"My coaches, Jason [Morris] and Teri [Takemori] did a great job of keeping my mind positive [through the injuries]," said Kossor. "I just kept telling myself to rehab as hard as I can and get back out there."
"It means so much more to [Kossor] now," said Morris. "He's had to go through that low and come back up again."
Kossor also had to defeat the nation's top-ranked judoka in his weight class, Aaron Kunihiro, in the semifinals in order to win his second national title and earn a berth to September's world championships in Tokyo.
"Fortunately, I know a lot of the people in my division," said Kossor of heading to his first world championship. "What's working for me and against me is my green-ness. I'm new to this level so it's a little nerve wracking, but I have no pressure on me."
Vashkulat sailed through his weight class at nationals, winning each of his four bouts by ippon (full point).
"Fighting at a higher level calms you down [in big matches]," said Vashkulat, who entered nationals as the No. 1 ranked judoka at 100kg. "You go out there knowing what to expect. With the years, you definitely get a little wiser."
"He's established himself as the guy at 100 kilos in our country, but now he has his work cut out for him [at the world championships]," said Morris.
Competing on the world stage might be easier for Kossor and Vashkulat than being a referee, but they both said it was good to be involved in a match from a different perspective.
"In terms of pleasing people, being a referee is harder because if you make a bad call, you'll upset someone," said Kossor.""