Q&A with MAC Wrestler of the Week, Ian Miller

Kent+States+Ian+Miller+pins+his+opponent+and+watches+as+the+time+ends+in+his+final+match+of+the+MAC+Championship+Sunday%2C+March+9%2C+2014.+Miller+defeated+his+opponent+from+Central+Michigan+and+finished+first+in+his+weight+class+winning+him+a+Mid-American+Conference+title.

Kent State’s Ian Miller pins his opponent and watches as the time ends in his final match of the MAC Championship Sunday, March 9, 2014. Miller defeated his opponent from Central Michigan and finished first in his weight class winning him a Mid-American Conference title.

Dan Armelli

Fifth-year senior and 157-pounder Ian Miller, was named MAC Wrestler of the Week last week after he went 4-0 at the Navy Classic, winning his second career title at the event. It’s the fourth time in his career that he’s been named Wrestler of the Week.

Miller, a two-time All-American and three-time NCAA qualifier, finished the tournament with a pin and two major decisions, including one in the 157-pound final.

Before he and the team head off to the two-day Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational — which starts Dec. 4 — the Stater spoke with Miller about the past, present and future of his Kent State career. 

You went to Oak Harbor and won a state title. What led you to come to Kent State?

My uncle, Zeb Miller, wrestled here. Wrestling’s been in my life pretty much all of my life. All my uncles and my dad, they all won state. It’s been a family tradition.

You’ve been highly successful since you’ve been here, winning a MAC championship your freshman year. Has there ever been a point where you had to go through a learning curve or had a tough point where you had to get over it?

I think my sophomore year, when I redshirted, was probably the hardest year. I was so used to competing and starting. I had to learn how to just focus on training and getting better and competing without it counting. That was a learning curve for me.

When did you think you could wrestle at the collegiate level and be successful at it?

My eighth grade year I won the junior high state title. That was when I was like, ‘Man, I might be pretty good at this sport.’ After that, in high school, I did very well. In my high school, I had a lot of upperclassmen going off to colleges and wrestling. I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

If you had to sum up your wrestling style, what would you say about it?

Explosive. My style’s explosive. A crowd-pleaser.

Coach Jim Andrassy has talked about the great wrestlers needing to be a little selfish, mentioning you and former Kent State wrestler and NCAA champion Dustin Kilgore to different degrees. What do you think he means when he says that?

We go out there and we want to win for ourselves. When we win for ourselves, we do well for the team. If we’re winning for ourselves, we’re going to win for the team, whether it’s getting a pin or just winning and getting three points in a dual meet. I think if we do well, be selfish and just think about ourselves, it’ll actually help the team in the long run.

You’ve had to talk about this multiple times, but going back to last year with the scoring fiasco at NCAA Championships, you did a great job of putting that behind you. You seem like you’re pretty good at not taking tough moments too hard. Where does that attitude come from?

Growing up I had a lot of great coaches. They just taught me to put it in the past. Don’t forget about it. Use it to fuel you. One of my club coaches growing up, Erik Burnett, taught me a lot about discipline and how to be respectful. I think that’s probably what helped me the most, to put it behind me and just let it fuel me.

You’re one of three guys on the team that are still undefeated along with senior 133-pounder Mack McGuire and fifth-year senior, 149-pounder Mike DePalma. Have you guys specifically talked about how special of a year this could be for each one of you?

We haven’t talked about it. We just all know it’s going to be a good year.

DePalma talked about how each of your wrestling styles and work ethics are different. What specifically makes you guys different from each other?

Just the way we wrestle, our movement, our preparations. They’re all different. When we wrestle each other in the room it really helps us because they might have styles that match up against guys we don’t know how to wrestle. It’s really good that we all have different kinds of styles. It really helps us in the long run.

You were named MAC Wrestler of the Week last week for the fourth time in your career. What does it feel like when you’re recognized with this award?

It always feels good. I didn’t even know I had it until I got on Twitter. I was surprised. It’s an honor. There were a lot of good MAC wrestlers wrestling last week. I was surprised I actually got it. It’s such an honor.

The Cliff Keen Invitational will be your biggest challenge so far this year. Is this week business as usual? Are you going through the same mental and physical preparations you normally do?

Yeah, but this week’s a little bit more intense. I know this tournament’s probably the second best tournament this year, besides NCAA’s. There are a lot of great teams. I just have to take it one match at a time, focus and do everything I usually do and it should turn out good.

Dan Armelli is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]