When Oak Harbor junior Ian Miller took an early lead in his Division II state tournament title match last Saturday in Columbus, Rockets coach George Bergman had a good feeling but he still wasn't taking anything for granted.
"Like anything else, you're never 100 percent sure, and the guy was third in the state the year before," Bergman said. "It's not like he was chopped liver. We were real confident after Ian took charge early. Our game plan was to stay on our feet because we knew the kid was real good on top. We weren't going to go 'down' unless it was a tight match."
Miller, who is known for his ability to take opponents down, did just that - repeatedly - in his 145-pound title match against senior Dylan Ice from Lisbon Beaver Local. The result was a 19-4 technical fall victory, giving Oak Harbor its 13th individual state champion.
Miller had two takedowns in the first 45 seconds to build a 7-1 advantage, and he led 11-3 at the end of the first period. By then, it was pretty much game over for Ice.
Miller, who placed third in the state at 135 a year ago, finished the season with a 41-1 record. His lone blemish was a double-overtime loss to the nation's top-ranked 140-pounder, Chris Villalonga from Blair Academy (N.J.), at the Ironman tournament on Dec. 12.
Miller is the son of former Oak Harbor wrestling state champion Ferd Miller, and he is related to Chad, Tait and Zeb Miller. Chad and Tait are also former state champions, and Zeb placed fifth at state in 1998.
Ian Miller caught a break during the tournament when Ice (46-3) was a
warded a victory by default over junior Matt Stephens (40-5) of St. Paris Graham in the championship semifinals. Stephens, the projected state champion and a state runner-up last season, ended up placing third.
"Ice wrestled Stephens in the semis and Ice was slammed, which was an illegal move," Bergman said. "Ice couldn't continue, so being an illegal move by Stephens, Ice won. It turned out he (Ice) was pretty healthy. I'm sure Ian wanted to wrestle on the big stage, on Saturday night with three mats out on the floor."
Miller pinned his first-round opponent, senior Jordan Harble from Newark Licking Valley, in 3:22, then pinned Miami Trace senior Jordan Fraley in 1:51.
Miller then defeated Conrad Rosch, a senior from Canal Winchester, 10-3 in the semifinals, setting up the meeting with Ice for the title.
"Ian had a great draw," Bergman said. "Him taking third last year and being a district champion this year, he was (paired) opposite Stephens. We felt real good about the first couple matches. We knew the semifinal match would be tough, and that ended up being Ian's toughest match."
Miller and Ice had never faced each other. Bergman said he expected Ice to do what most of Miller's opponents had done previously - avoid him. That was not the case.
"Around here (Northwest Ohio) they're not going to wrestle you, they're going to stall," Bergman said. "When you go to the state tournament, they wrestle with you. Ice went after Ian and he made some mistakes, and Ian exploited that."