By Pedro Velazco
INDIANAPOLIS — Fletcher Miller will think about what happened Saturday night over and over, all spring, all summer, into next fall, and then next winter, when he begins his senior season.
Miller battled all the way to the 220-pound championship match at the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals on Saturday and squared off against Lake Central’s Gelen Robinson for the title.
The clash of the two juniors was one of the best matchups of the day as both took the floor unbeaten. Only Robinson left that way. Robinson scored a 7-2 victory over Miller to take the championship.
““There’s nothing I hate more than getting second, to get all the way there and come up short, but there’s a ton of kids around the state that would have loved to be on that mat,” Miller said shortly after the final. “I’m not satisfied at all. It was a good season, it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.”
Miller finished his season 50-1 and made his first trip to state.
It was the first time a Howard County wrestler had reached a final since Taylor’s Scott Maddox took second in at 112 pounds in 1999, and the first Kokomo schools wrestler to reach a final since Haworth’s Dan McKinney was second at 145 in 1984.
The loss stung for sure, but a downcast Miller had enough perspective to acknowledge the achievement of snagging a second-place medal.
“The last kid we had win was in like ’73,” he said. “I feel good. It kind of hit me when they turned the lights off earlier and they were announcing us. [The magnitude] didn’t really get to me until then, but it feels nice.”
The last Kokomo High School wrestler to win state was Kat 177 pounder Mark Stewart, who won his second straight state title in 1973.
“I think it’s so big for not only [Miller] but for our entire program,” Kokomo coach Wells said of Miller’s reaching the final. “We’ve had some kids place pretty high over the last few years, but for him to be in the championship under the lights, it’s so good for our entire area and for our program. I’m so excited for him to only be a junior.”
Miller won his quarterfinal match by pin in 3:58 over Lawrence Central’s Myron Hamilton, then won his semifinal 5-3 over Franklin’s Conner Tolley.
“He had an absolutely great day, great year, could not be more proud of him,” Wells said.
In the championship, Robinson’s strength and quickness were too much to overcome. Miller had a few chances to score, but couldn’t muster a takedown and got his points on two escapes.
“I got in on a leg but he just defended it so quickly,” Miller said. “He’s a real good kid. He earned it. It’s a good win for him.”
Robinson led 2-1 after the first period, 5-1 after the second and then erased any doubt with another takedown early in the third period.
“If it comes down to technique, Fletcher has the advantage but it really came down to, in that match, size and strength,” Wells said. “Robinson is so strong. [Miller] got in pretty deep on two or three shots and did all the right things to finish them [Robinson] is just such an unbelievable athlete and so strong he had a hard time finishing shots and scoring on him.”
Miller hopes to use the loss as fuel for the coming months.
“Nothing will motivate you more than a loss, knowing you have to work that much harder ... to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Miller said.
Robinson comes from a prominent basketball family — his father is Purdue legend Glenn Robinson and his brother is Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III.
Peru junior Evan Loe had a difficult day. He lost three matches and took an eighth-place medal. After the medal ceremony during the finals, he talked about how the day impacted him.
“Watching all those guys under the lights, makes me want to be there myself,” Loe said. “I’m not going to settle with eighth place.
“I need to be like, 100 percent better. I’m completely upset with this [his medal]. I know I shouldn’t be, but I should be at least top three on the podium. My first match was an upset, he ended up getting third.”
Loe lost 6-3 to Indian Creek’s Tyler Hupp in that match, the quarterfinal. Loe lost 3-2 to Culver Academy’s Anthony McHugh in wrestlebacks, then lost 3-0 to Perry Meridian’s Nick Bova in the seventh-place match.
“The goal this summer is just keep on practicing, keep on hitting all the moves I need to, get stronger, get bigger, get better, be at the top of the podium next year,” Loe said.
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