he went 3-0, including beating Camden Hills’ Noah Lang 9-4 in the finals. Lang is no slouch, as he has the most wins and pins in school history and is a two-time state Class A champion.

It was the second straight year Ward pinned down first-place honors in the qualifier.

The win also was notable as it was Ward’s first win over Lang, who, like Ward, won conference, regional and state titles in the same weight class in Class A this year. He said Richards “wrote me a five-page essay on how to beat Noah Lang.”

As for the contents of the essay?

“I would tell you, but I can’t,” he said. “It’s top secret.”

Ward continued to surge on day one of the New England championships on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2 in Rhode Island as he received a bye and then bested Ben LeBlanc of Danburn, Conn.

But, on day two, Ward admittedly “woke up that morning and I wasn’t on my game.”

He went 0-2 and was knocked out of the tournament, first falling 11-6 to Aiden Faria of Cumberland, R.I. before Lang got revenge on Ward with a 7-4 win in an elimination match.

“I think Noah’s really good,” said Ward, who added Faria’s style was very similar to Lang’s. He comes in on his shots very well every time. He’s beaten me more than I’ve beaten him.”

“I honestly believe if he had been ‘dialed in’ there he’d have made the finals or at least placed third,” said Richards. “All the indicators had been there as his performances kept improving right through All-States and the New England qualifier. I guess the upside is we both know the goal for next season is to make the finals at New Englands. And not to make some of the preparation errors we did this year.”

Now, the only thing separating Ward from his senior year on the mats is the 20th annual National Duals on May 24-27 in Virginia Beach, Va.

Then, his goal going forward is simple:

“It’s just about putting up a lot more wins so no one [at Mount View] can take my record,” he said.