Mathew Miller, John Carroll, wrestling

Q & A //

February 17, 2010|By Sandra McKee sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

John Carroll coach Keith Watson recalls a story in Greek mythology in which a kid is given a baby bull. Every day, the kid picks up the bull. By the time the kid is 16 and the bull is 2,000 pounds, the kid is unimaginably strong.

When Watson thinks about Mathew Miller, his 152-pound wrestler, he thinks about the strength Miller has developed over years of wrestling, the past three in Watson's program at John Carroll.

"We do 100 to 200 sit-ups a day," Watson said. "Matt does those, and he is constantly working to get stronger. He's 17, but he has the strength of a 40-year-old diesel mechanic. Once he has his hands on you, it's hard to get them off."

It's part of the reason Miller has 99 pins among his 140 career wins, a rate of better than 70 percent. Watson says it is a "ridiculous" ratio.

Miller, a junior, won his first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association title last weekend and will be going for his 100th career pin Friday when the Independent Schools State Championships begin their two-day run at McDonogh.

"I've never heard of anyone else having that percentage of pins," Watson said. "He's a funky wrestler who has really good leverage, flexibility and strength."

Miller also has a good grip on his studies, carrying a 3.8 grade-point average.

Question: How long have you been wrestling?

Answer: Since I was 8 years old. I was supposed to play basketball, but my mom kept forgetting to sign me up. My dad wanted me to be involved in some sport, so they signed me up for wrestling. My dad had no idea what wrestling was, and after a year he asked if I wanted to change [to basketball], but I didn't.

Q: Why not?

A: At the time, I remember liking being able to say: "I did this. I did that." It was all about me. There were no excuses if I lost, and if I won, I did it.

Q: Your coach says one of the things that makes you not only a fine wrestler but also a major asset to the team is that you are not big-headed. He says the fact that you are so level-headed is appealing and makes the team appealing, and that helps him recruit from a limited male student body. What happened between the time you were 8 and now?

A: When I first came to high school, I was still "Me, me, me." But then I got close to the other kids on the team. When that happened, I never really wanted to be that guy who was all about himself. I don't even like to talk about my accomplishments.

Q: Are you what wrestling fans call "a funky wrestler"? And what is that?

A: Funky is being unorthodox. A funky wrestler doesn't really go by the basic moves. They do things most people wouldn't. I'd say I'm unorthodox. When I was a kid, I'd watch [two-time NCAA champion and 2008 Olympian] Ben Askren wrestle at Missouri. I'd see him on the Internet and on a few television channels. He'd do crazy things people never saw before, and I'd say, "I want to be that guy!"

Q: And are you that guy?

A: Well, I really don't stick to the normal of what everyone else does. If a guy takes a shot at me, I won't go for the usual spread [defense]. I try to reverse the momentum and try things I really don't know what they are. My rec coach, Bill Hendrix, used to say, "Just let it flow when you're on the mat, and it will come to you." And that's pretty much what I do.

Q: Do you have some innate sense of when you're about to be grabbed in a match?

A: I can see, like, little twitches. I started to realize that when guys were setting up to take fake shots, I wasn't moving. I started thinking about it in practice one day and just realized a lot of people move a lot on the mat during a match and that I don't, and I thought about why. During practice, it came to me. When guys are really about to make a move, they have little twitches in their muscles. And I said, "Oh!"

Q: Does that help explain how you have come by 99 pins in 140 victories?

A: I think most of the ones I got as a freshman were luck. The other guy would work hard and get gassed. I'd be losing, and then with 50 seconds left I'd toss them to their backs and it was over. Now, I'm strong and have a good grip, and I just toss them as soon as I can. I'm going for my 100th pin in my first match at the state tournament. I plan to pin the guy. I don't know who he is going to be, and not to be overconfident, but I'm going to get the pin.

Q: What do you like to do besides wrestling?

A: I like to play Xbox 360, hang out with friends, eat and cook.

Q: You're a wrestler and you like to eat and cook?

A: It's the worst combination. I'm pretty sure I'd be obese if I didn't wrestle. I think I have an eating disorder.

Q: What do you like to cook?

A: I cook steak, and I'm really good at breakfast: pancakes, waffles, eggs. I'd love to be a cook, but I think what I'm going to do is try to be the restaurant owner and have my dad cook. My dad is from Louisiana, and he cooks all the good stuff -- jambalaya, gumbo and sweet potato pie. That's my favorite. Sweet potato pie with a glass of milk.

I hang out in the kitchen and watch my dad cook all that good food, and I can't have any. Then I go to bed and wake up in the middle of the night and sneak downstairs and have whatever he's left in the refrigerator. But sweet potato pie is definitely my favorite.

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