High school wrestling

State champion Miller continues family redemption story — one chapter at a time

Miller proves conference's, state Class B's best 152-pound mat athlete
By Zack Miller | Mar 23, 2018
Courtesy of: Miller family Medomak Valley's Eli Miller.

Waldoboro — “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

For those who have read the book "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, that quote will be familiar, but for Medomak Valley junior wrestler Elias Miller, that quote was first heard from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots have that quote hanging in their locker room, but Miller has those words hanging around in his head.

“That’s always stuck with me,” Miller said. “I’ve always thought you decide before the match what happens, how hard you are going to fight, and compete.”

The preparation for what was to come this season began when Miller was younger, watching his older brother, Cyril, wrestle.

“[My] brother had just started [wrestling],” Miller said. "[My] parents wanted me to do something. I tried it out, but didn’t like it that much at first, because it was so intense. As I realized how much work you have to put into it to succeed, I came to appreciate it more.”

When Cyril continued to find success in his junior and senior high school years on the mats, Miller continued to pay attention.

“I remember him doing really well his junior and senior years, and thinking to myself I’m going to need to do that, but better,” Miller said. “I remember specifically his senior year, he faced a kid he beat each time in one year, but the kid beat Cyril at states. My family and I were really excited for Cyril, because it would have been the first [individual state championship for Medomak Valley] since 1995, I believe, but he lost. I was so distraught, more so than my parents were. I said to myself it would be really nice to redeem the family name and make up for that [loss].”

This year, that family redemption story came to fruition. For the most part, the 152-pound weight bracket belonged to Miller much of the year, as he wrangled together a 45-5 season record, with 23 pins.

“Confidence is the biggest factor [to being successful],” Miller said. “You see kids that are going to wrestle a state champion or a New England champion, and they go up there, and in their minds they have themselves losing.”

“With wresting, the more experience I get the more I realize that any one person can lose to anyone on any given day,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been practicing for two weeks and wrestling an opponent that has been wrestling for two years; anything can happen.”

You can place Miller in the latter part of that quote, as an athlete wrestling for many years, and he made sure that “anything can happen” didn’t happen.

“I try to stress that to my teammates, and share with them anything is possible,” Miller said. “It all depends on how bad you want it. I felt like after last season, in nearly making it to New Englands, I knew if I put in the work and was mentally and physically prepared for every meet, the sky is the limit.”

The sky did not take long to reach Miller this year. Out of his 45 victories this season, three of those wins were the three most significant of his career, beginning on Feb. 3 at Cony High School in Augusta.

That date proved to be special for Miller, as the junior tangled with the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s best, and, ultimately, was the best in the 152-pound weight bracket, after beating Isaiah Cogswell of Morse in Bath 2-1 in double-overtime. He also helped the Panthers emerge as the top Class B team in the conference.

“KVACs was special to me because my opponent in my final match was a kid that I had not beaten before until this year, in midseason,” Miller said. “That kind of felt like the story of my season. Wrestling and beating kids I never could beat, all the way back to my middle school days, and to see them a year ahead of me, the only way I caught up was hard work. Plus, clinching the team title for Class B was in the back of my mind for sure. It was definitely an exciting time to win.”

Miller also secured the Class B’s outstanding wrestler of the meet award.

The next week, on Feb. 10 at Mount View High School in Thorndike, Miller took the next step up the ladder of success, with a Class B North title, after he finished 3-0 on the day, completing the undefeated record with a pin of Dominic Libbey of Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln at the four-minute mark.

“My whole mindset was to move on to the next week,” Miller said. “I was thinking all week, I don’t care what happens, I don’t care where I place, but I’m going to work as hard as I can this week for states.”

The regional crown advanced Miller to states the following week, on Feb. 17 at Wells High School, where the Panther, who also is a standout football player, went for a clean sweep of Class B awards, and all of Miller’s hard work payed off.

After receiving a first-round bye, Miller pinned Drew Peters of Wells, and then pinned Dominic Libbey of Mattnawcook, for a second straight week, to clinch a state championship for himself, but also for Medomak Valley High School.

“It’s nice to finally see my journey to where I was freshman and sophomore year, all the way back to middle school, and all the kids I had eventually surpassed from other neighboring schools [pay off],” Miller said. “I just worried about myself, and not about my opponents, [and] how hard I work. It was kind of unbelievable for me. It was a goal me, and my brother, had for a very long time, and I finally got the monkey off my back, and a lot of pressure.”

"Eli is a great student-athlete," said Medomak Valley wrestling coach Billy Bramhall after the state championship meet. "He knows wrestling inside and out, a real student of the sport. He leads by example and steps up in the big matches."

The state championship was a high point for not only Elias, but also for his family.

“It was exciting,” Miller said of the moment he won the state title. “I don’t remember a whole lot honestly. My mind was all over the place. I was looking for anyone to embrace me, but my brother was there, and he came to as many meets as he possibly could. It meant a lot for him to be there. My family was really excited for me to win the title.”

The state championship victory meant a lot on a personal level for Miller, but also meant a lot for the pride he has in being a Panther.

“I really wanted to put Medomak on the map [as a strong wrestling program],” Miller said. “Wrestling isn’t as an exciting sport, and doesn’t catch as many eyes as basketball. It’s tough sometimes and to finally put Medomak on the map, and better the program, and to have people acknowledge Medomak as a good school is key for wrestling.”

Miller's wrestling season gained an extra week, with the New England championship qualifier on deck, on Feb. 24, but an invisible opponent kept Miller from competing, and that foe came in the form of the flu.

“I was kind of looking forward to all-states more than anything this year, because sometimes there is an idea that Class B isn’t as competitive as Class A,” Elias said. “I would have loved to go and compete with all the wrestlers for another week. That was my goal this season was to prove myself against other wrestlers, mainly southern Maine wrestlers, that a small Class B school can compete with these large Class A South teams.”

“When I was sick it was disappointing,” Miller said. “I couldn’t do anything about it. Even if I had gone I’m not sure I would have been able to compete for more than 30 seconds on the mat.”

While the flu sidelined Miller for the rest of his junior campaign, the state champion can use it as motivation towards next year, and win in his final high school season.

He also continues to chase another lofty bar set by his older brother, in terms of high school career mat victories.

At this point, Miller sits at 120-32, with 69 pins, for this career. Cyril finished with 136 wins and 78 pins, both first all-time on the Panther list.

Thus, Miller will shoot to surpass his talent brother's amazing achievements as a senior.

“That’s pretty much my main goal,” Miller said. “To compete as hard as I can every meet, not so much worry about the titles, and the streaks. The more you think about that the more needless stress [that comes with it]. If you worry about yourself and work as hard as you can all the time, if you lose you lose, and if you win you win. You just have to work hard all season and in the offseason. You are who you are, and you will end up where you belong.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.