Miller enters wrestling season a marked man

Junior 174-pounder Mike Miller enters the season ranked first nationally in his weight class. He finished runner-up at NCAAs last year.

Mike Miller finished one victory and four points shy of a dream season last year.

He entered last season’s NCAA wrestling tournament as the No. 7 seed in the 174-pound class. In the quarterfinals, he upset No. 2 seeded Michael Cannon of American University. Then he beat No. 3 seeded Brandon Browne of Nebraska.

Suddenly, he was one match away from a national championship — but could not overcome No. 1 seeded Steve Luke from Michigan, who won the match 8-4.

Although he was CMU’s second national runner-up in as many seasons (197-pounder Wynn Michalak in 2008), Miller is looking to improve no matter what.

“I train the same whether I would have finished first, second, or eighth,” Miller said. “I want to get better every year, despite what I accomplished the year before.”

And the junior 174-pounder is ranked as the preseason favorite to do something no CMU wrestler has done in ten years: win a national championship. InterMat Wrestle has him first nationally in the 174 pound weight class.

“I have tried to improve everything about my game,” Miller said. “In order to be a national champion, you have to win every point, every scramble — you have to fight, period. I want a national championship.”

Coach Tom Borrelli said Miller is the type of person able to handle the spotlight and preseason hype.

“I don’t think there is any added pressure coming into the season as the preseason favorite,” he said. “It doesn’t change the goal that he has and it doesn’t change what he needs to do to accomplish it.”

For Miller, work and preparation come well before what other people think.

“Rankings are just people’s opinion,” Miller said. “All I want to do is keep my head down and my nose to the grindstone. Maybe I can prove those people right.”

While vocal leaders are noticed by outsiders, it is the leadership of Miller doing the little things in practice that help his teammates and himself.

Miller comes to practice with the idea that every takedown, every push-up is a way to improve himself.

MAC standing

Miller has won the Mid-American Conference in both seasons competing for the Chippewas. This will be the first time Miller wrestles for CMU in consecutive seasons. His freshman and sophomore seasons were broken up by an Olympic redshirt season.

He comes into this season as the preseason favorite for his third consecutive MAC title. He has never lost in a MAC dual match and has qualified as an All-American twice.

“I look forward to all my matches,” Miller said. “In order to be the best I am going to have to beat everyone. So, no match is really more important to me than any other.”

But, surprisingly, he may not have settled in on his weight class.

Normally, Miller wrestles at 174 pounds, but freshman Ben Bennett may get the start. If Bennett beats Miller for the 174-pound spot, Miller would bump up to 184 pounds.

Miller sat out the intrasquad match with an injury, and may miss the opening match against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.