Alumnus success beyond high school

Jagger Clapsadle, Guest Writer

Decatur ‘09 alumnus and current U.S. Naval Academy wrestling standout Danny Miller continually demonstrates to aspiring wrestling champions what it takes to be successful and compete at the next level.

As a student at Decatur, Miller showed huge dedication to the sport and went to great lengths in order to win his two high school state titles. According to current head coach Todd Martinek, Danny was an outstanding student and athlete. Danny was “one of the top in his class, he had the highest HSA on three tests in his class” explained Coach Martinek.

Miller won the U.S. Marines’ only championship and the Armed Forces Wrestling Championships in the spring of 2017, earning a chance to compete in the world championships in early 2018.

Many people did not think Danny Miller would get this far in wrestling, though. Danny was an average wrestler early in his high school career. He did not start getting serious about wrestling until after his freshman year. According to his high school coach Kevin Gilligan, “He took advantage of the wrestling room every day. On many occasions he would stay after practice in order to work out his mistakes and get better.”

His next year in high school, a switch flipped for Danny. He realized that with the help of the coaching staff and family he could be great. He began training harder and with more intensity.

“My sophomore year is when I really started to take wrestling seriously. I had gotten to the state championships as a freshman and I learned what it is all about,” Miller said. “My coaches put a lot of faith in me to be a team leader and set a good example for the whole team. I reciprocated, and it payed off. I was in the room with a dedicated and focused team who shared the same goals as me, and we all believed in each other, which is a very valuable trait to have in a team.”

“He showed leadership qualities and led by example – he was always the hardest worker in the room,” Gilligan recalled. It helped that Miller happened to be a part of a talented team while he was in high school. Teammates such as Skyler Snead and Trevor Rickets were also both state champions. He was fortunate enough to have great partners that pushed him in practice, which is a very crucial aspect when one is training for a state championship.

Miller’s sophomore year, his dreams came true. The hard work he put in every day payed off when he won the state championships, and won in dominant fashion. His teammate Snead also won that year. This is a dream of most competitive wrestlers, and many would expect to see a young wrestler such as Danny slow down in his training, but he certainly did not stop there. He was determined to not lose again in high school. Danny won again his junior year, capping off an undefeated junior season.

By his senior year, Danny was attracting the attention of many schools who hoped to recruit him. He went into the season very strong, but things took a wrong turn when he found himself on the stage of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletics Association (MPSSAA) wrestling finals.

All eyes were on him as the whistle blew and the final match of his high school career was underway. He was not dominating the match, as he did most of his matches, and he was actually losing with 30 seconds left in the final period. The whistle blew. Match over. He had fallen just short of his goal of being a three-time state champ. This type of loss was not how he wanted his career to end, and the defeat devastated him.

Months passed, and life went on for Miller. He still had the attention of Division I schools and he decided he would attend the Naval Academy of Annapolis, MD. Division I wrestling was the perfect environment for Miller, and while he did not earn an All-American status, he learned a lot and grew a lot as a wrestler and as a person.

Miller gave insight on the loss and how he recovered from it. “The defeat was devastating, and even more so because it was on the big stage. A state championship title is the highest accomplishment for a high school wrestler, and while I failed at my final chance for a state title, I still learned valuable knowledge about myself. I know that through my dedicated and supportive family and coaches, I can achieve anything and nothing is out of my power.”

Danny now makes a living traveling around the world with the armed forces’ wrestling team and training to be a world and/or Olympic champ. Miller went from just being an average local wrestler to a Division I athlete, and overcame adversity to become a champion. What is your excuse?