Anyone who has applied for entry into one of the U.S. service academies can attest to how difficult it can be to gain admission.

Anyone who has applied for entry into one of the U.S. service academies can attest to how difficult it can be to gain admission.

One Pickerington family soon will have two sons attending service academies, as Alec Marsico recently finished his freshman year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and his brother, Austin, will be a freshman this fall at the Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

"It's a humbling experience for us," said Al Marsico, Alec and Austin's father. "Getting in (to a service academy) is so tough. They get a top-notch education, paid for by Uncle Sam, and they give their five years (of service) after graduation. It's such a great honor.

"Since they were young, I always instilled in them to just do their best, hoping all their hard work would pay off. And it did."

To be considered for an appointment to one of the five U.S. service academies -- Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine are the other three -- one must be nominated by an authorized nominating source, namely someone with a connection to military service or a state senator or state representative.

West Point graduates typically must serve five years of active duty and three years in Army Reserve, whereas Naval Academy graduates typically are required to fulfill three to five years of active duty.

Both Marsico brothers are continuing their wrestling careers at their respective academy.

They were encouraged to become involved with the sport by their father, largely because of their stature.

"I'm real small and so is my wife (Maureen)," Al said. "Playing football or basketball probably weren't going to be the best options for the kids."

Alec, a 2010 graduate of Pickerington High School North, is 5-foot-10 and was listed in the 149-pound weight class as a freshman with Navy but did not compete in any matches.

He competed for the Naval Academy Prep School during the 2010-11 season.

Alec was a two-time Division I state qualifier for North. He went 0-2 at 112 in 2008 but went 4-2 and placed fourth at 140 in 2010.

A four-year letterwinner and four-time first-team all-league selection, he was the first North wrestler to earn 100 victories and still holds the program records for season wins (46), career wins (141), career team points (684) and career pins (62).

A 2012 graduate of Kiski School in Saltsburg, Pa., Austin wrestled for North for two seasons, qualifying for state in 2009 and 2010 at 103. He won a district title as a sophomore and went 1-2 at state both seasons.

At Kiski, Austin was state runner-up at 120 in the Pennsylvania Independent School Wrestling Tournament and placed sixth at 119 in the National Prep Championships as a junior. He won the state title at 120 and finished sixth at 119 at nationals as a senior.

The brothers are proud to be continuing their wrestling careers at the college level.

"The wrestling team is one of the top in the nation," Alec said of Navy. "There's a lot of perks in coming (to Annapolis). The program is great and the school is what I wanted."

"It's one of the most recognizable schools in the country," Austin said of West Point. "I wanted to be with the best."

Despite being a standout in high school, Alec has found the playing field to be leveled in college.

"It's difficult transitioning to college wrestling," he said. "You've got to put a lot of work into it. You've always got to come out ready. You can't really have a bad match. Everyone's a lot quicker and stronger. Everyone has a pedigree in wrestling."

Despite the transition, Alec said wrestling helped him get through the daily rigors of being a freshman at a service academy.

"Wrestling was a safe haven for me," he said. "I could get away from everything and focus on one thing for two-and-a-half hours a day."

Austin considered joining his brother in Annapolis before deciding to go to West Point.

"I looked into it," he said. "But then I visited West Point and it was a perfect fit."

Both brothers have set high goals for their college careers.

"Next year I'm hoping to start," Alec said. "By my senior year, I want to be an All-American."

"I want to make the NCAA tournament," Austin said. "If I make it, we'll go from there. We'll see."