Kiski Area’s Miller focused on Powerade tournament title

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017 | 1:36 PM


As Darren Miller analyzed his sophomore wrestling season, he didn't entirely like what he saw.

Miller's statistics and accomplishments — a 47-4 record that included third-place finishes in the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA tournaments — looked strong on the surface. But it didn't satisfy Miller, who thought he left something on the mat, particularly toward the end of the season.

“I couldn't finish my shots as much,” the Kiski Area junior said. “I don't know if it was because it was the end of the year and I was tired.”

An intellectual by nature — Miller is receiving Division I interest, including from strong academic schools — Miller believes in the mental side of wrestling as much as the physical. And he approached the offseason with improvements in both areas in mind, with WPIAL and state championships his top individual goal for his junior campaign.

“He's definitely a student of the game,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “He loves wrestling. He loves working out. He loves competing. He knows what it takes and what's necessary to achieve his goals. He's very goal-oriented, and he does what's necessary to achieve those goals.

“He's been very hungry and comes in the room every day with a plan in mind. He doesn't waste a day.”

Miller started at 106 pounds as a freshman and began his sophomore year at 113 pounds, but he moved down in weight class as the season progressed. He helped Kiski Area win the WPIAL Class AAA team championship and finish third in the state, but he said he didn't manage his diet as well as he wanted.

Now wrestling at 120 pounds, Miller has the diet down. But he's also adapting his wrestling style to become more aggressive on his feet and get more takedowns. Heater said Miller sometimes could get into stalemates in the past, but that's changing.

“I'm going for the first takedown, and I'm staying aggressive the entire time,” Miller said. “You always want to try to score as many points as possible.”

Miller put some of his theories to the test in the offseason with his club team at Quest Wrestling, competing in national duals tournaments and going against wrestlers who employ different styles and different strategies.

“(I had) a lot of tough matches,” he said.

“I feel like it was very valuable. When you're wrestling at those tournaments, you're wrestling national competition. You can always find flaws or how you can get better every time you wrestle there. You can always take something away from it.”

Heater said Miller came into the season stronger and more mature, and the results are proving that. He won his first 12 bouts and has 95 career victories heading into this week's Powerade Christmas Tournament at Canon-McMillan.

“We typically have some guys that are hammers,” Heater said. “Darren's very methodical. He's a very hard guy to wrestle. He's a hard guy to beat. You've got to be pretty clean and basically outwrestle him if you're going to beat him.”

Miller finished second at the Powerade tournament as a sophomore. The tournament brings together some of the top wrestlers and teams in the country, and Miller is aiming for a title.

“I have to be aggressive. I have to shoot my shots. I have to stay in my game. I can't let anyone take me out of it. If I'm able to wrestle my match the way I want to, I feel like I can do well.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.