George Bergman has seen some of the best wrestlers this area has known come and go through his Oak Harbor program over the years.
J.D. Bergman, Cody Magrum, Keith Witt and Kirk Tank are only a few.
But he’s never quite had a wrestler like Ian Miller — and he may not again.
“Ian’s talent level is off the charts,” Bergman said. “He’s very strong and very explosive. He’s probably the best, the most dynamic and most explosive wrestler I’ve coached at Oak Harbor. Just about every major record we have is his.”
Miller’s got five of them to be exact, including most career victories (173), career falls (108), victories in a season (51), falls in a season (42) and most consecutive wins by fall (24). The last three records were established this past season when Miller (51-1) finished as state runner-up in Division II at 152 pounds.
Miller is the second of six seniors in the News-Messenger’s 14th annual Michael K. Bosi Athlete of the Year series.
“Those are all big to have,” Miller said of owning school records at a program with 21 state champions. “Going into the year, I was looking at the records and I knew I could break most of them. To own the ones I do is big. It’s a special thing.”
J.D. Bergman and Magrum each won multiple state titles at Oak Harbor. Miller won a title at 145 pounds as a junior. This past season he lost a 2-0 overtime decision in the state finals to St. Paris Graham’s Matt Stephens — the projected state runner-up.
Had Miller won, he would’ve been the seventh Oak Harbor wrestler to ever win multiple titles. Yet, he owns a championship neither J.D. nor Magrum ever achieved.
With an 8-6 finals win over Montini (Ill.) Catholic’s Stephen Robertson, Miller became the Rockets’ first titlist at the prestigious, annual Iron Man tournament at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit. Robertson came in as a two-time state champion in Illinois.
“That’s probably my biggest accomplishment in wrestling,” Miller said, whose lone loss as a junior came in the Iron Man finals. “Being the first champion there for Oak Harbor means a lot. I went into the tournament not really thinking about it, then came out on top.”
Coach Bergman called the Iron Man event, “the country’s toughest tournament.”
“The Iron Man is tougher than the state tournament,” he said. “It definitely put Ian in exclusive company. But there is nothing like winning a state title either. And there’s something about winning in front of the 14 or 15,000 people that watch the state tournament each year. So losing at state was still very disappointing for Ian.”
Few opponents lasted more than a few minutes on the mat with Miller.
“He’s so good on his feet,” George said. “He also takes good shots at his opponents, he’s good at lifts, and he finishes takedowns. And no one worked harder than him in the wrestling room.”
Takedowns are tough to come by when you’re mostly pinning your opponents in the first minute. Still, Miller finished with 156 takedowns as a senior and had 446 for his four-year career — the second-most in program history.
Wrestling has long been a part of the Miller family. Miller’s father got him started on the mat in kindergarten. Over the years he developed a close relationship with four-time state champion Erik Burnett, who he wrestled for at the Junior Nationals dual tournament last summer.
Burnett became a personal coach for Miller, and it wasn’t uncommon for the two to do work during times others would rather rest.