Miller helps CM win 7th straight HAC wrestling crown
SELINSGROVE – Following their match Tuesday night, Selinsgrove coach Seth Martin told Central Mountain coach Biff Walizer the Wildcats’ Nik Miller ruined the murderer’s row portion of his lineup.
The upper weights were where the Seals were supposed to dominate Tuesday. It was where they were supposed to make a run at stopping Central Mountain’s 43-match Heartland-I winning streak. But Miller did his best to disrupt those plans.
The 17th-ranked junior picked up a decision over Selinsgrove’s 20th-ranked Ryan Aument at 215 pounds. Combined with three wins from freshmen and a key major decision from Damien Galentine, Central Mountain secured its seventh consecutive HAC-I championship with a 35-25 win over Selinsgrove. The Wildcats still have never lost a conference match since joining the Heartland Conference.
Central Mountain was a little late to the competition party for winter sports. After the school went to remote learning, the Wildcats didn’t have any practices prior to Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown in December. When they returned to practice earlier this month, the team still had to have two weeks of practice before finally being able to compete last weekend in the PHAC Duals.
Their first six matches of the year featured the two teams most capable of ending Central Mountian’s Heartland winning streak. But the 13th-ranked Wildcats won the final two bouts to beat 15th-ranked Williamsport on Saturday. It won the final three bouts Tuesday against Selinsgrove, but it was Miller’s win which turned the tide of the dual.
“We only had 10 days to get ready for the season instead of the three-plus weeks we usually have,” Walizer said. “And the kids knew opening weekend was Williamsport out of the gate, and then this week with Selinsgrove and Bald Eagle Area. They knew it would be tough, and it showed in their preparation because they’ve been intense and focused.”
Like his team, Miller hasn’t had the luxury of easing into the season at all. In his five contested bouts so far, four of them have come against state-ranked wrestlers. He’s gone 3-1 in those bouts, including the 5-1 win over Aument on Tuesday. The only loss came when he bumped up to heavyweight and lost to Mifflinburg state qualifier Emmanuel Ulrich by fall. But he recovered later in the day Saturday and beat Williamsport heavyweight Charles Crews. He also beat Shikellamy’s sixth-ranked Adam Young, 7-1.
Tuesday’s performance was just a continuation of the confidence Miller has built early in the season. Miller is a returning state qualifier himself who is ranked 17th at 189 pounds by PA Power Wrestling. But through the first six duals, Miller has been bouncing back and forth between 215 and 285 pounds, depending on which matchup best suits the Wildcats’ plans. With Selinsgrove former state champion Nate Schon comfortably at 285 pounds, Miller’s best chance to throw a wrench into the Seals’ vaunted upper weights was against Aument, and he didn’t disappoint.
The senior hit a pretty sweep single for a key takedown with only 16 seconds left in the first period. After escaping to take a 3-0 lead in the second, he re-shot off an Aument attack and spun behind for another takedown late in the second period. The 5-0 lead for Miller turned into a 5-1 win and regained the lead for Central Mountain, 16-14.
After Schon scored a 16-second fall at 285 with a gravity-defying throw, Central Mountain won four of the final five bouts, three with bonus points, to close out its sixth win of the short season.
“One thing I need to improve on is my head game,” Miller said. “I believe I have the technical skill, but I have to work on my mindset. Giving up 40 pounds on Saturday and still getting a big win, that boosted me up and it makes me work harder.”
“After that flukey first match (Saturday) against Mifflinburg, he’s bounced back strong against quality opponents,” Walizer said. “We’re really pleased with how he’s bounced back and how he’s getting after it.”
Selinsgrove was supposed to take control of the dual in the six bouts from 152 pounds through Schon at heavyweight. But the win from Miller and one from Galentine at 160 instead left the Wildcats well within striking distance as the turn was made to the lightweights where they had their own advantage.
Galentine was coming off a rough day at the PHAC Duals, going just 1-3, with the lone win coming via forfeit. But Walizer tried to impress on the junior how tough his competition was and to put it behind him heading into Tuesday’s dual. Galentine, who was a regional qualifier last year, needed just one big move to settle himself down and find a groove.
His five-point move on the edge of the mat gave him a 6-0 lead against Cale Bastian. From there, he continued to build on the lead. First there was an extra takedown. Then a reversal. Then a stalling point. Galentine’s 11-1 major decision was the kickstart he and the Wildcats needed.
“That big move on the edge really got me relaxed,” Galentine said. “I knew I had the match then and I just had to keep wrestling and push the pace. Like coach told me before, just keep my head on straight, focus on what I’m doing and believe in what I’m doing and win the match.”
Freshman Zane Cooper improved to 6-0 and put Central Mountain ahead for good with a major decision at 120 pounds. Sophomore Gino Serafini needed just 90 seconds to secure the victory at 126 with a fall. And freshman Luke Simcox added a decision against Aiden Gaugler, who entered the bout 12-0 this year, to close the dual. Freshman Griffin Walizer also added a key win in a toss-up at 145 pounds.
“We have a young lineup, but they’re strong and they’re hard-workers,” Miller said.
“Not only did we need this to keep our streak going in the Heartland, but we needed this to prove where we are right now,” Galentine said.
No. 13 Central Mountain 35, Selinsgrove 25
138: #6 Taylor Weaver, CM, pinned Aaron Mann, :52.
145: Griffin Walizer, CM, dec. Garrett Paradis, 9-4.
152: Josiah Foss, S, dec. Rocco Serafini, 9-4.
160: Damien Galentine, CM, maj. dec. Cale Bastian, 11-1.
172: #8 Coy Bastian, S, tech. fall Lucas Porter, 19-4, 2:45.
189: Steven Miller, S, pinned Brayden Blackwell, 1:03.
215: #17 Nik Miller, CM, dec. #20 Ryan Aument, 5-1.
285: #1 Nate Schon, S, pinned Gage Sutliff, :16.
106: Clayton Foster, CM, pinned Blake Rising, :10.
113: Ryan Gavason, S, tech. fall Madison Packer, 17-2, 3:55.
120: Zane Cooper, CM, maj. dec. Leo Martinez, 12-2.
126: #11 Gino Serafini, CM, pinned Trent Turner, 1:30.
132: #11 Luke Simcox, CM, dec. Aiden Gaugler, 5-0.
Takedowns: Selinsgrove 15, Central Mountain 14.
Official: Rocky Miller.
Records: Central Mountain (6-0, 6-0 HAC-I); Selinsgrove (12-0, 1-1 HAC-I).