Heritage’s Miller captures third at state

Posted 2/23/09

Scott Kaniewski Michael Miller knew what to expect this time around. A year removed from his first trip to the Class 5A state wrestling tournament, …

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Heritage’s Miller captures third at state


Scott Kaniewski

Michael Miller knew what to expect this time around. A year removed from his first trip to the Class 5A state wrestling tournament, the Heritage High School junior wrestled his way into the third-place match Feb. 21.

Miller pinned Legacy’s Chris Wessel 51 seconds into the first period to put him into the match for third-place, sending Miller leaping into the stands to hug family.

He stayed in the stands for several minutes, sitting on the steps between colonnades, wearing his singlet, his headgear askew on his head. He sat there soaking up the win and the knowledge he’d earned the chance to wrestle for third place.

“I dreamed about winning these matches,” Miller said. “So when it happened my mom called me in [to the stands] so I jumped up in there.”

Had he seen any other wrestler leap into the stands before?

“No,” he said and laughed. “She started screaming at me so I came up.”

Not only had he won, but he’d beaten an opponent that had three times topped Miller.

“I’d wrestled him a couple times before,” Miller said. “He beat me three times this year. So I was really excited.”

In the battle for third-place Miller was again dominant. He built a 9-3 lead after the first two periods, scoring all nine points in the middle frame. He twice nearly pinned Central-Grand Junction’s Daniel Rodgriguez. Instead, he won by decision, 11-4.

Miller reached the semifinals a night earlier but lost to Chaparral High’s Caleb McDowell in the semifinals of the 130-pound division. McDowell finished as the state runner-up.

Other than the match against McDowell, Miller dominated. He won his first two bouts by a combined score of 27-4, cruising into the semifinals.

Last season, Miller, then a sophomore, said he was just happy to be at the state meet. This time was a little different.

“Last year, I was so nervous I nearly forgot to breathe,” Miller said.

He qualified for the third-place bout with a great pin. Following a reversal that scored Miller a pair of points, he worked his way around Wessel and locked his arms around Wessel’s neck and leg. With Wessel tied up in a cradle, Miller pinned him. He finished with just four losses on the season, a record of 40-4.

The top two finishers in the 130-pound division are both seniors, thrusting Miller into the pole position for next season.

“I hope so,” Miller said when asked if he would be the favorite next year. “It’s going to be good.”

Miller’s teammates didn’t have as much success. Four Eagles joined Miller on the trip to the Pepsi Center. Only senior Jake Holley [34-13] came close to medaling. He won his first bout in the 135-pound division before falling into the consolation bracket. Another pair of wins had the Eagle one victory away from the medal round. But Holley fell to Grand Junction’s Jessie Hoffschneider.

Tolan Durant [19-18] in the 171-pound division, Al Erle [32-8] at 285 pounds and Logan Steppan [30-11] at 215 pounds, also qualified for the state tournament for Heritage.


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