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Wartburg’s Miller makes huge impact


here were only 16 wrestlers on the team when Jim Miller was hired as the head wrestling coach at Wartburg College in 1991. Shortly after Miller’s first meeting with his new team, the squad had dwindled to just 10 members.

“We had six guys quit right away when I told them what the

expectations were,” Miller said. “I wanted guys who were willing to make the sacrifice to develop a championship team.” Nine NCAA Division III championships and 20 Iowa Conference titles later, Miller’s message has definitely resonat- ed with his athletes.

The 59-year-old Miller has become a legendary figure as he has built a wrestling dynasty at the small, northeast Iowa cam- pus in Waverly. When you talk about the best wrestling coaches in NCAA his-

tory, at all levels, Miller definitely has earned the right to be included in the conversation.

Miller is looking to go out with an amazing 10th NCAA Division III title before he steps down as Wartburg’s coach fol- lowing the 2012-13 season.

What Miller has accomplished over the past two decades is nothing short of remarkable. He has built a powerhouse wrestling program at Wartburg despite coaching at a level that does not offer athletic scholarships.

He has convinced elite kids, many of who could have excelled at the Division I level, to wrestle at a school that has annually been in the mix to win national team titles in Division III. Miller’s emphasis on building a well-rounded student-athlete is one of his most impressive qualities. He has coached an amazing 70 Academic All-Americans at Wartburg. Athletes who stay in the Wartburg program for four

years will leave with a college degree.

When Miller walks into the liv- ing room of a prospective recruit, he immediately lets them know

Craig Sesker

he is looking for high-character young man who is committed to excelling in the classroom.

Miller is an intense, driven, hard-nosed coach in the room, but at the same time he builds a close personal relationship with his athletes. That is evident with the large number of his wrestlers who have followed him into the coaching profession and contin- ually seek his guidance. Miller has an opportunity to tie Augsburg’s Jeff Swenson by winning a record 10th NCAA Division III title this season. Miller’s achievements at Wartburg have drawn comparisons to fellow Waterloo native Dan Gable, who led Iowa to a whopping 15 NCAA Division I wrestling titles.

“Sometimes we forget about the really good coaches who are not at the Division I level,” Gable said. “Jim Miller has built something really special at Wartburg. He always wants to get better and that’s what is really impressive about him.” Miller was in the mix to take over the program at his alma

mater, Northern Iowa, before choosing to stay in Waverly. That says a great deal about his commitment to Wartburg. Miller is one of the best coaches, at any level, in NCAA wrestling history. His record of success, on and off the mat, is definitely proof of that.

Jim Miller has made incredible contributions to Wartburg College and beyond. You won’t find a better person in the sport. He is more than deserving of all the recognition and acco- lades that come his way.

42 USA Wrestler

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