Lehigh’s Mike Sisselberger has always been comfortable at the center of the circle.
The Mountain Hawks men’s lacrosse faceoff specialist finished the 2022 campaign ranked third in the NCAA with a 62.8 faceoff winning percentage. In 2021, he set the NCAA record at 79.5%.
But Sisselberger didn’t have the typical start for a Division I lacrosse player. He didn’t start playing until seventh grade. Lehigh has his middle school wrestling coach to thank for him finally picking up the stick.
“I got into lacrosse because of my wrestling coach, who was the coach for both sports in middle school,” Sisselberger said. “So, I ended up joining because he said so, and faceoff is the most similar position to wrestling. So I kind of took it up because that was my passion.”
In addition to wrestling away the opening possession, Sisselberger has a knack for finding ground balls. In 2021, he set the conference record for most ground balls in a season, recording 160. His 9.4 ground balls per game in 2022 was good for second in the nation.
And he’ll have another season to chase more records in 2023.
Associate head coach Will Scudder has developed a strong relationship with Sisselberger since the coach began the recruitment process during Sisselberger’s sophomore year of high school.
“He has a tremendous chip on his shoulder,” Scudder said. “If you tell him he can’t do something, then he is going to set out to prove you wrong. I think that is his greatest strength, and I think that’s why he has set so many records he has.”
This past year, Sisselberger went back to his roots and joined the Lehigh wrestling team. Scudder said it helped him find a lower center of gravity, which aided him in his position.
And it didn’t hurt that he got to prove some people wrong.
“I am pretty hard-headed, and I get that from my mom,” Sisselberger said. “I don’t know why, but there are a lot of people that said that I couldn’t join the wrestling team here at Lehigh, and I ended up doing that, too, because I love when people say I can’t do something. That’s what drives me.”
Sisselberger is catching the eye of key figures outside of Lehigh, the conference and the NCAA. He was invited to try out for the U.S. Men’s Lacrosse National team. Tryouts took place in June with further participation possible when the field narrows in the fall. It’s a goal he set since he started his lacrosse career.
Matt Brock, a Lehigh sophomore faceoff specialist, has had the opportunity to train with Sisselberger since coming to Lehigh. He says Sisselberger’s invitation was 100% deserved, and he’s sure that Sisselberger will continue to turn heads on a national level.
For Brock, he can’t help but learn from his teammate.
“Not everyone gets to go against the best faceoff guy in college lacrosse every day, so it forces you to play at your best, and it allows you to learn from what he does,” Brock said. “He has helped me get better as I’ve been able to add many things to my game from seeing what he does.”
Brock said Sisselberger has inspired his teammates both on and off the field with his leadership, work ethic and passion.
“He led by example as last year was his breakout year and showed how to handle all the success that he had,” Brock said.
A first-team all-American in 2021, Sisselberger continued to garner recognition in 2022. Sisselberger was one of four Lehigh players to be named All-Patriot League. He also took the Patriot League Faceoff Specialist of the Year title, and was named third-team all-American by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association. Inside Lacrosse named him to the first team, and USA Lacrosse Magazine awarded him honorable mention.
“It goes hand in hand with his competitiveness, and he wants to be the best, and if he wasn’t so competitive, then he wouldn’t work so hard,” Scudder said. “For someone that has the talent level that he has, his work ethic is unmatched because he doesn’t rely on natural talent.”